Tuesday 13 July 2010

A Wedding in December

Alongside 'Arcadia' I have had some light relief and have been reading 'A Wedding in December' by Anita Shreve. You tend to find her books in charity shops a lot, I think it says that she is well read, but that people don't feel the need to keep them on their shelves. She has been churning out nice readable stories regularly for the last 20 years, many of which I have read.

This is the tale of a group of school friends who are reunited for the wedding of two of their number, Bridget and Bill, high school sweethearts who went their separate ways and then re-met years later. It is a story about stories, how they have all gone their separate ways and lead their separate lives, but are still bound together by events from their youth.

I found myself drawn to the story of Nora, recently widowed after marriage to a renown poet and who is hosting the event in her newly refurbished inn, and Harrison, on the surface happily married but still carrying a torch for Nora after all these years apart. They spend the weekend dancing carefully round each other, not saying things, with Harrison simply waiting and watching her in the same way he was forced to as a teenager, when she was dating his best friend Stephen. As usual with these kind of books things are not as they first appear on the surface and as the weekend progresses it is Agnes, with a secret of her own, who brings it all to a head. The truths are told and a kind of peace restored, and they all go back to their separate lives, older and wiser we hope.

I think maybe she was not totally sure what she was doing with this book because alongside the main story is scattered a story that Agnes is writing, about the Halifax Explosion, a real event that took place towards the end of the First World War, where a munitions ship exploded in Halifax harbour causing massive damage to the town and huge numbers of deaths and injuries. I think she is trying to make some point about how random external events affect the course of people's lives, but I am not sure how well it works. I liked the little 'story-within-a-story' but it felt somewhat superfluous. She does make a neat little point at the end about 'not-stories', the things that didn't happen but might have/should have, and the prospects for going back, or rather coming round in a circle and making them happen. Nice light holiday reading, undemanding but enjoyable.


  1. another of your recommendations for the holiday reading pile - thank you!!

  2. Wonderful review, Martine. Doesn't sound like a must-read, but it does sound enjoyable enough. Thanks!


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