[A civil wedding in the 1980s]
When he arrived, hot from the bus in his charity shop suit which smelt of death, Alice and Clarice were waiting outside the municipal council building, even though Tony had made sure he was early. Alice looked absurdly beautiful. She was in a white silk dress with flowers in her hair and a tiny bump, which you would never know was a baby, rounding her stomach. His heart lurched involuntarily at the sight of her, at the knowledge that the girl everyone was looking at wanted to be joined to him. He’d never seen the dress before and he wondered if she’d bought it especially for the occasion, which touched him, until he checked the ridiculousness of his thoughts. What bride didn’t buy a dress especially for her wedding?
observations: There’s a complex backstory to my reading this book.
Earlier this year, Col (of Col’s Criminal Library) and I undertook a challenge, arising from some discussion on our blogs of the very different nature of the books we liked. Each of us said we would read a book by someone with a first name completely new to us, in literary terms: ie we had never previously read a book written by someone with that first name.
You can read my blogpost on the challenge here.
So I read Wiley Cash’s This Dark Road To Mercy (which I picked from Col’s archives). Col read this book, as I had suggested that Araminta was the kind of name he didn’t deal with.
He kindly sent the book on to me. Now that I’ve read it, there is no doubt that in the case of Wiley vs Araminta, the winner is Wiley. I think I got the best of the deal – the Wiley Cash book was a great read, compelling and satisfying. This one, not so much. It had a baffling structure, and no sense of time or place. I think Col is more generous in his review, and I strongly recommend that you go over to his blog and read what he has to say about it. And I would agree with Col's verdict on the ending:
Slightly contrived ending owing a fair bit to convenience, though at least we were spared a lot of sugar-coated guff. The author wisely avoided a full-on, marshmallowy, fluffy, puppy dog and kittens wrapped up in bows with ribbons and fairy lights, OTT schmaltz-fest of a conclusion. To be fair, you would have had to have a heart of stone, to have not felt something as each of the main players in our drama had an epiphany and came to realise the consequences of their previous actions and the hurts they had often-times unwillingly inflicted on those they professed to love.
There were some points of similarity with other recent novels of provincial life – Nina Stibbe’s Man at the Helm, and JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy.
And it turns out that Araminta Hall, Col and I all share a love for John Irving’s wonderful novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany, so a point in her favour.
The picture is from a shampoo advert of the era - this was the Timotei girl. There is a similar wedding, outfit and picture for this entry.