Virago Reading Week is sadly drawing to a close but it has been a fun and inspiring time with so many interesting posts and reminiscences from the blogging world. Carolyn and Rachel have been absolutely charming hosts and I've really enjoyed getting to know more about this iconic publishing house.
I recently finished reading my second book for this week and my fourth Elizabeth Taylor novel to date (not counting having watched the film adaptation of the touching Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont). Although it has the trademark sharp and observant style that I have come to expect from Elizabeth Taylor, along with the melancholy and disappointment inherent in most relationships, I felt that this novel was a little 'quieter' than what I was used to and the characters didn't really stir my sympathies as much as in her other novels.
The Wedding Group is a portrait of stifled families and overbearing parents who refuse to relinquish their parental hold over their adult children. It centres around Cressy, a young woman who rebels against a very enclosed way of life, created by her grandfather - a famous artist. Cressy is an only child and lives with her parents and extended family in a Catholic commune of sorts that shuns all influences from the outside world. The period is the late 1960's and Cressy yearns to embrace her generation's passion for television, fast foods, off-the-peg clothes and disposable conveniences. She manages to find a job and a small room and is content with her freedom, regardless of being naive and unable to care for herself properly.
She eventually becomes involved with David, a journalist who she met at the commune when he was writing a piece, and finds a friend in his mother. Despite David's more advanced age, he is very much a mommy's boy and a bachelor at heart and his mother only lives for him. Both David and Cressy are incomplete adults, immature and still tied to the parental strings and unable to embrace adult responsibilities and duties. The relationship becomes strained as Cressy is continually unable to assume domestic duties and becomes more reliant upon her mother-in-law, whose motives are to keep them both dependent upon her. Without them, she has no purpose and no life. David's father (who is separated from his wife and nurses an old aunt) is also an unfulfilled soul dependant upon someone else to give his life purpose.
It is an absorbing study in family dynamics and the Catholic commune was as interesting as it was repressive. There is unfortunately not much passion within these characters and Cressy becomes quite irritating as the story progresses. David becomes an annoyance too as his enmity grows but perhaps this is how we are supposed to feel about these two characters. There are very lucid observations about growing older and struggling to find meaning and purpose in living that are handled superbly.
Overall, I found it an interesting read but there was no wit or humour to puncture the feelings of repression. I would not recommend this as the first book to read if you are new to Elizabeth Taylor as it has less happening in it than the others I have read. Never-the-less, I am always glad to read another Taylor and this book, on the whole, does not disappoint when taken as a study in human relationships.