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The Wedding group by Elizabeth Taylor
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The Wedding group (original 1968; edition 1985)

by Elizabeth Taylor, Elizabeth Jane Howard (Introduction)

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165672,171 (3.54)1 / 54
Member:sqdancer
Title:The Wedding group
Authors:Elizabeth Taylor
Other authors:Elizabeth Jane Howard (Introduction)
Info:London Virago Press 1985 230 p.
Collections:Your library
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Tags:VMC, Virago

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The Wedding Group by Elizabeth Taylor (1968)

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(1989)

A good one, I thought, although some don’t rate it among her master works. I like the undertones of Iris Murdoch, and wasn’t the only one to notice this in the Year of Elizabeth Taylor LibraryThing Virago Group I belong to. Cressy longs to escape the stifling atmosphere of the ‘free living’ artistic commune in which she’s been raised. But, lost living on her own above an antique shop, she has soon gone from frying pan to fire as she meets and marries the older journalist, David, and encounters his mother, Midge, trying to hard to demonstrate that she isn’t clingy and always somehow getting her own way. When Cressy gets pregnant, even needing her mother-in-law to alert her to her condition, it’s certainly all that Midge could want.

Seen with a very clear eye to the nuances of married life and changing expectations. I loved Mrs Brindle, the go between and village maven, although the secondary characters were not all as rich and vital as they have been in earlier Taylor novels. The Murdoch parallels were legion: weird siblings, pale, pre-Raphaelite cousins, father in a frowsty home in London – although the book with the most parallels in the artistic sense, The Good Apprentice, was written many years later, this is very interesting. ( )
  LyzzyBee | Nov 12, 2012 |
The general consensus is that this is not Taylor at her very best, and I can't really argue. One becomes accustomed to sharp insights that come to balanced but unflinching conclusions about the general boneheadedness of human beings, yet in [The Wedding Group] (and what exactly is that title all about?) the story seems to simply do a fade out, literally with all but a few characters dispersing somewhat haphazardly, some reluctantly, some gladly..... Furthermore matters end quite 'well' as in 'happily' for almost everyone, even the cleaning lady will have a new and interesting job. And yet, my guess is, that on a second or even third reading, a structure would emerge as sturdy as a well-conceived painting or a house - and houses - the cosy or bleak, genteel or homespun play strong roles in the book. Perhaps a hidden theme is what makes a home a home? All along, Midge's essential warmth perhaps is hinted at in the fact that she lives in a truly lovely house that she has made that way herself. Is Taylor saying we make our environments but then our environments remake us, or trap us, or make us better, or worse? Inevitably when one begins to look underneath the surface of a Taylor book, the structure, neat and careful and strong does emerge. ( )
  sibyx | Oct 8, 2012 |
Elizabeth Taylor’s tenth novel first published in 1968 is not among her best and yet I enjoyed it enormously and I think there is plenty in it that is still interesting.
The novel centres on Cressy – a young girl who has been brought up in an odd communal family, a sort of religious/artistic community, presided over by her grandfather Harry Bretton. Like several of the characters in this novel Cressy is somewhat isolated – she wants to escape her family.
“Time always went slowly for Cressy, now that her school days were over. She had come home from the convent to nothing. To be part of a busy, useful, self-sufficing community, her mother had said… She would be expected to marry. Whom? Perhaps one of young men who come to work in the studio with her grandfather. They would live pennilessly in one of the out-buildings (restored) and take their place at the long dining table. She visualised it with the greatest ease.”
In order to make her escape Cressy finds a job and a small flat at an antique shop in the nearby village. Here she lives on things on toast and meets David – a local journalist who is several years older than Cressy. David’s mother Midge long separated from her much older husband relies on David’s presence in her life, while he is thoroughly tied to her apron strings. David’s father lives in his own self-imposed isolation in London, caring for his eccentric aunt until her death; he spends his time cleaning the silver. Midge likes the way things are and doesn’t much care for it to change. As David and Cressy begin to grow closer, Midge takes Cressy under her wing, and yet is unprepared for the inevitable engagement. When David is away from home, Midge is terrified, she is lonely afraid of burglars and works to manipulate these new changes to suit herself. She urges David and Cressy to live in a small broken down cottage, terribly overgrown that has the advantage of being isolated from everyone else but is very close to her.
Cressy is unprepared for grown up responsible living – she becomes more and more reliant upon Midge who is happy to help. David is equally unprepared for the responsibilities of marriage; he had rather unceremoniously finished a relationship with a rather acerbic woman closer to his own age in order to marry Cressy – who he often thinks of as rather a child.
As with so many Elizabeth Taylor novels marriage and loneliness figure strongly, the writing is good – although maybe not quite as good as in some of Taylor’s earlier novels, and I didn’t think the peripheral characters were as strongly explored as in many other novels. I was interested to note how Murdochian this novel felt in parts – especially the beginning. The artistic/religious community headed up by a rather elusive patriarch, a complex family living at close quarters. A few eccentric characters – particularly David’s father and his Aunt, two characters are even writing books (there is almost always someone writing a book in Murdoch). Having read 25 and a half of Iris Murdoch’s 26 novels I was pleased to note these little things. ( )
2 vote Heaven-Ali | Oct 3, 2012 |
Elizabeth Taylor's tenth novel has all the characteristics that I've come to appreciate in her work: superb characterizations, attention to detail, biting wit, and careful dissection of marital relationships. Marriage is pedestrian and tolerable at best, and destructive at its worst.

In The Wedding Group, Cressida (nicknamed Cressy) escapes a stifling family environment by moving to a flat in the village and taking a job in an antique shop. There she meets David, a journalist, who is much older but not necessarily wiser, as his mother still exercises a strong hold on him. He's attracted by Cressy's naiveté, and impulsively discards a relationship with a woman his own age to marry Cressy. Not surprisingly, Cressy is ill-prepared for the responsibilities of adult life, and David does little to help her through that transition. Both become too dependent on David's mother, Midge, quite a character in her own right:
Some sons may have a picture of their mother knitting by the fireside -- but David's was of Midge with glass in hand, railing against something. The railing was hardly ever seriously meant. It was intended to interest, or amuse, or fill in a gap in the conversation, which was something Midge deplored. (p. 12)

Midge is secretly pleased with all the attention, and subtly reinforces the couple's dependence on her. When she discovers real estate brochures and realizes David and Cressy are considering a move to London, she feels threatened. Rather than express her fears, she manipulates the situation to stall their move indefinitely. I admired the way Taylor revealed this part of the story by dropping tiny details instead of explicitly telling you what Midge is up to (for those who've read it, I'm referring here to the disappearance of Midge's jewels).

I found the story mildly interesting, but not compelling. I was more interested in the characterizations and humor that are Taylor's trademarks. I also found it interesting to consider the social context in which The Wedding Group was published. The social changes of the 1960s appear here through fine detail. Feminism is beginning to take hold, and Taylor shows us how men reacted to women's emerging power. The young women in the novel are more aware of their sexuality. Religion is openly questioned. And yet there is still much of post-war Britain still evident, especially the pub culture. I wonder how much Taylor herself may have struggled with the changing times, and tried to work through those thoughts in her writing?

Because the plot is not as strong as some of Taylor's earlier books, The Wedding Group would be of most interest to those who have already developed an appreciation for her craft. If you haven't experienced Taylor yet, I recommend reading one of her early novels (At Mrs. Lippincote's, or A View of the Harbour) before moving on to her later work. ( )
3 vote lauralkeet | Oct 2, 2012 |
The Wedding Group is a a rather fascinating, if somewhat grim, little book about Cressy, a young woman who escapes her arty, religious, communal family only to become entrapped by marriage and pregnancy in another suffocating family. Taylor is best at delineating characters and exploring the choices that lead individuals to box themselves into unhappy situations. ( )
  janeajones | Nov 7, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elizabeth Taylorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Howard, Elizabeth JaneIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mendleson, CharlotteIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The Quayne ladies, adjusting their mantillas, hurried across the courtyard to the chapel.
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From the book cover:
"'You know,' Midge began, and paused. She was rather taken aback, and could not at once think of anything to say. 'Perhaps there's nothing so dangerous as having led a sheltered life.'"

Cressy has grown up in an artistic community, presided over by her eccentric Grandfather who bears more than a passing resemblance to Augustus John. Rebelling against this existence she leaves home, taking a job in an antique shop. Here she meets David, a self-satisfied journalist, and they marry. But as Cressy cannot fend for herself and David is securely tied to his mother's apron strings, this act of escape for both of them proves a powerful form of bondage.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0860685519, Hardcover)

Cressy has grown up in a world of women, presided over by her eccentric, artistic grandfather - Harry Bretton. Rebelling against the wholesome, organic values of her home life, Cressy decides to leave home in search of more ephemeral pleasures. Taking a job in an antiques shop, she meets David, a self-satisfied journalist, also looking for means of flying the family nest. But as Cressy cannot fend for herself and David is securely tied to his mother's apron strings, this act of escape for both of them proves a powerful form of bondage.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:48 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Cressy has grown up in an artistic community, presided over by her eccentric grandfather who bears more than a passing resemblance to Augustus John. Rebelling against this existence she leaves home, taking a job in an antique shop. Here she meets David, a self-satisfied journalist, and they marry. But as Cressy cannot fend for herself and David is securely tied to his mother's apron strings, this act of escape for both of them proves a powerful form of bondage.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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