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Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty
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Delta Wedding (1946)

by Eudora Welty

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Eudora Welty writes books that seem to be about nothing in particular. There are seldom any staggering occurrences. It is all about life. Of course, there is a major event coming in this novel, Dabney Fairchild is marrying, and all the family are gathering for the event; aunts, uncles, cousins, great-aunts, in-laws, all assembling to see Dabney off from the family home to a home of her own.

Along the way, we meet an array of fantastic characters, each an embodiment of their Southern heritage. This is a way of life that is virtually gone, I suppose, but it is a way of life that opens so many memories for me that it makes me want to cry. I was never, of course, one of THESE Southern belles, with the portico porches or land wealth and stores, but I can easily recall days when everyone from five generations would be gathered together in this same kind of family mash that sometimes brought with it ease and sometimes strain.

Welty knows people. Every word they utter in her stories rings with truth and veracity. You feel you have met them, you are there on the porch, you are sipping the iced tea, swinging the children, kissing the uncles. You are safe, as they are safe, because you have family, you belong, someone cares.

It has taken me a long time to get around to reading this wonderful story. I can add it to my list of Eudora Welty wonders that I have loved. ( )
  phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
It's 1923, and nine-year-old Laura McRaven is taking the train down to visit her mother's family in the Delta for the wedding of one of her cousins. As preparations for the big day ramp up, family secrets circulate and emotions run high.

Does anyone ever read Eudora Welty and immediately comprehend exactly what she's getting at? Because I find her immensely challenging. The writing is beautiful, but sometimes I have to read a sentence multiple times to untangle the syntax -- and there were a few times when I basically shrugged and moved on! Add to that the particularly Southern vocabulary (for instance, I had to look up "joggling boards"), and characters with names like Battle, Dabney, and Lady Clare (many of which repeat over generations, so they may be talking about an existing character or her deceased great-great-aunt), and the result is a slow-reading text, languid as a Mississippi summer.

Personally, I would have liked this book better if it had remained in Laura's perspective the whole way through. Instead, the point of view shifted frequently, sometimes disconcertingly, from one character to another, and that character might get lost in reminiscences for several pages before picking back up in the middle of a scene. There's not a great deal of plot here ("a southern family prepares for a big wedding" about sums it up), so there's nothing to pull the story along.

I did enjoy parts of this book -- the characterization was strong, and of course the setting shines. I probably won't keep or reread it, but I'm glad I made the effort. ( )
  foggidawn | Jun 18, 2018 |
Delta Wedding was my first book read during May. I chose it to tick off 1945 of my ACOB – and I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it. I know lots of people really like Eudora Welty’s writing, but my only previous experience of her writing was not very successful. In 2012 I began reading her later novel Losing Battles, (1970) a book of something like 400 pages, I read about half of it before giving up in frustration. I had really wanted to like it but just couldn’t get to grips with it. I felt I needed to give Eudora Welty another try and this much earlier Welty novel was a charity shop find last year. Good news, I enjoyed Delta Wedding very much indeed, so much in fact that I might revisit Losing Battles one of these days.

Right from the start I was drawn into the story by the exceptional writing and evocative sense of place. It is a novel which deserves slow, considered reading, and while there isn’t a huge amount of plot – the story of a large, Mississippi family, in the weeks around the wedding of their daughter to the plantation overseer, is quite wonderful.

“People are mostly layers of violence and tenderness wrapped like bulbs, and it is difficult to say what makes them onions or hyacinths.”

In September 1923 nine-year-old Laura McRaven travels on the Yellow Dog train from Jackson Mississippi to the family plantation of Shellmound on the Mississippi delta. Laura’s mother has died, and at Shellmound she is enveloped by the enormous Fairchild family – her mother’s family. The cast of characters is huge, and it took me a while to get to grips with who was who. I found some names confusing, a child with the same name as his father and several older aunts called by their husbands’ names; ie Aunt Jim Allen – and Aunt Robbie married to Uncle George – it doesn’t take much to confuse me.

As Laura arrives the family are beginning to gather for the wedding of Dabney the prettiest of the Fairchild children. She is still only seventeen and about to marry an older man, Troy Flavin, a man from the mountains, the family overseer and there is the feeling that deep down the Fairchilds don’t fully approve. Though everyone treats Dabney with all the deference due to a beautiful young bride to be, giving her advice, and gently teasing.

“‘Don’t ever let this husband of yours, whoever he is, know you can cook, Dabney Fairchild, or you’ll spend the rest of your life in the kitchen. That’s the first thing I want to tell you.’”

The day to day events in the lives of this large, proud Southern family are portrayed with humour and affection. Children race around the house and grounds, drawing, poor motherless Laura into their games and their world, while the adults concern themselves with wedding preparations and family gossip. Aunt Ellen is the mother of the bride, mother to eight and expecting again, married to Uncle Battle she is a warm loving presence. Uncle George, the firm family favourite is due to arrive soon from Memphis with his wife Robbie – though when he finally turns up, he is alone, Robbie having apparently left him. This is just about as shocking a thing as any of the Fairchilds have ever heard, that she should leave George! George of course can do no wrong, though we see him as a little less than perfect.

As with all families, stories are told and retold, some quickly taking on an almost legendary status. Like the recent story; told to Laura and then repeated later by the adults – of George walking the railway trestle with young Maureen, as his wife watched nearby. Maureen’s foot got caught in the rail just as the train was coming, George stayed to free the child’s foot as the train raced toward them. Tragedy was averted, but the story of such a close call is hard to resist.

Dabney, the child bride is in love – after her marriage she will move into another family house on the plantation, Marmion. She has her head in the clouds, appearing at table just whenever she feels like it – Laura notices. She is girlish and romantic but despite her youth she knows what she wants and the life she wants is just within reach. The old maiden aunts gift her a small, treasured night light, the object seems to be symbolic for Laura and the aunts and perhaps even for Dabney too.

“Life was not ever inviolate. Dabney, poor sister and bride, shed tears this morning (though belatedly) because she had broken the Fairchild night light the aunts had given her; it seemed so unavoidable to Dabney, that was why she cried, as if she had felt it was part of her being married that this cherished little bit of other peoples’ lives should be shattered now.”

Capturing a time and place perfectly Delta Wedding is the story of long, slow Southern days, a complicated loving family, and ultimately a celebration of a way of life. So very pleased I gave Eudora Welty another chance. ( )
  Heaven-Ali | May 28, 2018 |
I only got half way through this before I abandoned it. The writing is beautiful but there are more characters in it than the Old Testament. It certainly sets the scene but I found it hard to know what is going on when you don't really know who to root for. Maybe I was lazy and gave up too quick or maybe it just wasn't for me... ( )
  Gary_Power | Jul 10, 2016 |
Reading Delta Wedding is like attending a family wedding and meeting all your distant relatives for the first time. You have a sense of belonging and, at the same time, a sense of being an outsider. Everyone seems to know everyone so much better than you do and you're rushing to catch up on everyone's story and sort out who is who. This is a relatively short book, but perhaps because she is primarily a short-story writer, Eudora Welty has packed this book so densely with character and detail, you will feel as though you have read a family saga of many hundred pages. The delta is recreated in such detail that you can feel the humid, misty breezes and hear the crickets chirping. The young girls through whose perspective you watch the proceedings are enchanting.

Struggling to keep track of the characters forced me to go back and re-read parts of the book at times, which was, in fact, helpful in discovering important overlooked details. This is a book you can re-read many times always discovering something or someone new. ( )
  Carol420 | May 31, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eudora Weltyprimary authorall editionscalculated
BascoveCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Binding, PaulIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Darling, SallyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shute, Samuel A.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To JOHN ROBINSON
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The nickname of the train was the Yellow Dog.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
On the tenth of September 1923 little motherless Laura McRaven travels from Jackson, Mississippi, on a train named the Yellow Dog. She is returning to Shellmound, the family plantation at the heart of the Mississippi delta. There she is swept into the arms of the Fairchilds, her huge collection of entrancing, breathtaking relatives. They have gathered for the marriage of seventeen-year-old Dabney - the prettiest of the Fairchild girls - to a man from the mountains: the overseer Troy Flavin. The ordinary events in the life of this clannish, proud, loving and quarrelling family are wonderfully portrayed as the great day draws nearer and Dabney's perfect moment lights up the lives of cousins and uncles, aunts and great-aunts, young and old.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156252805, Paperback)

A vivid and charming portrait of a large southern family, the Fairchilds, who live on a plantation in the Mississippi delta. The story, set in 1923, is exquisitely woven from the ordinary events of family life, centered around the visit of a young relative, Laura McRaven, and the family’s preparations for her cousin Dabney’s wedding.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:57 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Young Laura spends an exciting week with her cousins, the Fairchilds, at their estate on the Mississippi Delta in the early 1920s.

» see all 3 descriptions

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