I found out about Dorothy Baker’s 1962 novel Cassandra at the Wedding from Emily Books, which makes ebook versions of print books, in this case, an NYRB Classic. I enjoyed the novel very much. As I got deeper into the book, I realized it was giving me something I’d been missing lately — an absorbing reading experience where the focus is not on plot but on character and emotion. Things happen in the book, big things, but not very many of them, and Baker kept me happily turning the pages (or swiping the screen) in between the plot points.
The novel is about twins, Cassandra and Judith, who have been very, very close for most of their lives, but as part of the growing-up process have recently been diverging. Judith sees this separation as necessary, and Cassandra does not. Cassandra heads home for Judith’s wedding, ready to resist it in any way she can. The tension in the novel is, of course, what will happen with the wedding, but even more so, what will happen with the sisters’ relationship. What makes the book particularly interesting, I think, is the two first person voices we encounter — first Cassandra, then Judith, then Cassandra at the end (which is something that could be a spoiler, except the Table of Contents reveals that much). Cassandra has an amusing voice — comedic and satirical — but we quickly learn not to trust it, as there is a lot she is hiding, from herself as well as from others. Judith’s more rational, sedate voice provides a contrast to Cassandra’s and offers firmer footing than Cassandra’s storytelling provides. The novel’s form thus nicely follows its subject matter, as we read about the complex interaction between these two women.
There’s lots to think about here, and I recommend it if this sounds like the sort of thing you like.
4 responses to “Cassandra at the Wedding”
One good reason to do lots of short reviews is that they can jog the memory later. I read Cassandra at the Wedding before I started writing the reviews, and I remembered nothing about it except that it features two sisters and is set somewhere like Porterville. So nearly everything you wrote came as news.
You are absolutely right — and I certainly need my very spotty memory jogged now and then! I don’t even want to think about the number of books I’ve read and then forgotten.
Oh, this sounds really interesting. And having a sister myself I find books about sisters intriguing. I knew your frequent short reviews were going to be dangerous!
Ha, ha, I’m very happy they are dangerous 🙂