two-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
20-Jan-Feb-2006
By: 
Anita Shreve
user_rating: 
0

A-WeddingDecemberThe 20-odd-year reunion of an old prep-school posse for a wedding brews the requisite mulling on love and loss, friends and estrangement, illness and disaster. The couple-to-be are Bill and Bridget, once high-school sweethearts who then split, married to others, and now reunite under the shadow of Bridget’s cancer. Nora, the widowed class beauty, runs the country inn where the wedding will be held and recovers from a nasty marriage to a renowned poet. She is in love with Harrison, who pines for her from beside his wife and sons. Unmarried Agnes teaches history and writes a novel about the Halifax explosion of 1917, while the events of September 11 still hover over them. All this tension prompts dark revelations.
Little, Brown. 325 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 0316738999

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"It’s beautifully and imaginatively written. But I also have to admit that A Wedding in December works at one level as exceedingly high-class domestic porn—a paean to how we all wish we could live if we had the time, money, discipline, and dedication." Carolyn See

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 3 of 5 Stars
"Shreve does an admirable job of balancing the traumatic consequences of [September 11] against current personal turmoils. … Each of the participants in A Wedding in December eventually discovers the value of friendship redeemed—and the possibilities of a future assured of love." Robert A. Papinchak

Christian Science Monitor 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Unfortunately, her characters can’t seem to find anything to say about the events of Sept. 11 that isn’t either trite or teeth-grindingly banal. … But as a melancholy character study, Wedding provides just enough interest that readers won’t want to send their regrets." Yvonne Zipp

Denver Post 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Shreve has woven a tale of what happens when old friendships are unearthed and people find that those who were once true confidants now make polite dinner conversation." Janna Fischer

Cleveland Plain Dealer 2 of 5 Stars
"The best-selling [Shreve] has a gift for plot and a weakness for lush description, two ingredients that when she is working at the top of her form, give her readers a languid page turner. Unfortunately, A Wedding in December doesn’t fall into that category." Tricia Springstubb

Rocky Mountain News 2 of 5 Stars
"Would a world-renowned concert pianist be able to abandon his performance schedule to fly to the other side of the world for people with whom he’s had virtually no relationship with for decades? Would he even want to? Such is the implausibility problem underlying what is otherwise a pleasant and compelling-enough story." Cathie Beck

USA Today 2 of 5 Stars
"Shreve has been highly acclaimed for such earlier works as The Pilot’s Wife and The Weight of Water. Her writing is fluid, and the plot points interlock seamlessly, but readers may well feel that they have stayed too long at the party by the time this Wedding is over." Susan Kelly

Critical Summary

All though Shreve has all the elements of her previous successful work—an engaging plot, intricate period history, ruminations on lost loves, and a grandiose old house—something falls short in her newest novel. Her characters are variable, some rich, some tiresome. Sometimes the deep, dark secrets seem neither deep nor dark. And the rampant affairs can be wearing. But Shreve still deftly weaves the larger disaster of the Halifax narrative with the personal tragedies of individuals. A Wedding in December, like the movie The Big Chill, still evokes the languorous melancholy of midlife regret. For some, the novel is a guilty pleasure, but the guilt may be too much to bear.

Also by the Author

The Pilot’s Wife (1998): Kathryn Lyon’s husband dies in a plane crash for which he may have been responsible. As she copes with her grief, she struggles to clear his name—and discovers the secrets he hid from her.

The Weight of Water (1997): Jean, a newspaper reporter, boards a sailboat with members of her extended family to investigate an ax murder more than a century old. While she conducts her research, a flirtation develops aboard the boat between her husband and his brother’s girlfriend.