Wedding Season. by Darcy Cosper, is a book (it seems) that no one can agree on . . . not even when it comes to the reasons why they hate or love it. Some who dislike it complain about how very formulaic it is. Others were disappointed that it fails to follow a ‘standard chicklit formula.’ Among the Wedding Season fans are those who adored the witty verve of the heroine. Still others loved it for transcending the genre it was born to in its self-reflective commentary on societal institutions.
I myself am feeling divided, but not for any of the reasons stated above. This book is not about weddings or institutions. Not really. It’s not about the Classical Greco-Roman references that pepper its 340 pages like flecks of broken glass (there might have been something there, perhaps, about the capriciousness of the gods. But the author never quite takes us there). It’s not about a girl falling in love. It is not about relationships at all, really.
I felt disquieted as I read the final page and set the book down. A day later, I am still not entirely sure whether I have just read an inconsistent and ill-thought argument that deflates under its own weight or sophisticated and subtle treatise on the psychological chains that enslave us. Both, perhaps.
Either way, this book is not so much about the seventeen weddings that the heroine must brave in a single stretch of spring and summer as it is about the compelling power of her denial.
Enter 29-to-30 year old Joy Silverman. She appears to be idealistic and honest to a fault—and I really do wish you to take fault seriously here. Silverman cleaves so stubbornly to her principles that it causes her to behave in a manner both unflattering and (at times) cruel. Because her principles are lofty, she never once feels the need to shift course, soften, or tender an apology for the bruises left in her wake. How lovely! One gradually begins to suspect that our heroine might just be a sanctimonious shrew who can’t take yes for an answer and simply enjoy her perfect life.
Silverman is blessed with good looks, runs her own ghostwriting guild, takes coffee breaks whenever she pleases, and is surrounded by friends and subordinates who love and/or tolerate her with good humor. She lives with her boyfriend of two years: a man so independently wealthy, so stunningly handsome, so well educated and so longsuffering that I am tempted to call him a modern-day Mr. Darcy facsimile that has been adjusted for inflation in every possible category. He attends tedious social events without complaint and he is so damn charming that he makes the outings enjoyable. At home he does all the cleaning and delivers all the hangover remedies without being asked. (Or thanked).
And of course, he displays an undying affection for his girlfriend, the aforementioned shrew, whose uncharitable ways he seems to find endearing. The fact that we don’t really get to know the Mr. Darcy Facsimile as anything except the aptly-described “better half” of Silverman should raise a warning flag. His dazzling veneer is never once pierced . . . not even to explain one of the core mysteries of the book: why, oh why, would he spring a diamond ring on his girlfriend, when one of the fundaments of their relationship is the fact that neither of them wish ever to be married. To anyone. Ever.
The fact that Cosper lets that big question fly by unasked is part of why I’m unsure whether this book is genius or grotesque. But I am going to give it the benefit of the doubt, simply because of the following:
Silverman herself does not see fit to ask her boyfriend why he abruptly changes sides to the marrying half of humankind. In fact, she does not see fit to speak to him about anything of import, including the nature of their relationship, her suspicions of infidelity, or even simple details like what he plans to do that day. Given that the marry-him-and-be-happy or hold-true-to-her-principles dilemma is the core conflict of the book, one would hope that the heroine has the guts to investigate it a little further. But she doesn’t. Why?
Simple. Denial: disavowal, refusal, a failure to acknowledge an unacceptable truth. Or, in terms that might better suit this book: the upholding of a distorted view as ‘reality’ despite any evidence to the contrary. In other words, for Joy Silverman to talk to (or truly know) her own boyfriend would upset her precious reality beyond repair.
The problem here is the very set of moral principles that Silverman swears by. She simply can’t live up to her ideal, she can’t acknowledge that failure, and she can’t forgive anyone else for pointing out how her rigidity is ruining, rather than improving, her life. Toward the end Silverman does acknowledge (briefly, in her own mind, before she shoves it away again) the truth: that she is a lying liar who lies, a hypocrite, and a narcissist who stamps blithely past the pain of others. She does not even slow down to feel anything in particular for the ‘dear friend’ who is suffering from depression and drug abuse on the tail of an unwanted abortion. Yes. The narrator of this book is an arrogant, unapologetically self-absorbed princess who would rather be right than happy. She is no Elizabeth Bennet, modern or otherwise.
It does not make for pretty consequences. Even the book’s villain has more likeable moments.
If there’s a disappointment for me in Wedding Season, it’s that the heroine evidences no growth whatsoever; and since she is immature, this is an unsightly thing to behold. But then again, she never promised us any changes. Her ideals have stunted her to the point where growing and changing at all, even a little bit, threatens her very identity. And she doesn’t seem to realize that an identity that can be so easily threatened might not be carved out of the bedrock of righteousness that she thinks it is. She just goes on blindly believing it. Her failure to grasp that simple concept proves to be her hamartia, her fatal flaw.
If you are in the Dark Night of the Soul sort of mood to contemplate that, light a candle and pour a glass of juicy New Age Red. Its cherry notes will go well with the dessert you’ll begin to crave as you page through the story of Joy Silverman’s fall from the pedestal on which she set herself. You might enjoy sympathizing with her, or enjoy hating her. You might read it just for the Mr. Darcy Facsimile. He’s worth lingering for. But if you are looking for the easy rewards of standard chick lit fare, pass this one by.