What’s My Mother’s Wedding all about?:
My Mother’s Wedding follows our young female protagonist, Jane at her mother’s wedding and the life-altering choices that are made that day.
What did I think?:
I’ve had my beady little eye on this collection for the longest time and I’m delighted it’s finally time to enter it into my Short Stories Challenge and enjoy fiction from a number of celebrated authors including the author of this piece, Tessa Hadley as well as Sarah Hall, Evie Wyld, Susan Hill, Lionel Shriver and Audrey Niffenegger to name a few and as the ones I’ve mentioned are some of my favourite female voices, I knew I was in for a treat with this collection. Edited by Tracy Chevalier, the idea is that each of the authors has been given Jane Eyre’s most notorious line: “Reader, I Married Him,” and allowed to let their imaginations run wild. I thought this was a fantastic idea and was really looking forward to seeing how each writer would use that infamous statement to tell their own story whilst maintaining the spirit and essence of Jane Eyre and indeed, of Charlotte Bronte as an author herself.
Tessa Hadley, author of the short story, My Mother’s Wedding.
Our story begins as you may have guessed by the title, in the run up to a wedding, one of which our female protagonist Jane (or Janey as she is known) is not looking forward to. The wedding is her mother’s and she is not marrying Jane’s father or the father of Jane’s half-siblings but a much younger man called Patrick. The family live a carefree, bohemian existence in the Welsh countryside and are often looked down on by other members of the community for their open and nonchalant ways but all individuals in the family appear to be content with their lot. This is until the day of the wedding however, when after much merriment (and maybe a bit too much home made mead!), tensions begin to bubble to the surface, secrets are revealed and decisions are made that will affect the dynamics of the family forever.
The beautiful Welsh countryside, where our story is set.
This little story kind of sneaked up and surprised me a little bit and as I’m always delighted by the unexpected, this was a very welcome turn of events for me personally as a reader. At the beginning, it feels kind of cosy, happy and languid with plenty of beautiful descriptions of nature, the weather and the surrounding area although before long, we begin to sense that there may be undercurrents of anguish below the serenity on the outside. My favourite thing about this story though was the way in which Tessa Hadley used the line: “Reader, I Married Him,” as a very particular nod to Jane Eyre and her creator Bronte, whom at the time was admired as brave and independent for this utterance considering women’s position in society at the time. That is to say, Bronte didn’t fall back on “we married,” or “he married me,” but made a definitive statement that it was HER particular choice to marry not that of her eventual husband, Mr Rochester.
Without giving anything away, Hadley uses this idea to illustrate in My Mother’s Wedding the decisions that are made in the story without having to actually have her characters say the line at any time. The way everything unravelled, particularly by the end, felt different, felt interesting and was a novel take on such a celebrated literary quote in history.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: Ringing Night by Rosy Thornton from the collection Sandlands.