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Cassandra at the Wedding (New York Review Books Classics)

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Cassandra Edwards is a graduate student at Berkeley: gay, brilliant, nerve-wracked, miserable. At the beginning of this novel, she drives back to her family ranch in the foothills of the Sierras to attend the wedding of her identical twin, Judith, to a nice young doctor from Connecticut. Cassandra, however, is hell-bent on sabotaging the wedding. Dorothy Baker's entrancing Cassandra Edwards is a graduate student at Berkeley: gay, brilliant, nerve-wracked, miserable. At the beginning of this novel, she drives back to her family ranch in the foothills of the Sierras to attend the wedding of her identical twin, Judith, to a nice young doctor from Connecticut. Cassandra, however, is hell-bent on sabotaging the wedding. Dorothy Baker's entrancing tragicomic novella follows an unpredictable course of events in which her heroine appears variously as conniving, self-aware, pitiful, frenzied, absurd, and heartbroken—at once utterly impossible and tremendously sympathetic. Cassandra reckons with her complicated feelings about the sister who she feels owes it to her to be her alter ego; with her father, a brandy-soaked retired professor of philosophy; and with the ghost of her dead mother, as she struggles to come to terms with the only life she has. First published in 1962, Cassandra at the Wedding is a book of enduring freshness, insight, and verve. Like the fiction of Jeffrey Eugenides and Jhumpa Lahiri, it is the work of a master stylist with a profound understanding of the complexities of the heart and mind.


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Cassandra Edwards is a graduate student at Berkeley: gay, brilliant, nerve-wracked, miserable. At the beginning of this novel, she drives back to her family ranch in the foothills of the Sierras to attend the wedding of her identical twin, Judith, to a nice young doctor from Connecticut. Cassandra, however, is hell-bent on sabotaging the wedding. Dorothy Baker's entrancing Cassandra Edwards is a graduate student at Berkeley: gay, brilliant, nerve-wracked, miserable. At the beginning of this novel, she drives back to her family ranch in the foothills of the Sierras to attend the wedding of her identical twin, Judith, to a nice young doctor from Connecticut. Cassandra, however, is hell-bent on sabotaging the wedding. Dorothy Baker's entrancing tragicomic novella follows an unpredictable course of events in which her heroine appears variously as conniving, self-aware, pitiful, frenzied, absurd, and heartbroken—at once utterly impossible and tremendously sympathetic. Cassandra reckons with her complicated feelings about the sister who she feels owes it to her to be her alter ego; with her father, a brandy-soaked retired professor of philosophy; and with the ghost of her dead mother, as she struggles to come to terms with the only life she has. First published in 1962, Cassandra at the Wedding is a book of enduring freshness, insight, and verve. Like the fiction of Jeffrey Eugenides and Jhumpa Lahiri, it is the work of a master stylist with a profound understanding of the complexities of the heart and mind.

30 review for Cassandra at the Wedding (New York Review Books Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mariel

    "You've always needed a lot more of everything than I do," she said. "Haven't you?" I wanted to tell her that I didn't need much. Just a few essentials- faith in something and a little sense of location, but I didn't. I didn't because I was looking at her and seeing, again, the very face I'd seen behind the bottles in the bar this afternoon, the one that can always give me a turn when I really look at it and know who it is and why it looks back at me the way it does- as if it belonged to me. Dorot "You've always needed a lot more of everything than I do," she said. "Haven't you?" I wanted to tell her that I didn't need much. Just a few essentials- faith in something and a little sense of location, but I didn't. I didn't because I was looking at her and seeing, again, the very face I'd seen behind the bottles in the bar this afternoon, the one that can always give me a turn when I really look at it and know who it is and why it looks back at me the way it does- as if it belonged to me. Dorothy Baker left the ache that pumps the heart less in the eye socket sucker look that passes when you catch your own expression in the mirror and in the beat before you can't recognize your own face that's gonna be the face you gotta get used to seeing all by its lonesome for the rest of your life. It may as well be no one looking back because you'll never get used to seeing them. I got a lot out of Cassandra at the Wedding and still I cannot truthfully say that it is a good book. My heart would pitter patter on the lie detector test. Slow witted, meandering and bored. Okay, it cut me deep because I'm terrified that this is what I'm like. You can tell I'm lying by the flat lining on the monitors hooked up to my (a)voided eye socket in the mirror that says I'm gonna die alone. In lipstick, of course. Shade you dumb fuck. Cassandra at the Wedding is that type of book. Cassandra's shade would be something like red cross and blue shield. Judith's maternal look before identical twin Cassandra's settled in the boozy late as in late day vanity mirror. It's replaced with exasperation and oh no she didn't! Did she really say that? Girlfriend, sistah and whatever the '60s movie Hayley Mills might have snappily snapped around the time. Fingers and jazz hands. You know, maybe something directed by her father and a bid to escape Disney's casting couch dirty and clean on the buttoned in time front clutches for some societally conscious edge. Judith is getting married to a doctor! I didn't catch if she was going to finish college after she married what's his face or not. Did anyone in that family even ask? Maybe they were too hushed voices around temper tantrum throwing Cassandra. Let's get together/ yeah yeah yeah like that song from The Parent Trap (I don't know about you but my identical twin self was mortified by that song and cute act for the adults). Let's put on all the songs the family knows to keep the peace. We mustn't upset Cassandra, daddy, Judith or grandma! I can see all too well how that dance went. Deceased mama was one of those glamour pusses that memoirists excuse how little care they took with their children because they just looked so darn good in a pair of boots and a nice purse. Yawn. I didn't care too much about how drunk Cassandra always was. Glasses clink, glasses are swirled, glasses held and it's all props, security blankets and things to do with your hands. My hand hides a yawn. Cassandra at the Wedding pretty much bored me a lot of the time. Blah blah Cassandra can talk anyone into doing anything she wants because she has a WAY about her. I didn't see it when Cassandra is talking and I didn't see it when it was Judith's turn. I've had a lifetime of twin expectations to live with and it's too never cut through the surface bullshit for me to never get past "Oh, but we are deliberately different because people expect us to be the same!" Oh my god! Really?! I never would have thought... Oh wait, I did. The issue comes up once in a while and pretending that it is an all the time thing is too much for me. It was important that Cassandra measured herself by Judith. I would have gotten that without all the toilet hair holding. Judith hides behind how Cassandra is seen, like a kid on the first day of kindergarten and mommy hasn't worked up the necessary nerve to leave baby to sink or swim. Girl will say anything, ya'll! I'm such a good little girl. What was with the holier than thou act from Judith after all this time? She's not her damned mama. Was she winning because she found a man to marry? Cassandra at the Wedding bugged the fuck out of me with that shit. I liked Cassandra's inner feather ruffling over how Judith will stroke her with those maternal looks. Sometimes it is in the wrong direction and other times kitty purrs. That was good. Why waste my time with superficial observations when you can talk about what it is really all about? It's about how you can't stand to be held and you can't live without it. You don't wanna get used to the face you see in the mirror. Cassandra announces straight off that she cannot be a writer because her dead mother was one. She can't live in her shadow and she can't surpass it. Bull shit. Cassandra hides behind these couch observations. Was it any surprise that she had a lady shrink that she tried to impress with all of her on her back and legs in the air excuses, excuses, excuses? I liked the way that Baker didn't make a deal about Cassandra's lesbianism. Did she have to roll out the rug munching with the LOOK that the doc had when she alights on Cassandra's suicidal blond face? LOVE. Fuck me. I get it, Cassandra has the WAY and everyone likes her, even after she pulls the if you get married I'll kill myself routine? I actually liked Cassandra sometimes. I liked it when she fantasizes about what it would be like to have bats living in her hair. It's no good when she inevitably humanizes the bats in her hair. That's a problem, identifying everything as human. You're telling me. I liked when she is fascinated with the drain at the bottom of the swimming pool. I think about Cassandra's fixation on the light from above reflecting on the depths a lot. I think about it when I test myself on how long I can hold my own breath. And it killed me. Flat lined on Charlie Brown's lovelorn not sunshine yellow jersey. Judith didn't know why Cassandra always thought the two of them together was something so special. I don't believe she ever really did. I don't know how to go on believing that either. I wanted to, for them, and I couldn't. Dorothy Baker never did this for me. I wish that she had not tried to. Judith waited for Cassandra to come home to their apartment. The bosendorfer they had purchased together that only Judith could play waits like it could be a furry kitten. Judith abandons the ship mama didn't let sink or swim and the bosendorfer and Cassandra's belly are willfully anorexic to all strokes and fur rubbing, wrong way or no. It scares her how skinny Cassandra has gotten. If it was her Cassandra would find the will to bring her back to the shore. Mouth to mouth and heart to heart. Lips moving and hearts moving and I hear no words. Lip synching and not in my kitchen sync. Identical twin hands with those mirror image thumb prints touching. But she doesn't need help and Cassandra is alone. She has someone. Cassandra does not. Baker killed me. Carson McCullers apparently stayed up all night reading Cassandra at the Wedding. I knew that when reading it and couldn't help but think about her two novels (that have meant the world to me throughout my life so far) The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and Member of the Wedding. 'Hunter' is the worst thing that could ever happen to me. The loss of the music in my head that gets me throughout the days. Anything at all to look forward to, a moving to be close to something, anywhere I can get it. Even if I have to invent what to be close to myself. 'Member' is when what you have to do to get that does not work any more and it is dire straights. I believe she got something out of 'Cassandra' because I did too, despite it being no where near as good as her novels. Too much breath wasted on the mechanizations of the self destruction and not enough for what the pull to join it looked like. I got it when she's in the pool and the bats in her hair. I got it in the passing looks when she looks at Judith and sees an almost her and an almost Judith. Why would Judith just go but I have someone and you don't? (I didn't care about her doctor at all. He's an unoffensive type, essentially.) If Cassandra truly believed that the two of them were something special then where was the Cassandra half that's the force I'm supposed to believe she is? She was not there for anyone or for herself. I've been too close to the worst thing that could ever happen to me of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. I knew Member of the Wedding before my fourteen year old self found myself in it for the first time. I know what the hell you have to do to stop that, if you can. Cassandra at the Wedding missed it when it didn't talk about that. I don't give a shit if Cassandra was a loveable self destruct button pusher (not really). So, she wasn't not writing because of her glamour pussy always got stroked mama. She was hiding. The whole damned thing was an act and one that is too easy to see through. If you're going to invent it should be something you can live on or it's going to be worse when you have to look at yourself. They have someone and you don't, right? Cries. I didn't want some easy cliche about people stereotyping you against your twin when I knew that before I could crawl! I didn't need to be told that it is no good to count on anyone else to love you because I knew that before I could stand on my own two feet! If I can stand on my own two feet. Cassandra can't. Will she ever? I have no idea. If this book told me she could I wouldn't believe it. I wanted a book I could believe. I wanted company. I wanted a friend! Is that too much to ask? Okay, I hated this book somewhat because I felt like it was telling me (Cassandra) that I'm too attached to people I like and they all have their own lives and have no use for me. This is true, I already knew it was true. I don't need this book to tell me that! Okay, so reading this made me feel sick to my stomach and I am honestly going to swear off all attachments for good this time. After I finish snuggling with this rabbit. Just five more minutes!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    She wastes herself, she drifts; all she wants to do with her life is lose it somewhere. The title of this novel sounds peppy and chick-flick-y. Thankfully, it was a self-deprecating, slow moving madness. A fog. A bundle of nerves. The story switched gears halfway and became serious very quickly. And it's wonderfully dark and frantic. I wanted to stop and explain it to granny, tell her it was my fault for not knowing what I should have known - that people like us can't really be people and live h She wastes herself, she drifts; all she wants to do with her life is lose it somewhere. The title of this novel sounds peppy and chick-flick-y. Thankfully, it was a self-deprecating, slow moving madness. A fog. A bundle of nerves. The story switched gears halfway and became serious very quickly. And it's wonderfully dark and frantic. I wanted to stop and explain it to granny, tell her it was my fault for not knowing what I should have known - that people like us can't really be people and live happy lives. There's a cloud over us and we're caught in it together, then, now, and always. All this sadness and dysfunction and these family members who drink and fret and deny. It was, as it turned out, a perfect choice to read in the midst of the holiday season.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    Cassandra's twin sister is getting married and Cassandra is grieving this schism. Who gets the Bösendorfer? What do twins wear at one twin's wedding? For once, in literature, a harmlessly drunk father. They were like this: "Do you remember, Papa?" I said, "when you read to us out of The Anatomy of Melancholy --'Be not idle, be not solitary'?" "It's the other way around, I believe," papa said. "'Be not solitary, be not idle.' What about it?" "Nothing, except I remembered it. It's why I left Berkeley Cassandra's twin sister is getting married and Cassandra is grieving this schism. Who gets the Bösendorfer? What do twins wear at one twin's wedding? For once, in literature, a harmlessly drunk father. They were like this: "Do you remember, Papa?" I said, "when you read to us out of The Anatomy of Melancholy --'Be not idle, be not solitary'?" "It's the other way around, I believe," papa said. "'Be not solitary, be not idle.' What about it?" "Nothing, except I remembered it. It's why I left Berkeley and went to New York. I was stuck." "I don't know why I should have chosen to read that to you," papa said, "I've always believed in solitude." He looked down, saw his glass, recognized it, and took a drink. "And in idleness too," he said. "I think the precept at the end of the book is more to the point. How does it go? Sperate Miseri, Cavete Felices. It's more for people like me." "What's it mean?" "You should know," he said, "it couldn't be simpler, it means: Hope, ye unhappy ones, Ye happy ones, fear." My family does not talk like that. I look down and see my glass. I recognize the odd one in a family. Catch the bouquet. Don't get tight. Come see the flowers. Come look at the buffet. Be nice. _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: If someone you know takes (on purpose) too many sleeping pills (eg.), the Universal Antidote is two parts burned toast (crushed), one part strong tea, two parts milk of magnesia. Apparently this is doctoring 101. Now you know.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Vipassana

    The things that get in your way; the indignities you have to suffer before you’re free to do one simple, personal, necessary thing--like work. But I will release Cassandra's self pity that I have come to imagine as my own. As I watch the winds as carrying away my contrived notion of reality, watching the light do great many things to it until, it is out of sight and perhaps I will be bold enough to make the distinction. It has become increasingly hard for me to put the jibber jabber of thought The things that get in your way; the indignities you have to suffer before you’re free to do one simple, personal, necessary thing--like work. But I will release Cassandra's self pity that I have come to imagine as my own. As I watch the winds as carrying away my contrived notion of reality, watching the light do great many things to it until, it is out of sight and perhaps I will be bold enough to make the distinction. It has become increasingly hard for me to put the jibber jabber of thoughts on my mind in a coherent and constructive manner. It has become increasingly hard for me to draw my focus to the matter at hand. I am trying. Cassandra came into my life and despite her own mess, she helped clear mine. I have tried many ways to do this review, to actually explain what happened in with Cassandra at the Wedding, but it seems distant and dishonest. Instead, I hope you will endure my attempts to gain clarity. People in isolation don't do well. Not even the snarky ones who claim to abhor humanity. They are only deeply dissatisfied with mankind. It is visible to the logical mind but opaque to those who have been drowned in this frame of mind, they are simply unhappy with themselves. The unhappiness arises from a vision of how life should be, a vision that is the only access to happiness and the chasm between the vision and reality. Cassandra's vision is of a life with her identical, yet very different, twin, Judith. This vision is rooted in a perfect night, a moment of recognition of a way to live in consonance with one’s ideals. Moments that put the mind on a a high pinnacle of joy, bound to result in a great collapse. An imminent catastrophe tends to make us question the validity of the past. In theory, it is absurd to imagine the past with the wisdom of the present, yet often one views the past anachronistically. One may abandon the bliss of times gone by as juvenile or silly. Or revere it beyond it’s expiration, clinging on the debris as it comes crashing to the earth. It seems that these people are unable to make peace with their personal misgivings. Everbody has impulses... I have all kinds. Just about like yours. But I always hoped I could bring you to understand that there is such a thing as a whole life - a way of life - and a reason of that is strong enough to protect you from every little whistling call of the wild. A whole life is not given on a platter. It has to be made and It involves failure. A vision like that should be relieving, not having to be perfect and reality can be more glorious than that if only one embraces it. Yet, when one lives with a strict adherence to one's values, there is difficulty testing another way. The difference that I see between the two ways of living is what you respect most, an ideal higher truth or imperfect human beings with a right to pursue a better life. Cassandra is that person of staunch ideals but she loves Jude enough to listen to her arguments, to long for a lighter life. Part of this willingness comes from Cassandra's sense of oneness with Judith. As someone who has a very strong bond with my sibling, this felt distinctly similar. Perhaps living in the same family, on the same lopsided power equation makes siblings understand each other in a way other kinds of relationships don't. The deep satisfaction of that oneness can get suffocating. Clinging on to the other, who wants to deviate the narrow path. The conflict unearths a deep seated conflict that I have within myself. Can I tread another world, for a while? Can I whole heartedly immerse myself there? But can I also come back? It seems greedy, as I write this down, but more than anything I want permission to make mistakes because I'm finding it very hard to seize it as a right. -- I'm writing this well over a month since I read the book. It feels nice to still have a place to come to an babble on incoherently about this brilliant novel, especially when I see that a few of my GR friends have been reading this :) -- October 25, 2015

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    “The first thing one learns in life is that the self is a partial thing; at the very moment of birth one is consigned to terminal separateness. The one attribute we can be sure that we all share is incompleteness.” Reading this in Deborah Eisenberg’s afterword sent volts through me. My sister and I just had this conversation, over the dregs of our breakfast coffee at 2pm: conceptions of self are so fluid, so contingent on other people, so impossible to articulate. And I don’t know that we’re inco “The first thing one learns in life is that the self is a partial thing; at the very moment of birth one is consigned to terminal separateness. The one attribute we can be sure that we all share is incompleteness.” Reading this in Deborah Eisenberg’s afterword sent volts through me. My sister and I just had this conversation, over the dregs of our breakfast coffee at 2pm: conceptions of self are so fluid, so contingent on other people, so impossible to articulate. And I don’t know that we’re incomplete, actually, but that each of us is infinite, depending on perception and expression. I am large, I contain multitudes. Sometimes books are just so goddamn timely. I mean: I’ve had this book for years, but started it – fully unintentionally – the day before I boarded a plane from Whitehorse to Montreal, crossing the country away from my sister’s new city. Reading this book was sickly familiar – like when you excitedly eat that seriously rich dessert you loved as a kid, but, churning, realize you can’t quite stomach it as an adult. Aside from metaphor – I won’t get into it; it doesn’t need getting into. But those scenes where the twins remember sitting at the feet of their philosopher father as he pontificates, educates; where the sounds of the old family home hold too much memory, too much power; where Cassandra rails against stretching outwards for fear of losing that private beauty she can’t relinquish ----- This book is a goddamn treasure, alright. The shifts between the twins’ voices and perspectives are calculated and marvellous, the parallels subtle and the divergences glaring. Both Cass and Jude are built up carefully, judiciously, with attention to minute detail. The plot winds slowly, but with that car-crash-what’s-gonna-happen-oh-god-i-can’t-look-away kind of suspense: you know something’s gonna hit the fan, but how and when is a slap in the damn face. Don’t spoil yourself. Just pick this up and take it all in: the descriptions of violent heat in California, the insistent questioning of love and fairness, the snark and the insight, the sheer absurdity that is a family unit. This is artful construction, but more – loving construction – from an author who decorously understands each character she’s created, who has given them space to play, to hide, and if not to fight – to run. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book and sympathized so fiercely with such an abhorrent ‘protagonist’ (Pravda and Seven Types of Ambiguity – looking at you, boys). But I loved Cassandra (who I couldn’t stop picturing as Margot Kidder in Black Christmas); I loved her, I got her, man, and I saw that brat’s rotten flaws and possessive fire and her failure to overcome and. And. What a perfect example of a timeless character, bleeding through her ‘60s context right into 2016: I know exactly how you feel, Cassandra; or if not exactly: I can imagine it. I’ve been crying all day, on and off planes, as I cross the country and head home. I miss my sister. But I am not Cassandra, and she’s in no way – least of all characterization, hah – Judith. We’ve both crossed the bridge. I miss her every day, but: I know she misses me, too. With endless respect to Dorothy Baker for writing such a brilliant, such an outstandingly relatable, novel.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lobstergirl

    Dorothy Baker was apparently a straight woman who liked to write lesbian fiction. The lesbianism of the main character and narrator, Cassandra, is subtly treated. She sits down with her identical twin sister Judith and tells her "as honestly as I could how I'm constituted. With men I feel like a bird in the clutch of a cat, terrified, caught in a nightmare of confinement, wanting nothing but to get free and take a shower." She's also more than a little emotionally disturbed, sees an analyst, and Dorothy Baker was apparently a straight woman who liked to write lesbian fiction. The lesbianism of the main character and narrator, Cassandra, is subtly treated. She sits down with her identical twin sister Judith and tells her "as honestly as I could how I'm constituted. With men I feel like a bird in the clutch of a cat, terrified, caught in a nightmare of confinement, wanting nothing but to get free and take a shower." She's also more than a little emotionally disturbed, sees an analyst, and has thoughts of suicide - the Golden Gate Bridge appears to her as an "exit sign." She is having extreme difficulty separating from Judith, who went east to study at Juilliard and is now engaged to a doctor. The novel, set at the family ranch near Bakersfield, California, details Cassandra's attempts to derail the wedding and have Judith to herself. "There's probably a school for wives, but you don't need to go" Cassandra tells Judith, intending it as a snub of Judith's caretaking ways. The family is bohemian and loving, especially the sweet-tempered Granny, so Cassandra's selfishness can seem cruel, yet she's not an unlikeable character. She probably just takes after her mother, who recently died of cancer and whom Judith describes as less like a mother and "more like somebody's little brother." I found this book on the library shelf while looking for Nicholson Baker's The Anthologist, which wasn't there. So this is what happens when you're a no-show, Nicholson. Bakers are a dime a dozen. Learn from this.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alice (Married To Books)

    Read on Scribd! T/W- Suicide attempt Cassandra at the Wedding was such a strange and sadly, dull story about a woman travelling back to her past family roots in a bid to stop her twin sister from getting married. The writing style was long, story pacing incredibly slow and I just couldn't relate to any of the characters or events that took place. There is a trigger warning that I've listed above. This story was originally published in 1962 and I totally respect the author. This just simply wasn't Read on Scribd! T/W- Suicide attempt Cassandra at the Wedding was such a strange and sadly, dull story about a woman travelling back to her past family roots in a bid to stop her twin sister from getting married. The writing style was long, story pacing incredibly slow and I just couldn't relate to any of the characters or events that took place. There is a trigger warning that I've listed above. This story was originally published in 1962 and I totally respect the author. This just simply wasn't for me!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Fionnuala

    This is the story of Cassandra, a good deal more dextrous than sinister, according to herself, though for a while, it might have seemed the opposite. …but what can you do...when you’ve just finished failing to cease? Nothing except what I did, which was to stop looking through the eyelashes and bring down the lids. And wait. And sink again, and at once feel myself borne up by many arms and many hands, tossed from one to another, manipulated like an adagio dancer, pulled this way, pushed that way; This is the story of Cassandra, a good deal more dextrous than sinister, according to herself, though for a while, it might have seemed the opposite. …but what can you do...when you’ve just finished failing to cease? Nothing except what I did, which was to stop looking through the eyelashes and bring down the lids. And wait. And sink again, and at once feel myself borne up by many arms and many hands, tossed from one to another, manipulated like an adagio dancer, pulled this way, pushed that way; you hold her, now this arm in this one, that one there, button it now, and there we are. That’s it. But what was it all the time they were waiting for the shift to be found, and the buttons put through the buttonholes? Me, that’s what it was; me in the showcase, on display in the dissecting-room, handed back and forth, looked over more than overlooked, aware of my nudity, conscious somewhere down there that a cold nude is a different matter from a warm one. But even so, sometime that night... Sometime that night, very late, I think, maybe morning but not light yet, Vera Mercer asked me about it, why I chose to go out bare? We were in the classic position, she in the chair, I on the couch–my bed, in this case. She’d been doing the talking for a change, off and on all night in fact, and I’d been in and out of the world, but more and more in it, hearing most of what she said, which was nothing too imposing, just a human, low-voiced stream of what sounded like free association, possibly to show me how it should be done. But once in a while she’d throw me a question which I could either pretend not to hear or else go ahead and try to answer; and when she came to this one–why had I decided to die divested?–I made the choice to answer it honestly. ‘Because,’ I said, ‘I thought I might as well go out with my best foot forward. I’m all I’ve got.’

  9. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    Twins, for the most part, have close bonds. A bond that many of us cannot relate to. They sometimes have their own way of communicating, their own way of relating to others and trying to find themselves apart from their womb companion. When one tries to leave -- that bond, that strong, substantial, never-broken bond -- erodes away; leaving one vulnerable to the world of strangers that are not like themselves. Judith and Cassandra were born into a life of luxury and of old money. Both are educated Twins, for the most part, have close bonds. A bond that many of us cannot relate to. They sometimes have their own way of communicating, their own way of relating to others and trying to find themselves apart from their womb companion. When one tries to leave -- that bond, that strong, substantial, never-broken bond -- erodes away; leaving one vulnerable to the world of strangers that are not like themselves. Judith and Cassandra were born into a life of luxury and of old money. Both are educated, witty and smart-mouthed. Judith is moving on with her life, another chapter commences and Cassandra is not ready, with her misery loves company. The wedding signifies the break in this aforementioned bond and she will not let Judith go without a fight; this will not happen without someone dying trying. Baker's 'Cassandra at the Wedding' shows how a family functions better when they are away from one another and the dysfunction that happens when they come together. Life's a stage; It's only big enough for one and Cassandra will be the star.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    I have a deep fondness for sad-stuff-presented-cheerfully. The example I always think of is that song “But Not for Me,” specifically one of the versions by Judy Garland. The song is really about anguish, I think, but she sings it in a lovely, fairly understated way that sort of lets you off the hook somehow – like you have a choice between listening to it remotely and staying emotionally calm, or really focusing on it and getting kind of verklempt and suicidal. Most especially, I love the funny I have a deep fondness for sad-stuff-presented-cheerfully. The example I always think of is that song “But Not for Me,” specifically one of the versions by Judy Garland. The song is really about anguish, I think, but she sings it in a lovely, fairly understated way that sort of lets you off the hook somehow – like you have a choice between listening to it remotely and staying emotionally calm, or really focusing on it and getting kind of verklempt and suicidal. Most especially, I love the funny (and odd) little intro that goes Old Man Sunshine, listen you Never tell me dreams come true Just try it / and I’ll start a riot Beatrice Fairfax, don’tcha dare Ever tell me he will care I’m certain / it’s the final curtain I never want to hear from any cheerful Polyannas Who tell you fate supplies a mate; it’s all bananas This book reminded me of that song, in that it’s about something painful, but it’s written with such a light touch, and so astutely, and with such snappy humor, that I just felt good and happy and warm the whole time I was reading it. Partly my reaction was so effusive because my expectations were low (apparently I think anything written in 1962 has to be Peyton Place, because I’m a moron), so I’m hesitant to praise it too much and inadvertently get anyone else’s expectations up too high before they read it. Also, I’m afraid to actively recommend it to anyone because I’m worried they’ll end up feeling snobbish about the delightfully sharp dialogue, like maybe they’ll decide the book is just some kind of easily dismissed confection. But I guess there’s no way around saying that I loved it. It sort of killed me, in all the good ways. And if anyone I know reads this book and doesn’t also dig it, please don’t tell me, because I can’t take it. [Four stars if I’m trying hard to be objective; five stars because it made my heart sing. Part of the New York Review Books Classics collection, which apparently strives to bring out-of-print or forgotten books back into circulation.]

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

    A beautifully written story of twin sisters, one of whom is getting married and the other is struggling to accept this new level of separation. Cassandra and Judith Edwards are twins who have been raised in a seemingly idyllic life. Their mother was an established writer (thereby apparently leading to a writer's block in Cassandra who feels unable to live up to her mother's reputation and unwilling to compete with her mother) and retired professor of philosophy father. The affluent family owns a A beautifully written story of twin sisters, one of whom is getting married and the other is struggling to accept this new level of separation. Cassandra and Judith Edwards are twins who have been raised in a seemingly idyllic life. Their mother was an established writer (thereby apparently leading to a writer's block in Cassandra who feels unable to live up to her mother's reputation and unwilling to compete with her mother) and retired professor of philosophy father. The affluent family owns a ranch in northern California. In San Francisco, Cassandra is having problems completing her thesis about authors who are (roughly speaking) her own age. She is battling what seems to be severe depression while writing about these authors in order to get her degree and teach. Her real wish, however, is to be one of the authors she is writing about. Judith, an accomplished musician has moved to New York to study at Julliard. This is the first real separation the twins have experienced. Cassandra is invited to her sister's unexpected wedding. She heads home to confront her sister and get her to call off the wedding. No spoilers here: this is all set-up in the first chapter. The rest of the book is dedicated to this meeting and its repercussions. The writing in this book is amazing--beautifully crafted, each sentence seems both perfect in itself and perfectly contributing to the book as a whole. Cassandra, the opening voice in this novel (also told, later, from the point of view of Judith) is an engaging presence, funny and articulate while also raising concerns for her well-being. Judith is a more conservative presence that contrasts well with that of the more unstable, impulsive, but charming, Cassandra. There were times I had difficulty maintaining my interest in the fates of these affluent characters with their problems of privilege, I nevertheless found myself nevertheless drawn into their lives and relationships. Cassandra was at times irritating to me but generally her lively, intelligent mind made for an engaging read. Recommended for readers who are particularly interesting in writing craft as well as those who enjoy stories about family drama.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Anna Luce

    ★★★✰✰ 3 stars In spite of its intriguing premise Cassandra at the Wedding is a novel that is obscured by an impenetrable and confounding narration. The story is divided in three sections, two of which are from the point of view of Cassandra. Her narrative reflects her state of mind and she reports things with a puzzling intense yet unfocused perspective. Her mind jumps from thought to thought, and she often provides no context—or reason—for what she thinks or observes which leaves readers trying ★★★✰✰ 3 stars In spite of its intriguing premise Cassandra at the Wedding is a novel that is obscured by an impenetrable and confounding narration. The story is divided in three sections, two of which are from the point of view of Cassandra. Her narrative reflects her state of mind and she reports things with a puzzling intense yet unfocused perspective. Her mind jumps from thought to thought, and she often provides no context—or reason—for what she thinks or observes which leaves readers trying to navigate her increasingly mystifying thought-pattern . The novel is very much focused on Cassandra and her identity. Characters describe her personality in a way that suggests that she is much more alluring and passionate than she actually is. Cassandra spends way too much time exploring her sense of self, providing little information or motivation in the situations that would actually benefit from more clarity on her part. She is depressed, unhappy, unfixed. Her life seems to have spiralled out of control after her sister moved away from their shared apartment. While the confusing style does reflect her skewed perceptions it also distances readers from her experiences. So much is unsaid that it was hard to find reasons to sympathise with her or her struggles. Her sexuality is only vaguely hinted at which given the time the book was written in, it does 'make sense' but then...why include this aspect of her character if you will barely acknowledge it? Moreover, Cassandra's obsession with her twin sister seemed far too undeveloped and unexplained. Her fixation seems the drive of this narrative, yet there seemed little substance to her relationship with her sister. In conclusion, I was hoping that this novel would be far more innovative and entertaining than it actually was. Read more reviews on my blog

  13. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

    This story of California twins Cassandra and Judith (the bride) is a wild ride, with Cassandra narrating the first and last sections, with Judith getting her turn a little over half-way through. Cassandra is fascinating, if a bit scary psychologically, full of personality and action, while Judith is the more well-adjusted, ready-for-adult-life one. For a while I wanted to put this down completely, but became more and more interested. Things go really haywire when Cassandra goes home for her sist This story of California twins Cassandra and Judith (the bride) is a wild ride, with Cassandra narrating the first and last sections, with Judith getting her turn a little over half-way through. Cassandra is fascinating, if a bit scary psychologically, full of personality and action, while Judith is the more well-adjusted, ready-for-adult-life one. For a while I wanted to put this down completely, but became more and more interested. Things go really haywire when Cassandra goes home for her sister's wedding, and feels she can't exist without her "other half" in Judith. Very interesting read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Zanna

    I identified strongly with Cassandra for several personal reasons, which I won't detail. This probably helped me maintain sympathy for her despite her often inconsiderate thoughtless behaviour (one of the reasons is that I also tend towards these unattractive traits) and vitriol:There again, I thought, say it twice and underline it. The emblem of good women is always this anxiety about drinking – other people's drinking. And I knew why. Because alcohol releases truth and truth is something good I identified strongly with Cassandra for several personal reasons, which I won't detail. This probably helped me maintain sympathy for her despite her often inconsiderate thoughtless behaviour (one of the reasons is that I also tend towards these unattractive traits) and vitriol:There again, I thought, say it twice and underline it. The emblem of good women is always this anxiety about drinking – other people's drinking. And I knew why. Because alcohol releases truth and truth is something good women never care to hear. It frightens then. They only want to hear cliches about how lovely it is to be home again, and what an exciting occasion this is, not only a glad reunion but with a wedding thrown in.While I share Cassandra's repulsion towards romantic convention, I'm less sure about this negative description of the benefits of alcohol, as is the narrative, which not only lands Cassandra with a killer hangover but also a near-fatal dose of disillusionment after drunkenness led her into deception self and otherwise. Personally I suspect that the centrality of alcohol in White Usian/British social life is one of the reasons most of us can't actually talk or relate to each other with sincerity and warmth, or love and enjoy each other in the raw as opposed to performing unqualified admiration or blissful contentment. Still, I don't do better, and I abstain. In so far as I find the novel irritating, it's as I generally do the malaise of privileged people; the Edwards' have all the money they need to buy the things they want, but as Deborah Eisenberg points out, not only does Baker make us well aware of this, but unlike much of the well-regarded fiction of the day, she also presents economic privilege in a positive light. The family derive genuine pleasure from the comforts they can afford, which Baker puts to expository and character-developing work, with no wallowing. The text came freshly alive for me when Cassandra thinks with pleasure about the dress she has just bought on her grandmother's account, and how both the dress and the charge will make her grandmother happy. To be honest I find this appreciative attitude towards agreeable possessions realistic and relateable – I love nice stuff too. It also rings true that this family, whose material wants are well-supplied, take their fondest pleasures in the voluptuous joys of thought and creativity. They do not consume to demonstrate their status or to assuage other deficiencies. The twins' father is a philosopher, their mother, who died before the story starts, was a writer, while Cassandra is a blocked writer, and Judith is a musician. More objectionable is the lack of consideration of where the family's wealth originated (unstated, but slavery built the US economy) and the narrative treatment of Conchita, the Latina housekeeper, who has no speaking part, making for an all-white script in my (admittedly feeble) white imagination. That Cassandra wants to reject convention and live permanently with her sister is a fact treated fairly respectfully by the author, who is also unjudgemental about her lesbian affairs. Unfortunately the same can't be said for Judith, who considers her partners 'beneath her' or her fiance, who represents compulsory heterosexuality in his words, actions and location in the text. Judith is underdeveloped as a character, and her fiance is barely more than a cipher. Grandmother represents convention and tradition, while the twins' father stands for everything unconventional that Cassandra values about her background. Judith is most interesting when she says something that inadvertently supports Cassandra's argument that the twins belong together, but her apparent misunderstanding of Cassandra's grief, even more than her desire to escape from her sister's overpowering personality, undermines it, I think. What I would have liked more of is Vera, Cassandra's 'irresistible' analyst. Eisenberg's afterword is pleased with the harsh advice she throws at her about finding a way to live, but Cassandra seems not to register it. When she allows herself to believe that Vera's dramatic and excessive reaction to Cassandra's plight was self-interested, I can't tell whether she is deceiving herself to survive the hurt of a second rejection, or she really believes it. In any case, I was left wishing for a story that didn't leave love between women still beyond the pale.

  15. 5 out of 5

    John Anthony

    Contents: 1. Cassandra Speaks 2. Judith Speaks 3. Cassandra Speaks 4. Afterword by Deborah Eisenberg “Cassandra” is one of the identical twins, on the surface the "stronger" of the two, the other is Judith, who's wedding to Jack is central to the story. Physically identical they may be but that's as far as it goes: the sisters are quite different, their sexual preferences to begin with. Much of the 'action' is set on the family's ranch in the foothills of the Sierras. As a character, Cassandra is som Contents: 1. Cassandra Speaks 2. Judith Speaks 3. Cassandra Speaks 4. Afterword by Deborah Eisenberg “Cassandra” is one of the identical twins, on the surface the "stronger" of the two, the other is Judith, who's wedding to Jack is central to the story. Physically identical they may be but that's as far as it goes: the sisters are quite different, their sexual preferences to begin with. Much of the 'action' is set on the family's ranch in the foothills of the Sierras. As a character, Cassandra is something of an acquired taste which I failed entirely to acquire. Her reaction to Judith's plans to marry reminded me of Virginia Woolf's when told that her sister Vanessa was going to marry. There is selfish dependence on the other to be their alter ego. I really had to take deep breaths whilst reading it in order to keep right on to the end of the road (fortunately it is not a long book). The middle part, “Judith Speaks”, was more anchored in terra firma. The sisters' reflections on each other and twinship, is clever. But the overriding memory for me is an intense dislike of the manipulating, selfish Cassandra. Published in 1962 and regarded by Ms Eisenberg as a classic which should never be out of print I keep wondering what Virginia Woolf would have made of it! The best thing about the book for me is its lovely cover, part of a 1953 painting by David Park, to whose memory Dorothy Baker dedicates her book. This helped to fix my score at 3 *s

  16. 5 out of 5

    Brown Girl Reading

    This book turned out to not be as interesting as I thought it would be. 0nce I reached page 11 and saw "...That's why colored people go to Paris.. To be overlooked?..." I knew this book wasn't for me. Set in 1962 I feel like reading it now during this tumultuous period, I couldn't relate to Cassandra and her difficulty of accepting being a twin. The story is an ongoing rant from Cassandra's point of view mostly. Immersed in the first person, you'll either hate that or love that. Cassandra is sca This book turned out to not be as interesting as I thought it would be. 0nce I reached page 11 and saw "...That's why colored people go to Paris.. To be overlooked?..." I knew this book wasn't for me. Set in 1962 I feel like reading it now during this tumultuous period, I couldn't relate to Cassandra and her difficulty of accepting being a twin. The story is an ongoing rant from Cassandra's point of view mostly. Immersed in the first person, you'll either hate that or love that. Cassandra is scathingly honest about her feelings and her family. There are a few sections with her twin sister Judith but not enough as there could have been. Lauded as a comedic modern classic, once I was done I couldn't find anything humorous in it. Cassandra at the Wedding is a story enclosed on a family with its problems however focusing on Cassandra who is highly unlikeable and her boring sister. The writing is probably the best thing about the book but the rest just did absolutely nothing for me. Another thing you should know is that the story is semi-autobiographical and I personally don't enjoy reading stories that are true but are fiction.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Roberto

    Such a brilliant novel! Effortless and smart, does that mix of dark and blase so well, with that kinda preppy but cynical bohemianism of Salinger. Loved it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    julieta

    I have to confess that the reasons that lead me to read this book were kind of personal. I have a tendency to become infatuated with certain publishers, and I have a big crush on NYRB. All the books I have read have been incredible discoveries, and I love their translation, even their introductions and afterwords in the novels they publish. The second reason is because I am a twin, and I am always looking for a good twin story, which don't really come by much. So I read it for very different reas I have to confess that the reasons that lead me to read this book were kind of personal. I have a tendency to become infatuated with certain publishers, and I have a big crush on NYRB. All the books I have read have been incredible discoveries, and I love their translation, even their introductions and afterwords in the novels they publish. The second reason is because I am a twin, and I am always looking for a good twin story, which don't really come by much. So I read it for very different reasons, but then I was surprised by Dorothy Baker, by her great writing, even if the story of the twins itself was kind of, how should I put it, unrealistic. But that's silly, twins experience things in such a different way, and this is just the fictionalization of one experience. I just felt it so very far away from anything I have felt, but at the same time this rejection I felt is maybe that she, in her way, is touching something close to home. Yes, maybe I have twin issues. Then there is her great writing. She really could tell me just about anything, and I'd be pretty impressed on the rhythm, on how very much on it she is, nothing sticks out, it's just great and talented writing. Totally enjoyable, and recommended.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sian Lile-Pastore

    I really liked this... published in 1962 with a great sense of place and a wonderful narrative voice, 'cassandra at the wedding' is charming, smart, sad and funny. Perhaps more witty and smart than funny, it's not laugh out loud funny, here's a quote so you can see what I mean: '"I think I'll tell you something I wasn't ever going to tell you," she said, and I knew by her face it was important. Also by how long it took her to follow it up. But she did finally. "It's about Jack," she said. "He doe I really liked this... published in 1962 with a great sense of place and a wonderful narrative voice, 'cassandra at the wedding' is charming, smart, sad and funny. Perhaps more witty and smart than funny, it's not laugh out loud funny, here's a quote so you can see what I mean: '"I think I'll tell you something I wasn't ever going to tell you," she said, and I knew by her face it was important. Also by how long it took her to follow it up. But she did finally. "It's about Jack," she said. "He doesn't care much at all about music. 'Clair de Lune', and that's it." There have been barroom confessions before, but not like this. I was stunned. My own brother-in-law. "Gee", I said. It was all I could say for a while but then I asked for details. "How long have you known it?" "Almost from the start. But I just couldn't do anything about it." I moaned and said, "This is terrible." "I know," Judith said, "but we love each other." "How can you?" "I don't know, but we do." It's about twins cassandra and judith and the impending marriage of judith to a nice doctor. It's initially told by the brilliant and troubled Cassandra and then half way through swaps to the more measured and sane Judith. It's a book about family, death, happiness, being a twin and growing up, I thought it was fantastic and I'd be happy to read it again. Carson McCullers said that even though her regular bed time was ten o'clock (half an hour earlier than mine) she stayed up all night reading this book, so y'kno, me and Carson like this.x

  20. 5 out of 5

    Paula

    4,5* "It would be difficult for a great many pharmacists to write: ‘as needed for zest’, or ‘as needed for zeal’, or ‘as needed to encourage the minimum of tolerance for the brute stupidities of this world’. It would also go against the grain to write simply ‘Pep pills’. Apothecaries have their own sensitivities and some of them cannot go beyond a gentle ‘as needed’. The big question here was what’s needed most: tranquillity, sleep, or zeal, and I didn’t feel like deciding in any great hurry. Este 4,5* "It would be difficult for a great many pharmacists to write: ‘as needed for zest’, or ‘as needed for zeal’, or ‘as needed to encourage the minimum of tolerance for the brute stupidities of this world’. It would also go against the grain to write simply ‘Pep pills’. Apothecaries have their own sensitivities and some of them cannot go beyond a gentle ‘as needed’. The big question here was what’s needed most: tranquillity, sleep, or zeal, and I didn’t feel like deciding in any great hurry. Este livro é brilhante e surpreendente, e é tão atual que não parece ter sido escrito em 1962 mas sim este ano. Cassandra poderia ser uma dessas “millennials” descritas por Ottessa Moshfegh ou Sally Rooney, mas com mais sagacidade e capacidade de introspecção. Os diálogos, que costumo achar o ponto fraco dos escritores, são autênticas partidas de pingue-pongue, onde nunca se sabe para que lado a bola vai cair ou ressaltar, e os monólogos interiores não lhe ficam atrás, sempre cheios de sarcasmo e frases que dão vontade de sublinhar ou copiar. Formidável!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ulysse

    For me it's Judith, all the way.

  22. 5 out of 5

    JacquiWine

    Cassandra at the Wedding (first published in 1962) will make my end-of-year highlights, no doubt about it. As this novel opens, Cassandra Edwards, a graduate student at Berkeley, is preparing to drive home to her family’s ranch for the wedding of her identical twin sister, Judith. From the opening pages, she seems in two minds as to whether to take the trip, and as she looks at the Golden Gate Bridge, we begin to sense that something is desperately wrong: Besides, my guide assures me that I am no Cassandra at the Wedding (first published in 1962) will make my end-of-year highlights, no doubt about it. As this novel opens, Cassandra Edwards, a graduate student at Berkeley, is preparing to drive home to her family’s ranch for the wedding of her identical twin sister, Judith. From the opening pages, she seems in two minds as to whether to take the trip, and as she looks at the Golden Gate Bridge, we begin to sense that something is desperately wrong: Besides, my guide assures me that I am not, at heart, a jumper; it’s not my sort of thing. I’m given to conjecture only, and to restlessness, and I think I knew all the time I was sizing up the bridge that the strong possibility was I’d go home, attend my sister’s wedding as invited… (pg 4, NYRB Classics) Cassandra narrates the first section of the novel, and as she travels home we learn more of her relationship with Judith. The two twins used to share an apartment in Berkeley and seemed inseparable, content to live their lives for each other with little need for outsiders. But then Judith departed for New York leaving Cassandra cut adrift and in a state of procrastination over her thesis on French novels. In this respect, Cassandra is also living in the shadow of her deceased mother, Jane, a famous writer and influential figure in the twin’s lives. Identity is a key theme in this novel. As the twins were growing up, their parents, Jane in particular, refused to have the girls dress alike. And as Cassandra tells her grandmother (at a later stage in the novel) “they were concerned to have us become individuals, each of us in our own right, and not be confused in ourselves, nor confusing to other people.” (pg. 65) But despite her parents’ best efforts there are hints that Cassandra is losing a sense of her own identity. During her journey home, Cassandra stops as a bar and catches her face in the mirror, and at first she sees the face of Judith looking at her very thoughtfully: By a firm act of will I forced the face between the shelves to stop becoming Judith’s and become mine. My very own face – the face of a nice girl preparing to be a teacher, writing a thesis, being kind to her grandmother, going home a day early instead of a day late or the day I said, and bringing something decent to wear. But it can give me a turn, that face, any time I happen to catch it in a mirror; most particularly at times like this when I’m alone and have to admit it’s really mine because there’s no one else to accuse. (pg. 8) To read the rest of my review, please click here: https://jacquiwine.wordpress.com/2014...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Tightly written with a very well-drawn protagonist, Cassandra at the Wedding is worth reading even if it is a bit dated in some (not all) of its psychological themes. I almost didn't read it for suspicion of any writer who would name her protagonist "Cassandra," but you get over it. The premise is that Cassandra, one half of identical twins, is preparing to attend - and hoping to thwart - the sudden wedding of her sister Judith. Cassandra is gay (although references to this are oblique, probably Tightly written with a very well-drawn protagonist, Cassandra at the Wedding is worth reading even if it is a bit dated in some (not all) of its psychological themes. I almost didn't read it for suspicion of any writer who would name her protagonist "Cassandra," but you get over it. The premise is that Cassandra, one half of identical twins, is preparing to attend - and hoping to thwart - the sudden wedding of her sister Judith. Cassandra is gay (although references to this are oblique, probably because this was first published in 1962). She also feels that she and Judith are meant to spend their lives together in symbiosis, living wholly outside of social convention. The twins had always resisted dressing alike, in line with their intellectual parents' insistence that it would inhibit their development as individuals. Now Judith was marrying, partly in an effort to sever herself from the tortured Cassandra, plunging instead into her wifely role. But you get the sense that Judith loses her individuality either way - either to Cassandra or to convention, while Cassandra, despite her obsessive dependence on Judith, can envision alternative ways to live and exist and is probably the only one of the two who really developed the kind of independence of thought her parents valued. She's also nuts. In novelistic tradition, Cassandra's marginal way of thinking is partly expressed as insanity, and the barriers to living as she would want to does make her a danger to herself (and irritating / infuriating at times). But she is smart and wry and charming, too, and a character you want to get to know. Also ubiquitous in the book is the easy materialism in which this family thrives - mom was a writer and dad's a philosopher who retired early from academia. They drink top-shelf booze, drive fancy cars, and spend quite a lot of time in the large swimming pool out back. Not quite sure where this fits in, but no one in the story seems too conflicted about it. The best thing about Cassandra at the Wedding may have been discovering the New York Review Books series, published by the NY Review of Books, which has revived what appears to be a fine selection of writing that was widely read and viewed as important when it was published but has fallen out of publication. I'll definitely be picking up others from this series.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Quirky, nervy little book with wonderful characterizations. Made me think of Chekhov a bit, those slightly fraught, flawed characters and the way your sympathy for them sneaks up on you. Cassandra is a lovely character. Well, they all are, even if Judith is a bit bland -- but she's supposed to be, so it's OK. And you end up sympathizing with her for just having had to grow up in the shadow of her sister's wacky brilliance. The Aristophanes connection is accurate, but it's also kind of simplistic Quirky, nervy little book with wonderful characterizations. Made me think of Chekhov a bit, those slightly fraught, flawed characters and the way your sympathy for them sneaks up on you. Cassandra is a lovely character. Well, they all are, even if Judith is a bit bland -- but she's supposed to be, so it's OK. And you end up sympathizing with her for just having had to grow up in the shadow of her sister's wacky brilliance. The Aristophanes connection is accurate, but it's also kind of simplistic -- the book is about a lot more than just the rending of the one from the one true love. There's a whole lot about family -- how it gets pulled apart, the traps parents set for their children (that whole "we don't need other people" ethos they grew up with), young people trying to pull away and find their own identities in the face of such an overbearing family unit. I got a very strong feeling of someone in middle age musing about what it is to be young, that period of time before your sense of your own self has settled in. Baker would have been what, in her 50s when she wrote this? It's definitely a mature gaze on events, even though the story is told in Cassandra's voice.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

    July 2012 I read The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin last month, but I kept getting stuck (it's the longest short book I've ever read), so to distract myself I started working through my NYRB collection instead. There may have been a conflict of interest there. July 2012 I read The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin last month, but I kept getting stuck (it's the longest short book I've ever read), so to distract myself I started working through my NYRB collection instead. There may have been a conflict of interest there.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Sampson

    gotta Stan a book from 1962 about a queer woman returning home to ruin her twin sister’s wedding... funny and sad, RIYL: my year of rest and relaxation, that Anne Hathaway movie Rachel Getting Married, pratfalls

  27. 5 out of 5

    Claire Fuller

    Identical twins Cassandra and Jude have lived together on their parents' ranch and then in a city apartment for all of their 24 years. But when Jude goes off to New York to study music, she falls in love and returns home to marry. Cassandra, invited to the wedding and to meet Jude's fiance for the first time also is on her way back. Except that Cassandra, a wise-cracking, sharp, but vulnerable young woman can't deal with Jude marrying, because she thinks she and Jude should have remained togethe Identical twins Cassandra and Jude have lived together on their parents' ranch and then in a city apartment for all of their 24 years. But when Jude goes off to New York to study music, she falls in love and returns home to marry. Cassandra, invited to the wedding and to meet Jude's fiance for the first time also is on her way back. Except that Cassandra, a wise-cracking, sharp, but vulnerable young woman can't deal with Jude marrying, because she thinks she and Jude should have remained together, the two of them always. The action all takes place over three or so days of heat and anguish in the early 1960s. I'd probably give it 3.5 stars - I appreciated Cassandra's character, but I did find her tiresome when I think I was supposed to feel sympathy. But I was frustrated by (view spoiler)[ how the family react to Cassandra's suicide attempt. It seemed so unreal that it rather spoiled the story for me. Cassandra could possibly be dying in her bedroom with only Jude's medical fiance with her for a long time. Jude eventually goes back in to see Cassandra, but their grandmother simply goes to bed, as does their father. Very odd. (hide spoiler)]

  28. 5 out of 5

    Karen Foster

    Endlessly quotable and soooo sharply written, I couldn’t get enough of the very complicated relationship between twins Cassandra and Judith. Identical in looks, yet they couldn’t be more different in character. I love a story set in a short period of time... here we get to spend just a couple of days with the Edwards family, surrounding Cassandra’s trip back to the family home to attend( or maybe try and stop) Judith’s wedding. Whip smart, perceptive, witty and dark..... I just loved it! Read fo Endlessly quotable and soooo sharply written, I couldn’t get enough of the very complicated relationship between twins Cassandra and Judith. Identical in looks, yet they couldn’t be more different in character. I love a story set in a short period of time... here we get to spend just a couple of days with the Edwards family, surrounding Cassandra’s trip back to the family home to attend( or maybe try and stop) Judith’s wedding. Whip smart, perceptive, witty and dark..... I just loved it! Read for #nyrbbookclub on Litsy

  29. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    To me this was a difficult read because of the subject matters of madness and twins. My grandmother was part of a twin and mad as a hatter. Her entire life she threatened to commit suicide, an act she ultimately managed to complete when I was a young girl of twelve. My mother and her sister were terrified of her and so were my sister and I. She could be lovely at times but she could be so manipulative that it made your blood run cold. As a result of this I became very interested in psychology as To me this was a difficult read because of the subject matters of madness and twins. My grandmother was part of a twin and mad as a hatter. Her entire life she threatened to commit suicide, an act she ultimately managed to complete when I was a young girl of twelve. My mother and her sister were terrified of her and so were my sister and I. She could be lovely at times but she could be so manipulative that it made your blood run cold. As a result of this I became very interested in psychology as an adolescent. I love to read about slightly or completely unhinged characters and all sorts of mental illnesses. This book came very close to my own fears and was therefore hard to finish. Baker comes up with fascinating views on twins and their struggle to grow up as individuals. Cassandra's manipulative character will stay with me in remembrance of my grandmother.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Christy

    The perfect airplane read for a person en route to a wedding, this tautly written 1962 novel about a woman falling apart, coming home to her family’s ranch to derail her twin sister’s wedding. That’s the summary – but obviously it’s about so much more: about the nature of love and obsession, about identity and the self. It’s a novel filled with light and despair, anguish and pathos and extreme feeling. It made me think of the film "Rachel’s Getting Married", another story of a conniving, distrau The perfect airplane read for a person en route to a wedding, this tautly written 1962 novel about a woman falling apart, coming home to her family’s ranch to derail her twin sister’s wedding. That’s the summary – but obviously it’s about so much more: about the nature of love and obsession, about identity and the self. It’s a novel filled with light and despair, anguish and pathos and extreme feeling. It made me think of the film "Rachel’s Getting Married", another story of a conniving, distraught sister and the issues of family history, responsibilities, and relationships that spark and collide at significant events. I wholly agree with the reviewer calling Cassandra at the Wedding a modern American classic.

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