THE PENNY WEDDING by Jessica Stirling


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 In a change of pace from her rugged 18th-century dramas dealing with love, murder and scandal (Shadows on the Shore, 1994, etc.), Stirling returns to more peaceful domestic doings--this time in a tale of love and marriage within a Glasgow family circa 1930. When Maeve Burnside--wife of workingman Alex, mother of four grown sons and studious Alison (16)- -suddenly dies, children and husband grieve deeply. But hard times and layoffs are in the wind, and all soon rally for crises. Must Alison give up her dreams of a career, leave school, and care for Dad and the boys? Tough old Grandmother Gilfillan lectures her on Duty, but Alison and father Alex stand their ground. (Much later Grandmother's iron will turn out to be golden). Jim Abbott, one-armed war veteran and local schoolteacher, will guide Alison on to academic glory while smothering his love and desire for her. Meantime, eldest Burnside son Henry, writing for a radical journal (with tongue in cheek), loves a married, German beauty, Trudi, and procures not only her freedom but a job for himself on a major newspaper. Jack, the trumpet player, blasts along in jazz bands, and prim Bertie discovers--and evades censure for--his closet proclivities. (Not much is heard about Davy, but he's sure to be ``jake.'') Then there's Alex, now an out-of-work loller and consumer of Trudi's cuisine, until Trudi and widowed Ruby, a neighbor and barmaid, conspire to drop the marital net. It all ends with a bang-up wedding and--surprisingly, considering the initially mellow tone--a judicious, diminished-seventh coda to the mutual love of Alison and teacher Jim. For Anglophiles whose affections reach to the River Clyde: another likable family tale with Stirling's trademark amusing asides--a special treat here is her portrait of a celebrated ``Celtic Bard'' soused to the ears and a-croon in Gaelic.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-13143-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1995


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