Delta wedding : a novel

by Eudora Welty

Paperback, 1974




New York : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979, c1974.


A vivid and charming portrait of a large southern family, the Fairchilds, who live on a plantation in the Mississippi delta. The story, set in 1923, is exquisitely woven from the ordinary events of family life, centered around the visit of a young relative, Laura McRaven, and the family’s preparations for her cousin Dabney’s wedding.

User reviews

LibraryThing member laytonwoman3rd
In the middle of cotton picking time, 17 year old Dabney Fairchild has announced that she will marry her family's overseer, Troy Flavin, a man decidedly not from the Delta, and at this moment exactly twice Dabney's age. ("...but that was just a funny accident, thirty-four being twice seventeen, it
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wouldn't be so later on. When she was as much as twenty-five, he wouldn't be fifty!") We learn of the upcoming wedding first from Dabney's 9-year-old cousin, Laura McRaven, who is traveling from Jackson alone on the train to attend. At first we see everything through Laura's eyes, colored slightly by her memory of being among the Fairchilds before, and by the fact that her mother has recently died. There is a large family (8 children, multiple aunts and uncles, and the black servants) spread over a sprawling plantation, the neighboring town, and some as far away as Memphis, all converging on short notice to see Dabney married. Despite the fact that "everyone" said the Fairchilds would die if there were to be a match between Dabney and Troy when they began keeping company, only her father seems to have raised any real protest, and even he ultimately relents to give her "any kind of wedding" she wanted.
This is the 1920's, and while the plantation is almost self-contained, and somewhat outside of time, still hints of the world beyond its fields and cotton houses creep in. Dabney's older sister, Shelley, longs to get her hands on a copy of The Beautiful and Damned, which is going around the Delta, and she is packing for a trip to Europe with her Aunt Tempe. Flowers, dresses, cake and shepherdesses' crooks for the wedding come in from Memphis and are viewed with awe and some skepticism. A cousin, also from Memphis, brings chicken pox with her, and must be quarantined.
The novel is short on plot, long on place and character, brimming with subtext. There are flighty maiden aunts, scatty and somewhat scary old black retainers, drunken uncles, dissatisfied wives, precocious children who pop in and out with observations and pronouncements that often seem out of place. The action sometimes has the feel of a stage play, and in fact treating it that way was helpful to me at times when I couldn't seem to "engage" with what was going on. I just tried to watch it as carefully as possible until the scene changed. There are levels and levels of meaning in the commonplace goings-on, and trying to read this book casually or superficially is likely to leave the reader unimpressed. There just isn't enough pure story to carry you on, unless you plunge into the depths and realize how much exploration of relationships and themes is happening below the surface. Men/women, blacks/whites, youth/age, love and disillusionment, class differences, motherhood, moral much is going on. Just as one example, the whole subject of pregnancy and childbirth permeates scene after scene. Dabney's mother is pregnant (for the tenth time). Pinchy, one of the servants, is clearly near to giving birth, quite possibly to Troy's child. A cousin couldn't come to the wedding, because she has just recently had a baby. There is even a suggestion that Dabney may be pregnant. (One scene in particular put that idea in my head, and after all, why else would she be getting married in such a hurry at such an inopportune time?)
I'm not much of a close reader, but this novel is beautifully composed in a way that made that process rewarding. And naturally, once will not be enough for me. I think I've only begun to "know" this book.
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LibraryThing member alic
Though the writing was lush, and the characterizations apt, the novel did show the flaws that you might have expected from a first-time author.

The tone of the first chapter, from the point of view of a young child, was excellent. But she was not able to construct a story line that could be told
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from Laura's point of view, and had to flit from character to character to continue the narrative.

There was no character development, no revelations, no resolution, no explanation of any of the odd (though interesting) characters that drifted through the delta.
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LibraryThing member AnneSteph
I found this delightful. I listened to this a few years ago when I worked at a public library. It was my first Welty story...and my last. I have not been able to get into any others since then. I was enchanted with the people on the old homeplace/plantation. Their references to their former
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lives...The way they came together for holidays and the general decadent, overgrown feeling. I confuse it now with The Christmas Gift by Ferrol Sams.
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LibraryThing member mamashepp
I felt like I needed to read something of Welty's; so much has been made of her writing. This book paints a vivid picture and has very interesting characters. But I really felt like the story itself dragged.
LibraryThing member jeffome
St. Barts 2013 #3 - An ok book at best for me....certainly interesting at times, but overwhelmingly full of characters that were challenging to keep track of - are they siblings or cousins, which generation, and alive or dead? But I suppose this helped us feel a little like the nine-year-old Laura
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showing up for a big family wedding at Shellmound Plantation. Certainly an interesting portrait of the life on a 1920's Mississippi cotton plantation, specifically a huge self absorbed wealthy family surrounded by meddling sisters, cousins and aunts. I appreciated the efforts of a few of them to possibly question their values as a clan, but it was slow and tedious more than enlightening. (Oh, there were several appropriate references to some cool old cars of the time which always sparks a little something in me!) My guess is that this portrayal may be frighteningly spot-on, giving this book a far greater stature than I can give it personally. My complete lack of familiarity with the subject matter in a book usually does not preclude me from getting caught up nonetheless, but this never got a bite in me at all.
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LibraryThing member stipe168
not too bad, a bit long-winded. i like it for the southerness, i think girls will like it better for everything else.
LibraryThing member foggidawn
It's 1923, and nine-year-old Laura McRaven is taking the train down to visit her mother's family in the Delta for the wedding of one of her cousins. As preparations for the big day ramp up, family secrets circulate and emotions run high.

Does anyone ever read Eudora Welty and immediately comprehend
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exactly what she's getting at? Because I find her immensely challenging. The writing is beautiful, but sometimes I have to read a sentence multiple times to untangle the syntax -- and there were a few times when I basically shrugged and moved on! Add to that the particularly Southern vocabulary (for instance, I had to look up "joggling boards"), and characters with names like Battle, Dabney, and Lady Clare (many of which repeat over generations, so they may be talking about an existing character or her deceased great-great-aunt), and the result is a slow-reading text, languid as a Mississippi summer.

Personally, I would have liked this book better if it had remained in Laura's perspective the whole way through. Instead, the point of view shifted frequently, sometimes disconcertingly, from one character to another, and that character might get lost in reminiscences for several pages before picking back up in the middle of a scene. There's not a great deal of plot here ("a southern family prepares for a big wedding" about sums it up), so there's nothing to pull the story along.

I did enjoy parts of this book -- the characterization was strong, and of course the setting shines. I probably won't keep or reread it, but I'm glad I made the effort.
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LibraryThing member Carol420
Reading Delta Wedding is like attending a family wedding and meeting all your distant relatives for the first time. You have a sense of belonging and, at the same time, a sense of being an outsider. Everyone seems to know everyone so much better than you do and you're rushing to catch up on
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everyone's story and sort out who is who. This is a relatively short book, but perhaps because she is primarily a short-story writer, Eudora Welty has packed this book so densely with character and detail, you will feel as though you have read a family saga of many hundred pages. The delta is recreated in such detail that you can feel the humid, misty breezes and hear the crickets chirping. The young girls through whose perspective you watch the proceedings are enchanting.

Struggling to keep track of the characters forced me to go back and re-read parts of the book at times, which was, in fact, helpful in discovering important overlooked details. This is a book you can re-read many times always discovering something or someone new.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
Delta Wedding is the story of the Fairchild family at the time of daughter Dabney’s wedding. The Fairchilds are a wealthy early 20th-century Mississippi Delta family; Dabney is marrying their overseer, Troy. That Dabney is 17 and Troy in his 30s, and that she is marrying beneath her station,
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don’t seem to bother anyone – at least not enough to do something about it. In another author’s hands this might be the central conflict of this novel, but Eudora Welty has something else in mind. This is primarily a portrait of a family at a certain place and time, how each person relates to one another, and how class informs their world view.

While Welty’s prose gripped me from the first page, as her characters tumbled off the page I found I had to concentrate more than usual just to keep up. Characters are given little introduction and it took quite a while for me to piece together the family relationships, and distinguish the servants from family members. Dabney is one of the least complex characters; her uncle George, on the other hand, is an enigma. He is different from the rest and held on a pedestal, for reasons that are never entirely clear. The plot – events in the days leading up to Dabney’s wedding – is secondary to the everyday interactions between people, and the composite picture this creates.

Although I can’t quite say I enjoyed Delta Wedding, it left me with a respect and appreciation for Eudora Welty and a desire to read more of her work.
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LibraryThing member mamashepp
I felt like I needed to read something of Welty's; so much has been made of her writing. This book paints a vivid picture and has very interesting characters. But I really felt like the story itself dragged.
LibraryThing member AliceAnna
A tender look at a young girl thrust among her brood of colorful, yet loving, relations on the eve of a wedding. The relationships between all are explored including that of George who is married both to his family and to Robbie, a young woman who wants George to put her first. This family's love
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is almost too much, but somehow falls short of becoming a stranglehold -- but just barely.
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