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Set on the Elysian isle of Martha's Vineyardm among an insular community of proud and prosperous black families, Dorothy West's first novel for nearly fifteen years centres around the marriage of Shelby Coles, daughter of the community's foremost family to a struggling white jazz musician.Not just the story of one wedding, but of many, this thought-provoking and deeply interesting novel offers insights into issues of race, prejudice and identity while maintaining its firm belief in the compensatory power of love.
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The Wedding, Dorothy West's first novel in almost 50 years, is ably brought to life in this finely nuanced audio version. Writer and actress Regina Taylor (Courage Under Fire, Lean on Me, and TV's I'll Fly Away) uses her considerable talent to show off West's sensual and elegant prose to full advantage. The Oval, an elite African American community in 1950s Martha's Vineyard, sets the stage for the story of the impending nuptials of Shelby Coles, the golden-haired, fair-skinned youngest daughter of the neighborhood's leading family. Shelby's intended groom is Meade Tyler, a white jazz man with a far less upscale pedigree than his bride. (Like many grooms, Meade plays little role in the pre-wedding drama; the snippets of jazz that frame the reading are about as close as listeners get to meeting him.) Sparks fly in the few dozen hours before the wedding, when one by one those close to Shelby come to her to make a case for or against the controversial match. As new characters are introduced, Taylor succeeds in giving each a distinct personality through her reading.
Shelby is dragged through a crisis of identity, while West skillfully steers listeners through an examination of the tangled and painful meanings of race and class in the United States, themes that still resonate today. Taylor's reading deftly renders the subtle distinctions between the characters and their backgrounds without ever descending into stereotype. (Running time: about 180 minutes, two cassettes) --Naomi J. CohnFrom the Publisher:
On the island of Martha's Vineyard in the 1950s there exists a proud, insular, nearly unassailable community known as the Oval, made up of the best and brightest of New York's and Boston's black bourgeoisie. Dr. Clark Coles and his wife Corinne, pillars of this community, are mortified that their youngest daughter Shelby is set on marrying Meade Wyler, a white jazz musician from New York. Equally alarmed is Lute McNeil, a successful black furniture maker from Boston who is new to Oak Bluffs and desperate for social acceptance. Lute has fallen in love with Shelby Coles, or at least the way of life she represents, and he will stop at nothing to pull her away from Meade. As the day of the wedding approaches, the tension surrounding Shelby, Lute, and Meade builds, climaxing in a single tragic act that will forever change the lives of three American families. The Wedding is a wise and heartfelt novel about the shackles of race and class we all wear and the price we pay to break them. It is also an unforgettable history of the rise of the black middle class, written by a woman who lived it. This wise, heartfelt tale marks Dorothy West's first novel in over four decades.
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