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Cassandra at the Wedding

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  741 ratings  ·  103 reviews
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
Paperback, 256 pages
Published September 30th 2004 by NYRB Classics (first published 1962)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,296)
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Jun 23, 2014 Louisa rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
I read this right after Stoner and thought at the time that nothing could compare to the brilliance of John Edward's prose. Turns out: I was WRONG. Be prepared to delve head-on into the dark waters of Cassandra's emotional/unstable life. It's all here: Maliciousness, self-pity, jealousy, fear, destructiveness and bitterness all rear their ugly heads when she hears that her twin sister Judith is going to be married. Having to wrestle with her sexuality and heavy dependence on Judith, she decides ...more
Jun 26, 2012 Mariel rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: little drummer boy versus thunderclap
Recommended to Mariel by: Carson McCullers
"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.

This was a treat of a short novel. You'd think that family drama over a wedding would be a well-worn subject, but Baker approaches the subject with nerve and excitement.

The story revolves around Cassandra Edwards, a lesbian graduate student at Berkeley, receives the news of her sister Judith's wedding. She plans to 'rescue' her sister and destroy everything. The funniest parts are where the Cassandra explains her ridiculous actions in very reasonable (if a tad neurotic) tone.

For some reason, I
Mar 14, 2010 Lobstergirl rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Nicholson Baker
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: library shelf
Shelves: nyrb, fiction
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 ...more
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 ...more
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
Jun 08, 2010 Lisa rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: nyrb
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
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
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
May 03, 2009 Eleanor rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Eleanor by: Lauren Martin
This book has a lot of potential and falls a bit short. Or rather, the character Cassandra has a lot of potential because she's a bitter, queer intellectual, but falls a bit short and is, shall we say it bluntly, annoying and immature. This writing is engaging and very well done and this books a quick read, but the characters grated on me. This book fits into a similar category as "The Dud Avocado" or much of Joan Didion's work. Written in the 1960's it's about privileged white women who never h ...more
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 ...more
Reading this book, I couldn't help but think of 'Catcher in the Rye', which I hated, and how much better this is. Now, 'Cassandra at the Wedding' is not very similar to 'Catcher in the Rye', but they share enough similarities for my mind to be stuck on the comparison.

The other comparison I made was with the documentary 'The Bridge', which captures and explores people killing themselves by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.

Anyway, I highly recommend this book. I can only imagine how exciting it
Philip Fracassi
This book is MESSED UP. I mean, what a riot this thing is.

The people in the book are weird, but in a way deep down sense. You don't really understand why they're such a strange family, it just kind of dawns on you as you go how very, very f*d up they are. Way big time so.

Although a bit of a period piece because of when it was written the story itself is timeless and unique at the same time - one of the best compliments I can give any story.

I loved it so much I bought a few of her other titles
Diane Yannick
I'm so glad that this book is back in print. Although it was written more than 50 years ago, it is just as relevant as it ever was.
Cassandra and Judith are twins with a bond that makes it very hard for Judith to assert her independence and build a life of her own. Cassandra is a strong personality which shouldn't be "mistaken for real strength."She continually ups the ante creating chaos for those who love her. Cassandra says, "Take her (Judith) away and I'm half of whatever we are." It's this
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.
CASSANDRA AT THE WEDDING. (1962). Dorothy Baker. ****.
The Edwards girls are identical twins – Judith (Jude) and Cassandra (Cass). They were both born and raised on a ranch in the foothills of the Sierras in southern California. Judith still lives at home, but has announced her plans to marry a young man who is about to enter into his internship to complete his M.D. Cassandra is a student teacher at Berkeley, working on completing her doctoral thesis. Their mother died years ago and the girls we
Nate Dorward
One of those books with casually memorable phrase after phrase, which is really what keeps you reading: the sheer on-the-edge booze-soaked comic desperation of Cassandra Edwards, a charismatic screwup, the black-sheep twin who clings obsessively to her sister Judith and lives in the shadow of her late mother, a writer of some renown named Jane. Cassie is invited to her sister's forthcoming wedding to a doctor, and arrives with the unilateral resolve to make Judith break it off. This is yet anoth ...more
May 26, 2014 Bob rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: family
Wonderful, conflicted protagonists, perfectly captured 1950's dialogue, and even a Riley convertible.
"A lot of days give their lives to get us all the way to twenty-four" (p. 75)
and don't miss Deborah Eisenberg's afterword:
"Of course, nothing illustrates so vividly as family the essentially unsatisfactory nature of being a person." (p. 223)
Jul 15, 2008 jessica rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: edgy holly golightlies
written under heavy influence of JD Salinger and Dorothy Parker, this book was pleasantly angsty with a dash of sex and the city- style melodrama. that is to say, the melodrama was extremely fluffy with a around the pithy truth, which is so ensconced in subjective re-tellings that it makes the pith seem like almost a parody of itself. the two different narrators tug at the reader's wont to question them. as i read it, i wasn't sure i was enjoying is because it has such a self-conscious girlishne ...more
Sep 25, 2014 Sara rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
Only three months left to go, but this is very possibly the funniest book I've read all year, if not the best. Read it and cringe.
Aug 15, 2008 Albert rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of 1st person

This had a 1st person that was funny and self-deprecating, but not in an overdone way, which I feel is hard to pull off. Also impressive was that the voice was mostly consistent and sustained. When a voice is so rapid and jokey, I find myself waiting for an author to lose her steam and be unable to keep up with her character, but this book seemed to build from its own momentum of goodness.

but it had a bad ending.

I guess if you're into 1st persons this is a must-read. If you're into conclusions,
I read this straight through in an evening and thought about it all the next morning. For one thing it is just beautifully put together; the more you think about it the more you realize certain notes were chiming throughout the book. I liked the afterword, especially the points about how materialism is portrayed and about comparable texts on narcissism and doubling, but I thought there was so much more to be said (about sexuality and sex itself, about Cassandra and Judith's only partly visible e ...more
What an absolutely brilliant and strangely enchanting book this is. When I read Stoner, I saw that that had been called a perfect novel--a judgment I was surprised to find I actually nearly agreed with, so long as one recognizes that perfect or nearly perfect novels can come in many forms. Thus, what an additional surprise when this too (bought at the same time but not written by the same author) also proved to be really an oddly perfect novel.

What makes it so? Well, in part the main narrator, C
One twisted twin sister

Dorothy Baker's Cassandra at the Wedding is not short on razor sharp writing . This novellas strength is based on heavy characterization and their individual dysfunctionalities more than narrative focus. Provocative and touching, marginally disturbing. Brilliant.

Cassandra Edwards loves her identical twin sister Judith fiercely. Judith is getting married but Cassandra is hellbent on preventing the wedding from taking place.

Indistinguishable on the outside Cassie and Judi
Sara Jane
Poor Judith, her sister is nuts. This is something I empathize with, and so my favorite part of the book was the part that Judith narrated. The story felt clearer and more sensible in her voice.

I did not understand Cassandra. She did not seem like a real person; the book made an attempt to explore and answer some "big questions," but I think that this was at the expense of Cassandra's character. She was a walking fount of philosophy and existential crisis, not a real person. Perhaps this is jus
Forrest Taylor
Feb 12, 2014 Forrest Taylor rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: rich intellectual armchair philosophers
Cassandra at the Wedding is a book about a spoiled brat, her unlikable rich intellectual family, and her constant self-obsession and self-pity. Her toxic influence and histrionic personality runs rampant but, in a reading, it's just boring. This is a terrible book filled with unlikable people but that doesn't make the book bad- what makes the book awful is that according to the afterword, the author genuinely thought she was writing about a family that is "cultivated, charming, bohemian and fun. ...more
Elizabeth Bradley
never give a book about young women ambivalent about wedding traditions to someone who's about to be married. She'll carry the book around like a devotional, muttering "SO true!" at intervals, at least she will if the book is Dorothy Baker's spare little book about a bunch of hard-drinking, philosophical, Northern Californian WASPs, which is equal parts cruel and tender towards both its protagonist (the antic Cassandra) and its readers.
This book is about the weekend in which Cassie attempts to sabotage her twin sister's wedding. However, the genius of the book is that we can see Cassie's increasingly bizarre rationalizations and manipulations, but Cassie herself is unaware of them and sees herself as the reasonable and wronged party. The writing style is fresh and witty--it reminded me a little of Dorothy Parker. Highly recommended.
This one's for the MFA gang. Baker's technique is unimprovable; the shift in first-person narrators is so well done it takes your breath away. And the novel is jammed with writer catnip: twins, pills, an alcoholic professor, a suicide attempt, an aborted lesbian seduction, and a preppy idyll in California.
Catie Disabato
This book was so funny and so clever, and it's voice was so strong that I found myself talking like it whenever I put the book down. Cassandra is exactly the kind of character that was delightful for me to spend hours right up inside her head - despite all the darkness in there.
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NYRB Classics: Cassandra at the Wedding, by Dorothy Baker 2 11 Oct 19, 2013 03:53PM  
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Dorothy Baker (1907–1968) was born in Missoula, Montana, in 1907 and raised in California. After graduating from UCLA , she traveled in France, where she began a novel and, in 1930, married the poet Howard Baker. The couple moved back to California, and Baker completed an MA in French, later teaching at a private school. After having a few short stories published, she turned to writing full time, ...more
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“So go, girl. We should have been one person all along, not two.” 24 likes
“There's nothing hard about it. But I get praised for the hardest of things I do, and I do some of the hardest of things. Things like waking up in the morning and going to sleep at night, all alone except for when I'm with someone; and it's getting harder and harder.” 4 likes
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