“Honeymoon, keep a-shining in June” (By the Light of the Silvery Moon)

As a companion piece to my last post about marriage, I thought I would look this week at portrayals of honeymoons. Originally I planned to include On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan but I ran out of time & wanted to re-read it in order to do it justice, as I remember it being very moving. So please don’t let my inadequacy prevent you from checking it out if you haven’t read it 😉 Onwards to honeymoon stories I’ve read more recently!

All the 'honeymoon' pictures I googled made me want to vomit, so here's a Weimaraner puppy instead

All the ‘honeymoon’ pictures I googled made me want to vomit, so here’s a Weimaraner puppy instead

Firstly, Orkney by Amy Sackville (2013), which is an eerie, claustrophobic tale of a honeymoon taken on a remote Scottish island. Richard is a professor of English literature who is entranced by literary sirens and by his silver-haired wife, forty years younger than he, strange and unknowable:

“She is a tiny, perfect, whittled trinket found bedded in the sand, carved patiently, for comfort; she is a spined and spiky urchin with an inside smooth as polished stone, as marble; she is frond of pallid wrack, a coral swaying in the current, anchored to the sea-bed; she is an oyster, choking on grit, clutching her pearl to her.”

The unnamed wife is obsessed with the sea, taking long, lone walks by day and having water-filled nightmares by night:

And as she dreams her submarine dreams I lie beside her, a whale’s carcass, a wrecked ship, a vast ribcage in the dark blue deep; and she is a tiny luminescent silver fish, picking me clean, in and out of all that’s left of me, bare bones long since freed of flesh and rigging.”

Each chapter covers a day of their honeymoon, told from Richard’s perspective. This is not a plot-driven story as very little happens, in some ways it is quite a slight tale, but I found Sackville’s beautiful writing made it compelling and carried me along. The atmosphere gradually becomes more uncanny, with a sense that is not just Richard’s wife who is unknown, but that there are no certainties at all:

“An overcast, lowering sky this morning; the clouds have clotted through the night. Something gathering, brooding, out on the sea. A darkness spreading. The edges of my wife blur against the sky.”

Orkney is short novel about the stories we tell ourselves and each other, how we understand the world, and how what is real and unreal is not always clearly delineated:

“He tells her tales of the finfolk and selkies. Nothing can replace those first tales, which have coloured the cast of her thought, which have filled her nights with the sea, which are at least as real to her as anything she’s learned of the world since.”

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Secondly, the short story Here We Are by Dorothy Parker (1931). A young couple are on a train, having been married “exactly two hours and twenty-six minutes”.  Most of the story is dialogue, and they come across as so terribly young and naïve.

“He sat down, leaning back against the bristled green plush, in the seat opposite the girl in beige. She looked as new as a peeled egg. Her hat, her fur, her frock, her gloves were glossy and stiff with novelty.”

They sit and talk about the day, the wedding, those they know, and bicker about silly things: hats, mainly.

“‘Hell, honey lamb, this is our honeymoon. What’s the matter?’

‘I don’t know,’ she said. ‘We used to squabble a lot when we were going out together and then engaged and everything, but I thought everything would be so different as soon as you were married. And now I feel sort of strange and everything. I feel so sort of alone.’”

Of course, what they are not saying is that the train is speeding them towards a hotel room, and they are terrified about what is going to happen once they are alone together.  The story is a masterclass in ‘show, don’t tell’ writing. Parker’s trademark acerbic wit is not to the fore – the story is gently funny, and I felt sorry for this unknowing couple marrying in such a different age, and desperately hoped it would work out for them.

Speaking of virgins:

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18 thoughts on ““Honeymoon, keep a-shining in June” (By the Light of the Silvery Moon)

  1. Brilliant! And the use of the Weimaraner puppy, extra brilliant.

    I can’t remember the details of Chesil Beach either but I do remember feeling VERY STRONGLY about the book and it is one that’s on my re-read-one-day list – it was the source of great debate in my book group.
    I haven’t read either of the two you’ve mentioned however I feel the Parker is a must. Coincidentally, I’m up to the wedding-night scene in Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things – I’m waiting until I have some uninterrupted time so that I can focus – I have a feeling that things won’t go as planned for lovely Alma and Ambrose.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I do love Weimaraners 🙂

      I think Ian McEwan tends to divide people and I’m not always a fan, but with On Chesil Beach I thought he was less cold than usual, and I really felt for the couple.

      I’m looking forward to your review of The Signature of All Things – it would never occur to me to pick it up due to Eat Pray Love, but from what you’ve said this is quite different – I’m intrigued!

      Like

  2. Love the puppy! If I had to go on a honeymoon, I’d rather take him than a husband…

    Oh, dear, Orkney does sound good! But I must resist! Though you did mention the secret codeword… ‘short’…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Orkney sounds terribly good and I also enjoyed On Chesil Beach but it is a while since I read it and I no longer have my copy. I also like the quotes and comments on Here We Are, that type of storytelling is my favourite. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I will have to add Orkney to the list. And, I will also have to start speaking like a Dorothy Parker character, even if it alienates those nearest to me and ‘Hell, honey lamb’ sounds like a recipe, it will make life more fun.

    Liked by 1 person

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