Rogue's Wedding is preposterous. On purpose. Griffith Smolders, chased by a ball of lightning in his hotel room on the night of his wedding, suspects an omen and takes off to save his life from the beautiful and forthright Avice Drinkwater, who is naked and waiting in the next room. The setting is London, 1898. Grif heads north on an unlikely odyssey in an attempt to escape his fate. He steals a pair of shoes and a jacket (and inadvertently the antique journal of a professional iconoclast) from a preacher and runs. His experiences are wild and varied. The carnival shyster he meets, Fenwick, sets the tone for Griggs's comic novel. Grif boards a ship which sinks (he is the sole survivor); he spends some time with the lighthouse keeper who has rescued him; he floats on a boat floating hither and thither on Lake Ontario. A great duration of his time is spent writing between the lines in the journal and learning the nomenclature of beetles and plants¨his boatman, Ned Hawke, is an amateur naturalist. Ned turns sour though and sets Grif off to find his way to the Cormany's house¨a house of hallucination not unlike what a reader will discover in Alice in Wonderland. It is here that he is subtly accused of murder, an accusation that forces him to flee once more. Finally, Grif settles at an Inn called The Dancing Sun (Little Current, Ontario) which is run by a young boy named Roland Avery. Here the story runs backwards, for here enters Avice Drinkwater, angry young woman, jilted spinster, eater of spiders (clever little touch here¨Avice eats a spider and from there the story spins out).
Avice has been all over hell's half acre searching for Grif and planning her revenge. She's been south of the border, shopping and galavanting. Occasionally, she dresses as a man in order to have it both ways. She tries but fails to purchase a gun. She spends a great deal of time imagining Grif dead as a doornail. But when she finds him, she can't bring herself to do it. Instead she picks up with some drunken wretch and flaunts her sexuality as best she can. It is Fenwick that master of illusion, our deus ex machina, who will bring about the ending. Fenwick inexplicably manages to get the couple to re-marry, to re-enact the fateful wedding night so that he can film it.
If it all sounds a little contrived, well, it is. Griggs's has written an epic farce, really. The purpose of each narrative strand, or each of Grif's labours is less imperative to the plot than amusing in itself. Unfortunately, Griggs's linguistic acrobatics often come off as pretentious, obscuring the comedy. As we are shifted about from antic scene to antic scene, it all begins to feel whirlwindish and exhausting, like a tour of Europe all in the space of a week. Grif and Avice have all sorts of trials but very few scenes together. This is a general complaint of the book. It's wanting tension. The characters, like the humour, lack humanity, and so, for all Griggs's linguistic ability (formidable), the story feels flat. This has something to do, I believe, with the choice of an ironic tone for the narrator¨a voice a little too arch, too coy, too facetious to elicit sympathy for the characters. Also, there's a weakness in the overall structure which has the main characters separate on the first page. ˛