Another book club choice which I don’t think I would have necessarily come to on my own. Although saying that, while reading it I got the feeling it was one I had started (and possibly abandoned) as a teenager. Dodie Smith is perhaps most famous for her children’s books like 101 Dalmatians. I would classify this as young adult fiction, I suppose. The main character is about 17, I think, and I definitely think you would get the most out of this in your late teens.
It is described as a coming of age tale. Our narrator, Cassandra Mortmain, tells of her family’s woes at living in near poverty in a crumbling old castle as their father, a one hit wonder author, refuses to work. Rose, the eldest sister, dreams of a fairy-tale marriage and it seems her prayers are answered as the estate that owns their rented castle (not that they manage to pay any rate) is inherited by a handsome young American. Not a great deal happens, plot-wise, it is more a deliberation on the nature of young-love, class and the fine line between genius and madness.
I thought it started well but then failed to keep up the momentum. While Cassandra was still young and ‘naive’, I found her voice very funny and liked seeing the family, castle and then the in-coming Cottons, through her eyes. Once she ‘grew up’ and started becoming more conscious and self-aware of what was going on around and to her, and her musings became more serious, the book lost some of its shine for me. I found it harder to finish than I anticipated. Nevertheless, I am glad I read it as another modern classic I hadn’t read before, and did, on the whole, enjoy it.
I’ll be generous and award it 4 stars. Though really its more like a 3.5 for me.