A very English novel, written at a time when there was no genre called “Young Adult” and books were either for children or adults, and playwright Dodie Smith wrote this, her first novel and a story of teenagers and first love told by Cassandra about her eccentric family. Living in a gradually crumbling castle, her widowed father has remarried, but is struggling with writers block, leaving the family in financially dire straits.
I’d heard lots of people talk with affection for this book, so I’d settled in for a good read when I picked up my copy for my reading group, but I actually found it quite an unsettling read. Although the narrator says how old she is on the first page, I’d actually forgotten this fairly quickly, and struggled to place her. At times she seemed to talk as a young teenager, and at other times she spoke of things as though she was bordering on adulthood and in her late teens. And I didn’t only struggle with Cassandra, I also had problems with other members of the family. Her younger brother was spoken of as a child initially, then towards the end of the book, it seems as though the author suddenly needed him to be almost an adult, and he is shoe-horned into the plot with knowledge of psychiatric principles!
I didn’t like the development of the relationships between Rose and Cassandra with Simon and Neil, it all felt too staged and predictable, but I wonder if this was more original at the time it was written, and I’ve read many other books and seen films since which have similar stories.
An uneven narrative and I didn’t find any humour in the book which others have commented on. I didn’t feel satisfied by the book, and felt a bit discomforted by some of the story, and overall, I just didn’t enjoy it.