"I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining-board, which I have padded with our dog's blanket and the tea-cosy". This is the diary of Cassandra Mortmain, which tells of her extraordinary family and their crumbling castle home. Cassandra's father was once a famous writer, but now he ...
"I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining-board, which I have padded with our dog's blanket and the tea-cosy". This is the diary of Cassandra Mortmain, which tells of her extraordinary family and their crumbling castle home. Cassandra's father was once a famous writer, but now he mainly reads detective novels while his family slide into genteel poverty. Her sister Rose is bored and beautiful, and desperate to marry riches. Their step-mother Topaz has habit of striding through the countryside wearing only her wellington boots. But all their lives will be soon be transformed by the arrival of new neighbours from America, and Cassandra finds herself falling in love...
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One of my all-time favorite books- probably the most re-read - is about eccentric, literary, extremely likable people, in the semi-romantic setting of a castle. The 'semi' comes from the Mortmain family's poverty and narrator Cassandra's straight-forward, funny explanations of the day-to-day difficulties they face in her famous father's second decade of writer's block.
As we meet them, the Mortmains' want is critical. Castle owner Simon Cotton, a great admirer of Mortmain's, arrives from America with his mother and half-brother, and his generosity immediately makes their lives easier - and more complicated.
Cloistered as they've been, Cassandra and her older, more beautiful sister Rose are naturally intrigued by the Cottons, who are intrigued by them - though not necessarily at the same time or in the same ways.
Dodie Smith's clear prose is ornamented with beautiful details. We participate in Cassandra's fresh, sensory small pleasures, each good thing to eat or read or wear or smell.. I feel it - pleasure and relief - as though I've been through their years of deprivation.
Cassandra makes both a sharp and generous observer. We enjoy a broader understanding of all the characters in Cassandra's life as events and her insights bring them into full bloom.
Finally, her poignant epiphanies on life and love make this book especially resonant.
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