by Dodie Smith
This was my second read. Particularly the first five or so chapters, the book is strongly carried by our wonderful narrator, Cassandra Mortmain, a 17-year-old who calls a centuries-old castle in England home. She lives with her highly eccentric family – a famous author father who hasn’t written anything in years; his much younger artist-model wife christened Topaz (though “there is no law to make a woman stick to a name like that”); Cassandra’s slightly older, beloved, but exasperating sister Rose; their slightly younger brother Thomas; and a hired helpmate about their age, though they haven’t been able to pay him anything in years. In fact, they haven’t been able to afford to pay anything or anyone in years; they’ve been selling off furniture bit by bit and scrounging together a living based on that, and when we meet them, they aren’t sure what they’re going to do next.
Then, a la Pride & Prejudice (deftly referenced by the narrator), a nearby property is suddenly let to a single man of means (who, it is a fact universally acknowledged, must fall in love with one or both of our heroines by book’s end).
I do feel that once characters started falling in love with each other, the story got worse. But it’s quite a piece of work nevertheless.