I think most of my reviews carry a few subtle spoilers but this one will outright ruin the book for you from about halfway through. So long story short if you haven’t read it yet – do read it, but it won’t live up to the hype.
In a nutshell: Some eccentric characters try to live a Jane Austen novel
How long: Not quite a week
Where I finished it: On a sunny afternoon, under a tree in Regent’s Park
Favourite quote: My imagination longs to dash ahead and plan developments; but I have noticed that when things happen in one’s imaginings, they never happen in one’s life
Soundtrack: Summer in the City by Regina Spektor
Would I read it again: As with so many others, I’d make my daughter read it, but I doubt I’d read it myself
This is a tricky one to review. I think about the plot and the characters and feel pretty bleugh about the whole thing – not terrible, not great. But every time I was reading it I was completely sucked in. I went hours without ever looking up from the page. So as I always say when I can’t quite determine my opinion on something – let’s look at this objectively (this basically means I’m going to divide my review up under headings).
According to JK Rowling ‘this book has one of the most charismatic narrators I’ve ever met.’ Now as much as I loathe to disagree with JK Rowling I don’t think Cassandra would make my top ten. She certainly can’t hold a candle to Anne Shirley (of Green Gables). But based on this quote I went into expecting someone of that nature. And she was in the end just a little too ordinary.
Well it was just a pretty basic romance with some completely out of the box eccentricities going on around it. And I didn’t think they meshed together that well really. The comparisons to Jane Austen are completely on the money – two poor sisters desperate to marry, preferably for love. But Jane Austen’s couplings never felt patched together (apart from Marianne and Colonel Brandon but I think it’s best we don’t get me started on that right now) whereas I just couldn’t understand Dodie Smith’s. (This is where the spoilers kick in so look away now!)
How could Rose and Neil possibly be so madly in love with each other when for the majority of the book they’d refused to be in each other’s presence? And why oh why couldn’t Cassandra have ended up with Stephen? I thought they made a cute couple. And he really understood her. And if that wasn’t enough he sounded REALLY hot. Just because she and Simon knew some of the same poetry it doesn’t mean they’re soul mates.
As I’ve said before, the ending of a book is the most important thing to me. And that may be what redeemed this one. I liked that it wasn’t all fairytale happily-ever-afters. Life isn’t really a Jane Austen novel (sob). However, my opinion on this may have been skewed because I was in THE MOST perfect spot to finish this book. A shady spot under a tree in Regent’s Park wearing a flowery dress, sunhat and drinking a cup of tea? My location and book have never before been so well matched.
Conclusion (Well now I just feel like I’m back at school writing essays.)
I’m not sure the headings helped much. I suppose my overall sense of this book is that it’s good, I’m glad I read it, but it doesn’t quite live up to the hype. It’s not quite Anne of Green Gables and it’s not quite Pride and Prejudice. And it doesn’t have enough of it’s own identity to be amazing.