“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink” begins Cassandra Mortmain, the precocious 17-year-old heroine narrating this coming-of-age novel as her journal. If the opening line didn’t warm your cockles, then this entry ought to do the trick: "I feel rather like a mosquito in a nudist camp; I know what I ought to do, but I don't know where to begin." The first novel of Dodie Smith, best known for One Hundred and One Dalmatians, is the baked equivalent of a fudgy brownie. Warm, irresistible and just a bit nutty.
Set in the 1930s, Cassandra’s home is a crumbling old castle in the English countryside where she lives with her bohemian family. Their financial situation is somewhat dire, but the arrival of two wealthy American brothers to the neighbouring estate turns Cassandra’s life upside down and her heart alight. In what is surely one of the most charming tales ever published, expect themes of love, artistic expression and the clash between idealism and reality.
Read if you like mischievousness, nostalgia, Anne of Green Gables and baked goods.