I picked up this book in Barnes and Noble several months ago--it might have been over Christmas Break. I had a gift card and was looking for something new to read, something that wasn't already familiar to me in some way. I'd heard it recommended a couple times, and once or twice before I'd picked it up and read the back of it, but I never had the impulse or desire to read it until that day. (Isn't it weird how a book can grab you like that?) I tend to enjoy first-person, diary style writing, so that was an extra bonus. On top of 1940s (30s?), British, living in an old castle, etc.
I read this book in a day. Now, I enjoy reading. Quite a lot. And I read fairly quickly. But rarely do I sit down and just devour a book all at once without stopping. When I do, I love the feeling. It's like therapy for my soul, to lose myself to another world. And this was a world I so enjoyed being lost in. The premise, for those who don't know, is this: The Mortmain family inhabits an old, run down castle in England, I think in the 1930s. They are practically penniless--the father was a "one-hit wonder" author who can't seem to get going again; the stepmother, Topaz, is an out-of-work artist's model who enjoys communing with nature in the nude (but only after dark, so as not to offend the neighbors); the elder daughter, Rose, is beautiful and longs for love and security (love optional, security not), but is hopeless of ever finding anyone to marry; the younger brother, Thomas, is fairly matter of fact and deals with life as it comes; Cassandra, the narrator, is practicing her "speed-writing" by chronicling the events of her life. Their existence becomes much more eventful with the advent of Simon and Neil Cotton, their young, handsome, and wealthy landlords, whom everyone is secretly hoping will save them from their life of poverty...
Spoilers to follow, just to forewarn you.
I can't figure out why I liked this book so much. When I was reading it, I thought that perhaps Cassandra would come to like Stephen--he's so nice and straightforward. I felt so bad for him being continually snubbed by her, especially when he always went out of his way to help her. I got very frustrated with her when she began mooning over Simon. I didn't know quite what to think about the ending. Rose got what she wanted, her story was complete. Cassandra just had the hope of a new beginning, I guess. Normally when I read something with an ambiguous ending like that, I get kind of annoyed. I like happy endings. I don't care if they're not "realistic." I like being taken out of reality. So properly, I shouldn't have liked this book that much. But....I loved it. I loved how it was written. I could really imagine myself there--in the castle, on Belmotte mound, taking a bath behind green sheets, dancing to records at Scoatney--it's all so well pictured. I just lost myself in the story, and the story was so enjoyable to read that it didn't matter how I felt about the end. And the ending did fit the story, after all.
I don't know what I"m really trying to say here. It's an unusual and interesting book, and I really, really liked it. (And I was amused to discover that it's by the same author as The Hundred and One Dalmations.) Does anyone else have any thoughts on it?