Writing in Slightly Foxed, Dodie Smith’s biographer Valerie Grove describes Look Back with Love as ‘one of the happiest and funniest accounts of an Edwardian upbringing’.
And indeed it is. Best known for her first novel I Capture the Castle, for the evergreen The Hundred and One Dalmatians, and for Dear Octopus, her 1938 play set at a family reunion, Dodie did not publish this account of her early life until 1974 when she was 78. Brought up among her mother’s family since her father had died when she was a baby, Dodie spent her childhood surrounded by doting adults. It was the jolliest environment imaginable – the Furbers adored seaside trips, motor-car outings, fairgrounds, circuses, jokes, charades and musical soirées. Above all they loved the theatre, and it was through her bachelor uncles’ involvement in amateur dramatics that she conceived her passion for the stage.
Her memoir gives a wonderful picture of this large extended family and of life at that time in the ‘basking Sunday afternoon charm’ of Manchester’s Victorian suburbs. And of the funny, complicated, creative little girl who would later say of herself ‘I think I’m an oddity really, but I do my very, very best to write well’ – which in Look Back with Love she certainly did.
‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink’ is the first line of this timeless, witty and enchanting novel by about growing up.
Cassandra Mortmain lives with her bohemian, impoverished family in a crumbling castle in the middle of nowhere. In her journal, she records her life with her beautiful, bored sister, Rose, her glamorous stepmother Topaz, her little brother Thomas and her eccentric novelist father who suffers from writer’s block. However, their lives are thrown into confusion when the American heirs to the castle arrive and Cassandra finds herself falling in love for the first time.
The Making of a Writer
Something half-remembered involving a writer locked in a tower, and a conviction that my first encounter – literary or otherwise – with the drink crème de menthe took place within its pages:...Read more
‘The quarterly itself is a joy and always sends me scurrying to my bookshelves . . . ’
‘The quarterly itself is a joy and always sends me scurrying to my bookshelves to see if I just might have a copy of a long-forgotten book. . . ’Read more
Dodie Smith said she never felt ‘quite grown-up’. This may sound like an excuse for tiresome behaviour, but Dodie did retain all her life a childlike charm, being under five feet tall with a...Read more
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