In the last two months, I’ve managed to achieve a kind of balance in regards to my reading repertoire, and as a reward to myself, I broke my cozy-reading fast with the fluffiest-sounding book I could find in my To-Read stack, The New Moon with the Old by Dodie Smith.
Now, I’m familiar with Smith’s work, the most notable, I Captured the Castle and The Hundred and One Dalmatians, only because of their big-screen adaptations, both of which I enjoyed. Being an absolute noob to her books, my expectations for this one were based primarily on gushing online reviews and the back-cover’s underwhelming premise.
The story begins with the arrival of newly-hired secretary/housekeeper Jane Minton to Dome House, the country home of businessman Rupert Carrington and his eccentric children Richard, Clare, Drew, and Merry. Jane is warmly welcomed by the Carrington siblings and made to feel at home with them, but just as soon as she’s settled in, Mr. Carrington is suddenly forced to flee the country, leaving Jane and his family bewildered and with only enough household funds to last a few months. Instead of leaving, Jane stays on at Dome House to help with its upkeep while the Carrington children each make their way out into the world to seek their fortunes. The boldest and youngest of the brood, 14-year-old Merry decides to run away to London to pursue a career as an actress, but keeps getting thrown off course. 19-year-old Drew takes a job as a secretary-companion to an elderly gentlewoman in hopes of gaining enough material to write his Edwardian novel. Dreamy romantic Clare flees to London soon after the arrival of overbearing Aunt Winifred to Dome House, and takes a job reading to an elderly bedridden gentleman. Eldest son and composer Richard struggles between his own ambitions and his responsibilities as current head of the household. The unexpected arrival of his father’s ex-girlfriend creates more awkwardness than he’s willing to let on.
I have never been more engaged in a book as quirky and fanciful as this. While there were plenty of things in the story that didn’t sit well with me (Merry and Clare’s romantic involvements with wealthy, much older gentlemen.) or just didn’t ring true (nearly everyone’s romantic involvements), I couldn’t deny how entertaining it was following the Carrington brood’s individual adventures out in the world, even as things started becoming more absurd and improbable.
In the end, I found The New Moon with the Old a mixed bag; it convinced me of Dodie Smith’s writing prowess and turned me on to her other works, I just don’t think this was the Dodie Smith book for me.