Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Review: 'The New Moon With The Old' by Dodie Smith

Pages: 377
Genre: Adult Fiction, Contemporary/General
Published: 1963
Publisher: corsair
Series: no
I bought this book online.

When Jane Minton arrives at Dome House as a secretary-housekeeper, she finds herself sharing the comfortable country home of four attractive young people. Their handsome widower father, Rupert Carrington, too occupied with his London business to see very much of them, merely provides for them generously and leaves them to cultivate their talents -- which they energetically do. Richard, the eldest, is a composer; Clare, whose true talent (if it can be called that) has never disclosed itself, attempts to paint; Drew is collecting material for a novel to be set in the Edwardian era; and Merry, still at school, already works hard towards a stage career. Jane Minton, warmly welcomed into this happy household, feels her luck is too good to be true. And it is certainly too good to last. The delightful private world of Dome House is fated to break up. 

It is Jane who learns from Rupert Carrington that he is in danger of prosectuion for fraud and must leave England. He asks her to break the news to his children -- who must now fend completely for themselves -- and do what she can to help. She is very willing to, for his sake as well as theirs, as she is greatly attracted by him. What happens then makes an engrossing and unpredicable story, for the Carringtons are not usual young people, and it is, perhaps, their own basic originality which draws to them unusual adventures, in which humor and more than a touch of strangeness are often inextricably blended.


I was really excited to read these (yes there are more of them) Dodie Smith books when they were re-released. I really enjoyed 'I Capture The Castle' and had been hoping for a while that some publisher would make some shiny new covers and release them again. While I did enjoy some things about this novel I'm wondering if maybe there was a reason that these books have been so hard to come by...

This is definitely not the sort of book I usually review. I feel like the age of the book should somehow prevent me from doing so. 'The New Moon With The Old' was written in a period that I am unfamiliar with literature-wise. Also, having been written by the author of the famous 'I Capture The Castle', I feel that this book has some hidden importance and that I may be discounting a metaphor or some other feature of literature without realising it (Dodie is a very smart woman and I'm just not THAT advanced a reader). Regardless of any of these worries I have decided to continue with a review anyway, based on the fact that I have not reviewed anything for too long.

I really liked the characters, the settings and the scenarios the characters entered. I liked all of the characters. I think I liked Merry and the father the least, but I still  enjoyed what they brought to the story. I felt like each of the scenarios were unique and entertaining in their own way and that the places the characters went were equally unique. A young man who applies for the job of a companion for an old lady under a gender-neutral name, gets the job and is shipped off to her house where modern technology (and by modern I mean what would have been modern in the sixties) is unheard of. The elderly woman won't do anything her mother wouldn't allow, even after her mother died. You can't tell me that doesn't sound a good story!

At first I didn't really get the title of the book, but by the end it definitely makes sense. Here is a whole family of people that have been affected by this one major event and are now leading completely different lives because of it. It seemed that everyone in the story began to look for a way to help out the family by looking after it, by making money for it, Or, by removing themselves from the equation altogether. It is always interesting to see how different characters handle situations and the entire novel was based on that.

As with the last Dodie book I read (yep I'm going to call them Dodie Books now) I thought the writing was nicely done. It was descriptive without dragging on, It was expressive and it kept me wanting to read. For some reason though, it wasn't addictive enough for me to want to pick the book up as soon as I had put it down. I felt that part of this was due to the fact that the author would skip between a character right at a moment when the story was starting to get interesting and I'd have to start all over again (meet a new character, learn the settings etc) when I really just wanted to go back to the first character. I think I would have preferred if the author had of skipped between characters more frequently, but I know others who wouldn't have.

I have heard of Dodie's "Other Books" (AKA not 'I Capture The Castle' ) being branded as similar-too-but-no-where-near-as-good-as 'I Capture The Castle'. I disagree. I think that the main similarity here was that there was a large slightly quirky family in financial trouble because of the father who is in trouble with the law. The writing is similar, but that would be because it is the same author. The comparisons end there. The whole concept of starting fresh and running away is completely different.

My one major problem with the book was that I felt it to be unfinished. Career-wise each of the characters seems to be sorted by the end of the novel, but what about their love-lives. There was one character that has vague promise of romance, another where I assumed there may be a romance, one is a definite, the other doesn't want it (or does she?), and one is completely forgotten about (was it a non-event?). So I think I would have liked some of these (especially those accompanied by question marks) to have been defined a little more clearly by the end.

Overall, I think this is worth a 3.5 out of 5. I really enjoyed the story and I really liked the characters, but I was not overly happy about how the story ended. Well, not so much about how it ended, but how it wasn't really finished properly. Because 'I Capture The Castle' was such a good book, I think I will continue on with the other Dodie books I have bought.

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