So what is it about second daughters that they make such great literary companions? I’m thinking about Elizabeth Bennet and Jo March, and now Cassandra Mortmain. I love her voice: smart and funny, pragmatic, and occasionally naive. When I first read that the book was told in diary form, I was a little hesitant. I don’t know what I was expecting–Hello Kitty? And I’m not sure why Dodie Smith chose to tell the story that way, except, I suppose, as a device. But I think it works, allowing Cassandra to be honest in her thoughts while organizing them for posterity too—or at least allowing her to practice being an author. (Another thing I love: that Smith winks at Pride and Prejudice, paralleling its plot, and then having Cassandra acknowledge the similarities. And here’s something fun I found out: Jane Austen was herself a second daughter. Her older sister’s name was. . .Cassandra.)
Now that we’ve met our cast of characters, what do you think of them? I don’t think there’s a single one I dislike—not even Rose, for all of her sulkiness. Just for the indignity of the screwball Rose-as-bear scene, I think I can forgive the less-than-gracious behavior that preceded it. I’m a bit torn about the father: On the one hand, I pity him because he’s so aware of his failures (as much as Topaz tries to protect him). On the other hand, I just want to shake him! Go find a way to put food on the table! Which the most admirable Stephen does, and I think it would break my heart a little if Cassandra never realizes how rare he is. I have that little oh-no feeling in my stomach every time I think she’s going to throw him over for the more obvious charms of the Cotton brothers.
Yes, they had some choice things to say about Rose, and they went on to snub the family. But by virtue of the laws of Austen-esque plots, they had to, right? And then they were such good sports about the ”bear.” And then, let’s face it, there’s all that $$$—they are kind of the embodiment of the bluebell scent from that London department store. Still, right now Stephen has my heart.
As luck would have it, we left the Montmains just as they were about to make their debut at Scoatney Hall—kind of a cliff-hanger. This could be a big game-changer for the Montmains, so I’m glad I can now read on. Let’s cover through Chapter 12 by next Friday.
Now, on a completely different topic, has anyone in the tri-state area stopped in at the Real Simple Pop-Up Shop? It opened in Rockefeller Center on Wednesday, a truly dismal rain-and-wind-fest here in NYC. But it’s right across the plaza from the big Christmas tree, which I saw lit in all its glory for the first time last night as I was making my way to the shop. The store itself is fun—gifts, food demos, L’Oreal makeovers, and sweepstakes (one you can actually enter online). Anyway, this is a long windup to tell you that there will be four book signings there starting today. Tim Gunn and Jessica Seinfeld are among the authors. Stop by if you can!
Until next Friday, Bookies, have a great week.
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