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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Mouse That Roared
Dodie Smith's "I Capture The Castle" is an acknowledged 20th Century classic, and one of my absolute favourite books. One of her other works, children's book "One Hundred and One Dalmations", also remains much loved. It's a bit strange then, that so few of her other works seem to have remained in print.

"The Town In Bloom", first published in 1965 is a real...
Published 21 months ago by Rotgut

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Period Fascination - Of Sorts!
A dated and initially charmingly written piece about the "realities" of the theatrical world and the complexities of relationships. Although a little long-winded at times, there is still much to entertain you in the first quarter of the 280 page tale but then things quickly deteriorate until the very unpleasant ending which didn't keep me " guessing to the last" as the...
Published 23 months ago by Adrian Drew


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Period Fascination - Of Sorts!, 13 May 2012
By 
Adrian Drew (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: It Ends With Revelations (Paperback)
A dated and initially charmingly written piece about the "realities" of the theatrical world and the complexities of relationships. Although a little long-winded at times, there is still much to entertain you in the first quarter of the 280 page tale but then things quickly deteriorate until the very unpleasant ending which didn't keep me " guessing to the last" as the books summary implied. This "comedy of manners" is far removed from 21st Century fiction and has been unavailable for quite a long time. This is understandable as it and is not well written and although surprisingly " frank" in its treatment of homosexuality is rather cruel and patronising too. I ended up liking none of the characters and skipping pages so I could put an end to the whole, rather unpleasant, business. The tedious "heroine's" final choice is both predictable and profoundly irritating - but as she was too, it probably serves her right!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Old-fashioned and slightly strange, 30 April 2012
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This review is from: It Ends With Revelations (Paperback)
This is a strange book. Unusually for Dodie Smith, I didn't really like any of the characters much and plot was peculiar. The best thing about it is that it does keep you guessing until the end so I don't want to give away too much. It was written in the 60s and does seem very dated - lots of use of the words homosexual, dipsomania, nymphomaniac. I read it and was mildly entertained by it, but wouldn't recommend it. It is easy to see why it was out of print for so long; it is nowhere near as good as 'I capture the castle.'
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Mouse That Roared, 11 July 2012
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Rotgut "rotgut" (Warrington UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Town in Bloom (Paperback)
Dodie Smith's "I Capture The Castle" is an acknowledged 20th Century classic, and one of my absolute favourite books. One of her other works, children's book "One Hundred and One Dalmations", also remains much loved. It's a bit strange then, that so few of her other works seem to have remained in print.

"The Town In Bloom", first published in 1965 is a real joy. Set in the distant 1920s, it gives a real sense of being young in this time, in the exciting world of London's theatres. Pretty obviously at least semi-autobiographical, a wealth of detail gives authenticity to the day to day running of a theatre which is frequently illuminating and always entertaining.

Like "I Capture the Castle" the story centres on a youthful narrator attracted to an older man, in this case a rather caddish actor-manager.Some may find the situations rather cliched but they are made to seem real by the veracity of the detail and the strength of the characterisations, particularly "Mouse" the small but determined narrator and Rex, the weak willed object of her affection.

By framing the major narrative with shorter chapters set 40 years after the events in the main storyline, a sense of loss of youth and energy permeates the book, giving a bittersweet quality to the love affairs and friendships.

Like Wordsworth's "Prelude", here we see "spots of time..." which "retain a fructifying virtue"; even 40 years later, the characters are all defined by what happend in the Springtime of their lives.

A tidy and obvious ending, it's clear from the start who Mouse "should" end up with, is spurned by Dodie Smith. Instead we get a very messy, inconclusive ending; Again, this feels autobiographical and "real."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny Peculiar, 25 Sep 2012
By 
Rotgut "rotgut" (Warrington UK) - See all my reviews
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If P G Wodehouse had ever written a Mills and Boon romance and had somehow been persueded to take the commission seriously, the result might have been something like this rather odd episodic comic novel.

The story concerns the Carrington family, four youngish children and their dishonest father. We follow all of the children as they attempt to escape from the family home (a palatial but unkempt mansion) and enter the world of gainful employment. The various adventures and entanglements they encounter are broad-brush comedy with nincompoop noblemen, "a wealthy near-nymphomaniac" and ingognito Ruritanian Kings all featuring. This could be purely humorous but Dodie Smith seems to be trying to maintain a real emotional side to her main characters, however far-fetched the events they become involved in.

So, in the final book "Richard", the funny stories of the earlier chapters are revisited and the two brothers try to sort out the complications that have developed. This feels odd, as if at the end of one of Wodehouse's pefect Jeeves stories the butler does a quick psychological evaluation of the members of the Drones Club to make sure no one has been too damaged by the indignities heaped on them.

Even the least enthusiastically committed feminist will find plenty to be annoyed about here, with the female characters spending far too much time trying to please the various men, even the vivacious fourteen year old girl, Merry, ends up apparently awaiting reaching the age of consent to marry a chinless Earl she dislikes.

Set in the Sixties this has a really old fashioned feel, with servants and maiden aunts popping out of the woodwork. The inspiration for the piece is surely theatrical, as Dodie Smith admits (p317) at one point. There is no sign of any swinging modernity, though this is briefly attempted with one of the worst lines of dialogue I ever remember reading :"I guuess I'm early.Not many cats around the joint yet."(p77)

The novel defies criticism, really, and is generally a fun read, if undeniably dated.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Now here's a lovely story ..., 22 Mar 2012
... It's set in the early sixties, in a real world sprinkled with just a little bit of added fairy dust.

It begins with Jane Minton, She's a young woman all alone in the world, accustomed to standing on her own two feet and earning her own living. And she's rather good at it. Jane has a new job. A very good job: she is to be secretary-housekeeper at Dome House, the country home of Rupert Carrington, a successful city businessman. Her employer is rarely at home, but Jane finds herself welcomed with open arms living very comfortably in a beautiful and well-run house with her employer's four charming children (who are in their teens and twenties) and two members of staff.

Globe House is a wonderful mixture of the traditional and the modern. The four young people had been brought up by their grandmother and they were a credit to her. As were Cook and Edith. They continued to live together happily after she died, with just few changes. The family still ate in the dining room and the staff in the kitchen, but the family went to the kitchen to make their own coffee so that all could be cleared away in time for the whole household to settle down together and watch the evening's television. Tradition was nicely tempered by modernity ...

It was lovely to watch over such a wonderful household - I can't quite capture what made it magical, it just was - but I did wonder when the plot was going to arrive. It arrived with a bang: Rupert Carrington arrived unexpectedly when only Jane was home, and told her that he was wanted for fraud and had to leave the country. He asked Jane to stay for a while, to help his children find ways of coping without the money that had underpinned their lifestyle. Jane agreed: she liked the family, she had been a little in love with their father ever since he had interviewed her, and she actually had nowhere to go.

The news was taken surprisingly well, and the household began to make plans. Jane landed a job at the local school, Cook and Edith had many offers to choose from, as their talents were renowned, and each of the four children set out to do what they could. They all had wonderful adventures.

Precocious, stage-struck, fourteen-year-old Merry, set out for London to become an actress, but slid into a job helping with amateur dramatics at a stately home and found that the lady of the house had an unexpected plan for her.

I particularly liked Drew - he was what my mother would call a people-person. And he was an aspiring writer, planning a novel set in the Edwardian era, so seemed entirely sensible to him that he should become an old lady's companion. He landed the job, and he found himself revolutionising her household.

And I emphasised most with Clare. She was quiet and sensible, she and didn't think she was as talented as her siblings. But she found a job too, in the household of an elderly gentleman, reading to him. It was a job well suited to a young woman with a head full of romantic notions gleaned from novels.

Richard, was the eldest and he took his responsibilities seriously. But he lived for his music and he had jobs he could go to, if only he could deal with those difficult visitors and work out what to do about the house.

Each of their four stories is told in turn, and in between times Jane tells the story of Globe House. There is little realism: the stories are full of remarkable coincidences, great wealth, and falling in love at the drop of a hat. But the storytelling is so lovely, so charming, that I didn't mind at all.

The characters, all a little different, all beautifully drawn, captivated me. Sometimes I missed one when another was centre stage, but not too much as I loved them all, and I think that the episodic structure was probably right for these stories.

There was so much wonderful entertainment: I was amused as I watched Merry disguising herself as a grown-up to make sure that she wasn't hauled back home again; I was as puzzled as Drew by the arrangements in the household he joined; I was as thrilled as Clare when she found a library of wonderful old books; and I was delighted for Richard when it finally seemed that, just maybe, all of the pieces were falling into place.

So many wonderful details, but I don't want to give too much away. In the end it seemed that love or money could, and would, solve just about anything ...

This is a strange, old-fashioned mixture of romance, reality, and just a little fairy dust. I just couldn't help loving it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing but light entertainment, 27 Jun 2012
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I enjoyed 'I Capture the Castle' and was looking forward to this as a consequence. However, I found that this lacked the charm and becoming eccentricity of the other book. I found the first part gripping but once the children all started out onto their 'adventures' (being loved by everybody and gaining riches) I felt indifferent about seeing things unfold.

It is a light tale, with no twists or turns, the characters are not complicated or well-developed. The whole thing becomes a farce, as the characters comment - one character screeches to a halt outside the house whilst another sneaks out of a back door. It was a light and easy read but not that 'charming' and I doubt I will read further into Dodie Smith's back catalogue after this. I think that Stella Gibbons does this kind of thing better and would recommend her in preference if you are looking for breezy, charming, witty and lightly sketched.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great holiday reading, 10 May 2013
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This review is from: The Town in Bloom (Kindle Edition)
I read this as a teenager, and now some decades later picked it as an undemanding holiday read. It provided exactly that. I shall also re-read Dodie Smith's other less known novels
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shining moon, 22 Jan 2013
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Cecile H. Lomer (USA) - See all my reviews
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This was the first of Dodie Smith's novels for adults that I read in my teens. I still like it. It describes perhaps outdated moral values which match the setting. The story line is improbable but the characters draw one in. This novel is in a class of literature which is much overlooked and actually, I think, difficult to achieve: the well-written, positive and pleasant novel. It is much easier to write about doom and disaster and to make disagreeable characters interesting, than to write about the mundane and the pleasant. There are trials in the novel but mostly things turn out well, if people behave properly. Such a relief! Having said that, the novel would be uninteresting if the writing were not good.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It"s not "castle" but it's still good, 20 Jan 2013
This review is from: It Ends With Revelations (Paperback)
Everyone likes different books but all the reviewers seem to have read "I capture the castle" and so naturally compare this to it. Luckily I've been reading a lot of crap lately so this was a lovely read. Interesting, if slightly dated, with characters that I really liked and cared about, unlike other reviewers. I read it in three days and on finishing wanted to read more Dodie Smith. It's not a masterpiece, but it's sweet and gentle and it deserves more praise than it's got.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So-so, 8 Jan 2013
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Disappointed in this really. I loved " I capture the Castle" which was more narrative driven. This seemed rather like a collection of character studies loosely linked by virtue of birth. Was it originally published as a weekly column in a paper I wonder? It reminds me of Alexander Mcall Smiths Edinburgh block of flats tales in its format. It is very much of its time and seems quaintly dated in its ideas and outlooks. As a foray into the lives of the shabby genteel in the middle of the last century it was interesting.
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It Ends With Revelations
It Ends With Revelations by Dodie Smith (Paperback - 15 Mar 2012)
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