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A GOOD FIND
When I saw the novel, 'The New Moon with the Old' I was drawn to it on seeing the author's name, I thought to myself; is this 'the' Dodie Smith, author of 'The Hundred and One Dalmations?' I couldn't imagine more than one author by that name yet I had thought Dodie Smith was a children's author. I checked to make sure the book in question was for adults and it seemed to be.
I first read The 101 Dalmations as a child. I loved the story and have read it several times since. This was before I'd seen the film. I liked the Disney cartoon and film but found the book, as is usually the case, I believe, with those who love reading, even better. Remembering how I'd enjoyed the book as a child I thought it would be interesting to read this book.
A LITTLE ABOUT DODIE SMITH
I was interested to know more about the author so did a little reading up and found that Dodie Smith had in fact written several adult books and plays.
Dodie Smith (Dorothy Gladys Smith) was born in Lancashire in 1896, later moved to London and attended RADA. She had only limited success as a thespian, gave it up and worked in a London furniture Store as a buyer.
From reading about her it seems she had an interesting and unconventional life and this, I believe, explains the unusual novel I am reviewing.
While still working in this store she wrote a play, 'Autumn Crocus' (under a pseudonym) which was published in 1931. Dodie married and during WW11 moved to America with her husband, a conscientious
During her writing career Dodie Smith wrote four biographies, nine novels and several plays but is most remembered for writing '101 Dalmatians.'
Dodie Smith died in 1990 at the grand old age of ninety-four.
THE NEW MOON WITH THE OLD
The New Moon with the Old was first published in 1963. Its style is, in my opinion, very of that era but not dated. The book doesn't contain sex scenes and there certainly isn't any swearing or explicitness and this, I find, usually makes for a better written book. However, although there isn't sex scenes the book isn't staid and isn't entirely without the suggestion of a little sex outside of marriage. I felt that the author probably had liberal views and a modern way of thinking for the early sixties before the decade truly became 'swinging!'
The novel begins with Jane Minton arriving at Dome House, a large and comfortable dwelling to begin her new employment as a secretary/housekeeper to the affluent Carrington family. Jane understands that this position will probably involve more housekeeping (than secretarial) in the form of instructing the two elderly servants as to what to cook and when and the same with other chores. The two maids/cooks are elderly and have been in the Carrington's employ for many years. In fact they are treated more as family members than servants.
Jane had been interviewed before taking up the new post by Rupert Carrington, owner of the house. It is evident that she took a shine to Mr Carrington.
Jane's first hours at the Carrington home couldn't have gone better; she is well fed and watered, treated as a friend and made very comfortable in this home and feels she has really 'fallen on her feet.'
There are four Carrington offspring in the household, of which three are adult.
Jane learns that the youngest, Merry, is still at school and has ambitions to become an actress.
Clare seems pretty much dull and without ambition except for wishing to romance with royalty. Much of the housekeeping had fallen on the shoulders of Clare.
Edward's ambition is to write novels set in the Edwardian era as he is fascinated by that time period and for the sake of his research this gentlemanly young man spends time with elderly ladies searching for the 'feel' of Edwardiana.
Richard, the eldest sibling aspires to be a musical composer and hates to be disturbed while working. He perhaps doesn't get that much work actually accomplished.
Jane Minton soon espies Rupert Carrington furtively making his way into his own home. Jane learns that he is perhaps involved somehow in fraudulent dealings and is making a quick escape. Jane is quick to promise her loyalty to her very new employer.
Everything changes for this household as they have to 'grow up' and earn a living. Up until now the Carrington children have had a fairly sheltered life and have had both time and the money to be able to pursue their hobbies or ambitions. They don't seem very well equipped to manage in the outside world but in this novel we follow them on their journeys and see what becomes of them.
I found this book charming. I felt it was fast paced and always interesting. It was quite different to most books that I buy nowadays. I was very impressed with Dodie Smith's writing style and, although this novel was far removed from The Hundred and one Dalmations,' I believe I could still see similarities in the style of both books.
There were times when a character was quite comfortable and then there would be a quick change in circumstances and sometimes a speedy escape had to be made. This reminded me of the dalmatians as they had to make some quick and scary get-aways on their journey to safety.
I enjoyed reading about the characters in the book and empathised with most. The book moves quickly from character to character. I found when a section concerning one character ended and a new one with a different character began, I felt disappointed to move on but then, very quickly, I became involved in the new character's story. I thought the book was well set out, keeping it intriguing throughout.
While engrossed in this novel it occurred to me that this novel would adapt well to television or film. I could most imagine it as a television serial and think it would work well as a drama or indeed, even a farce.
I found this book a lovely and different read. I will definitely read it again, as well as other works from the late Dodie Smith.
My paperback copy of this novel is from Constable & Robinson and was published by Corsair, (an imprint of Constable & Robinson Ltd) in 2012.
I purchased my copy from 'The Works' along with two other paperbacks on a 'buy 3 for £5 deal.'
The New moon with the Old is available from:
Waterstones £5.59 (Delivered free in the UK)
WHSmith £6.39 (Free delivery on orders over £15)
Amazon £5.59 (Delivered FREE in the UK with Super Saver Delivery)
* As well as being published in paperback form this novel is available in hardback cover and is also available for the Kindle.