Dodie Smith, 1948, republished 1998, St. Martin’s Griffin
Early on, the narrator of this story is dismissed as “a bit consciously naïve” by the man she will fall in love with. And he’s right, although she’s also strangely precocious, reflective, and sometimes wise (and even a little reminiscent of the young Brione in Ian McEwan’s Atonement).
It would be easy to dismiss the book as dated or excessively cute, especially if one were to take a simple statement of the plot (e.g., poor English girls of an eccentric family looking for redemption through marriage to wealthy Americans). But such an assessment would overlook the charm and sincerity of the story. It is funny and touching. And while it uses absurd situations to poke (mostly) gentle fun at artists and the arts world, at British mores, and at Americans, it also has a very real sense of wonder for the world, it has very believable emotions and interactions between characters, and, perhaps most importantly, it is a delightful read.