The New Moon With The Old by Dodie Smith

Now here’s a lovely story. 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 couldn’t help loving it!

13 responses

  1. ooh I do like the sound of this – I will be re-reading I capture the Castle – before I give away copies of it for WBN. Is this book generally available or is it another one to be sourced form somewhere like abebooks?

    • This isn’t quite in the same league as I Capture the Castle – few books are – but it does have its very own charm.

  2. I’m delighted to see this review – I’m responsible for reissuing this and two other Dodie Smith books at Corsair (out in a couple of weeks) – like a lot of people I love I Capture the Castle, but I think it’s amazing that her other books have been out of print for so long. I read her biography, and it seems that after the success of ICTC, she waited a while to publish her next book (this one) and by then it was the early sixties and a lot of reviewers decided she was too old-fashioned, so the later books were badly under-rated – not many books are as wonderful as ICTC and I wouldn’t claim the later books are, but they are still extremely charming and great reads. The Town in Bloom is also well worth a read, in particular.

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