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The Town in Bloom

3.5  ·  Rating Details ·  424 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews
London's theatre world of the 1920's provides a glittering backdrop for Mouse, an eighteen-year-old Lancashire girl intent on a stage career. She tells the story herself with the utmost frankness and with an authenticity which derives from Dodie Smith's own wide experience as both actress and playwright.

Mouse never felt that her nickname fully suited her; tiny she might be
Paperback, 314 pages
Published 2012 by Corsair (first published 1965)
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Dec 03, 2010 Tahira rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After completing the trinity of Dodie Smith's novels for adults, I've remembered why I appreciate her so much.

Similar to I Capture the Castle, The Town in Bloom offers readers a presentation of unapologetic feminism and liberation that so many of Smith's counterparts lacked. Dodie Smith was, in fact, a rather brazen writer for her time and while I do not know what British culture was like in the first half of the 20th century, I do know that in the states, we were just beginning to push the boun
V. Briceland
Feb 07, 2011 V. Briceland rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's pretty easy to assume Dodie Smith's The Town in Bloom is autobiographical. It's not; Smith pored through her exhaustive diaries to produce four volumes of autobiography about her literary pursuits, her life in the theater, and her brief stint in Hollywood. But somehow everything in this novel about the maturation of a teen girl among the fast theatrical set of London in the nineteen-twenties feels autobiographical. Every richly-detailed chapter evokes a lost era of glamorous chorines and a ...more
Jun 13, 2013 Libby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book... I don't know exactly what I think. It marks the fourth and last of the easily-accessible Dodie Smiths that I've read; if I want to read another one, I'll have to fork out ridiculous amounts of money for the discontinued "A Tale of Two Families" or "Girl in the Candlelit Bath", which I probably won't do, so this probably puts an end to my recent obsessive Dodie Smith reading. Was it a good end? I think so. Definitely entertaining; I couldn't put it down until somewhere around 2AM las ...more
Matthew Mainster
I have now read I Capture the Castle, The New Moon in with the Old, It Ends With Revelations, A Tale of Two Families, and this book ... I read them in that order, and that also happens to be the order of how I liked them. Despite being my least favorite of Dodie Smith's novels, this book stuck with me and I found myself stealing away to read it whenever I had a chance throughout the day. I feel like I'm getting pickier and pickier about books as I get older, so that's still saying something! I'v ...more
Dodie Smith fornisce sempre letture soddisfacenti, anche se questa volta devo ammettere che non mi sono proprio innamorata. Ho trovato l'inizio del romanzo un po' caotico: tre amiche si riuniscono al solito tavolo, cosa che fanno ormai da quarantanni ogni cinque anni. E come in tutte le precedenti occasioni, sperano di essere raggiunte anche da Zelle, che un giorno ha svuotato la sua camera al Club e si è dispersa nel mondo (e ne aveva ben donde, a dire il vero!). Poi Mouse,la voce narrante del ...more
Mar 06, 2015 Daniela rated it liked it
Shelves: 20s-to-60s
3 1/2 stars

This is the story of 18-year-old Mouse (we are never told her real name), who arrives in London in the 1920s to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. She rents a cubicle in a Ladies Club where she meets Lilly and Molly, two fellow actresses trying to make it in the theatre world as well. A bit later, a young rich socialite named Zelle joins the trio.

Fearless as she is, Mouse manages to get a job on her first day in London - not as an actress, but at least as a secretary at the famo
Jan 17, 2015 Laurie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love this author!
While I Capture the Castle is undeniably Dodie Smith's best work (and also, to my surprise, her first novel), I always find her works delightful. Dodie Smith writes the way my mind works. That's not to say that our writing style is the same - I'm not sure I'd be able to match her characters' signature wry humor and hearty skepticism - but there's something particularly compelling about the way she puts words together. It feels like she's reaching into my head, tugging out my thought processes, a ...more
Apr 17, 2011 Marija rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-classics
The main reason why I loved Mary McCarthy’s The Group was the fact that it was so true to life. In some ways, Dodie Smith’s story is just like it. Smith does not describe a flowery tale of London theatre life...everything all buttons and bows. She is really honest and at times her honesty is quite brutal. Her story is not just about theatre life, but life in general...young girls exposed to life’s realities. What I really found interesting was that some of the things Smith is describing are stil ...more
Feb 11, 2014 Rikke rated it liked it
Shelves: classics, owned-books
"The Town in Bloom" is one of those books, that one should read for the sake of the characters and not the plot itself. Smith's youthful trio consisting of the extremely stubborn, fun and clumsy Mouse, the beautiful and elegant Lily and the practical and naive Molly, fills the book with charm. Especially the main character Mouse is an adorable creature, and her many failed (yet determined) attempts at acting are beyond amusing.

The plot itself is fairly predictable. Young and love-lusting girls g
Oct 06, 2007 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to pursue the stage
Shelves: mycuppa
The Town in Bloom offers a fascinating glimpse into lives of three young women who decide to pursue the London stage in the 1920s. They live in a boarding house and go on continual audiitions. When they're not working, they're busy gossiping, having fun, and falling in love.

This book wonderfully captures the blissful feeling of being young and free. I'm sure a great deal of this story draws upon the author's own experiences as a young actress. One thing that I find so refreshing about her chara
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Included this in a speed-dating project and decided to pass it along elsewhere.
Nov 30, 2011 Lesley rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
Another incredible offering from Dodie Smith. You can watch my full review here -
Mar 07, 2017 Michelle rated it liked it
We first meet Mouse as she and her friends are meeting for drinks at a reunion, hoping that their friend Zelle will join them, and then flash back in time to her arrival in London in the 1920s as an aspiring actress. She meets Lillian and Molly at the women’s club where she resides. While she fails to get an acting position initially, she does land a job as a secretary at a theater. The manager, also a prime actor, is someone Mouse admires and she gains Rex’s trust over time, getting opportuniti ...more
Christine Sinclair
May 22, 2017 Christine Sinclair rated it really liked it
Quaint. Charming. Winning story of a young woman in bloom, with a truly satisfying ending. Loved it!
Jan 19, 2013 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anglophilia
The book starts and ends on a single day in London in the 1960s, with a long flashback to a summer in the 1920s making up most of the story.

Mouse, Molly and Lillian, now in their fifties and sixties, have a reunion lunch in a London restaurant. THey wait for the fourth member of their little group, Zelle, to show up, but in vain. Mouse later spots Zelle and follows her to her home and clears up the last mysteries of that summer in the 1920s when their fates were decided.

The story then really st
Mar 03, 2016 Pascale rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Under its breezy surface, this is quite a wise novel. The framing narrative sees 3 middle-aged ladies having lunch in a nice restaurant. However, their little reunion is marred by the absence of a fourth friend who, over the years, has refused all invitations. When Mouse spots an old crone on a park bench opposite their window, it occurs to her that this might be their missing friend in disguise, and she gives chase. Thereafter starts Mouse's account of a summer long ago when she first came to L ...more
Feb 01, 2013 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dodie Smith never fails to entertain, and this book is no exception, but it's definitely the least impressive of all her novels. I am not sure why the book jacket describes it better than I Capture the Castle, as it most certainly is not. For theatre buffs, it might have more to offer, as its the story of a young woman who moves to London in the 1920s to pursue her dreams of acting, ending up in a club hotel for actors and befriending Molly, Zelle, and Lillian, who are also involved in the theat ...more
Jun 08, 2013 Cassandra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middlebrow
I read this a decade ago, and didn't really grasp it and thus barely remembered it, so I thought I would try it again. This time around I see what the book is doing.

Other reviews do an excellent job summarising the structure (a day in the 1960s, with the bulk of the book a flashback to the 1920s) and the plot. What interested me about the book is the thematic concerns, the meditation upon chastity as a cultural value, especially for women. Each of the characters casts light from a different angl
Donna LaValley
Feb 24, 2013 Donna LaValley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The Town In Bloom” (1965): This novel followed “The New Moon With The Old” in Dodie Smith’s novels. I’d like to give it 3.5 stars instead of 4. It was less wonderful than its predecessor and miles away from “I Capture The Castle.” The main character is “Mouse,” a small, funny, self-assured young woman who goes to London to become a stage actress. With great luck she is taken into friendship at the The Club (a sort of boarding house/hotel for women connected to the theatre) who become dear, life ...more
Mar 29, 2012 Tamsen rated it really liked it
I adore Dodie Smith, but besides her I Capture the Castle and 101 Dalmations, I would never dare recommend her to another soul. She is (as one of my dear fictional friends Ann-with-an-e would say) a bosom friend or a kindred spirit. Reading Dodie is like coming home.

As I started this one, I thought to myself, if I were a fictional character, I would be in a Dodie Smith novel. Her characters are perfectly ordinary but so full of life. They're real in ways that Donna Tartt (even with her hundreds
Apr 07, 2015 robyn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: coming-of-age
This book is a very distant spiritual relation to I Capture the Castle. The central story is sweet, in its own way; a young girl who leaves home and finds work in a theater, finds her first great love, her lifelong best friends, and basically builds the pattern for her life to come.

It's bookended a luncheon, thirty years on, at which she meets up with these great friends every five years.

It's the bookend that bothers me. The central story is a lot of fun, if slight - no one is quite real. No on
Aug 25, 2016 David rated it really liked it
After having loved Dodie Smith's "I Capture the Castle", I wondered if a later novel could be as good. I needn't have worried, it is almost in the same class. Written in 1965, we visit London theatre land in the nineteen twenties as eighteen year old Mouse lands her first job at the Crossway Theatre. Her adventures are so well and wittily described, this is a real feelgood story.

Not everything is sweetness and light, an undercurrent of doomed relationships pervade the book. But Mouse is lucky w
This book was good but, it made me sad. It reminded me a little bit of I Capture The Castle, but for an older audience. Both books don't have happy endings, and Smith leaves some strings untied. Although I did like this book, the characters frustrated me. The main character is the narrator and her nickname is Mouse, her real name is never given. The story covers the summer she spent working as a secretary for a theater as she was an aspiring actress. The other main characters are her three frien ...more
Laurie Graves
Sep 07, 2016 Laurie Graves rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dodie Smith is exactly the kind of English writer I like. Her characters are vivid, and they certainly have their flaws, but they are still sympathetic. "The Town in Bloom," mostly set in London in the 1920s, is a story about four young women, their hopes, their expectations, and their sexual awakening. Mouse, the narrator of the story, is small in stature but not in personality. Over-confident, she barges into a theater for try-outs and becomes involved in ways she didn't expect. In fact, none ...more
Oct 31, 2015 Annie rated it liked it
Shelves: classics, friendship
3.5 Stars.

This is my third Dodie Smith novel, and definitely my second 'favourite' by her, although I didn't love this as much as I loved I Capture the Castle by any means. I always really enjoy Smith's writing, I just don't find her plot lines in her other novels aside from ICTC as appealing or enjoyable. However this novel was still very fun and I enjoyed the theatrical aspects very much.

I also really liked all the characters, they were all unique and interesting and flawed in different ways.
Perhaps my expectations were too high--after all, I think I Capture the Castle is practically perfect. And it started out great--young girl off to London to try to break in to the Theater. Complete with fun actress friends and an almost dorm-like home situation.
But then she falls in love with the Wrong Man, and she knows it, and she still does it, and it's never clear why he's so fabulous (besides being the leading man and all). And there was a big lead up to a Pivotal Event, whic wasn't really
Jun 16, 2009 D rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anglophiles, and fans of dodie smith's charming and quirky protagonists
3.5 stars

highlights include dodie smith's delightful, delightful prose, engaging and varied characters, thoroughly charming protagonist, and beautiful postcard to an era past.

points docked for poorly aged mores and the sort of startling sexism that threads its way (unconsciously, i firmly feel) through every character's mindset.

this is i capture the castle's more daring, older cousin. castle is still tops in my book, but if you enjoyed that, you'll appreciate this as well.

so happy i found thi
Dec 16, 2013 P. rated it really liked it
Shelves: fictive, historical
The characters here are lot more emotionally honest than many in modern literature.

I stayed up late to finish this. I feel like this is the sort of book I want when I want a "good book". It's satisfying without being slow, it doesn't matter if I'm into what the characters are into (for instance, I am not a theater person but I enjoyed that this was set in the theater world because the joy it gave to the characters informed my reading of it). It's got flawed, real, characters but also a kind of m
Jun 19, 2013 Amie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Born Dorothy Gladys Smith in Lancashire, England, Dodie Smith was raised in Manchester (her memoir is titled A Childhood in Manchester). She was just an infant when her father died, and she grew up fatherless until age 14, when her mother remarried and the family moved to London. There she studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and tried for a career as an actress, but with little success. ...more
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“Was I the only woman in the world who, at my age - and after a lifetime of quite rampant independence - still did not quite feel grown up?” 74 likes
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