** spoiler alert **
This book is going on my all time favorites list. I will definitely re-read this one, which is saying something since I rarely re-read books. I keep thinking to myself how "charming" I find this book. I think it's because it's such an enjoyable escape into the 1930s English country side full of wonderfully eccentric characters. There is no talk about what is happening in the world at that time. The reader can just join Cassandra on her personal journey.
Cassandra is a witty and intelligent narrator. Often her voice and observations remind me of Jane Austen. She is just the kind of person I hoped I was at that age.
At first I didn't buy her feelings for Simon. I couldn't see what attracted her about him and she seemed to fall too hard too fast. But that makes sense to me when I reflect on it. Simon is her first love and first loves are often breathless and irrational. Through that experience she learns and grows so much.
Other things I liked: how well developed the supporting cast is, so interesting and eccentric. The way the family's story changes so abruptly when they meet the Cottons. The way Smith explores minor themes. And the ambiguous ending. Smith certainly should be applauded for leaving so many open ends; few writers want to disappoint their readers that way, but such a choice is more true to real life.