by Hilary McKay
First sentence: “There were the four girls who were best friends:”
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Review copy snagged from the galley shelves at my place of employment
Others in the series: Saffy’s Angel, Indigo’s Star, Permanent Rose, Caddy Ever After, Forever Rose
I adore the Cassons. (Seriously. Don’t want to live with them, though. But in a neighborhood with them on one side and the Penderwicks on the other? Sounds fabulous.)
It’s five years before Saffy’s Angel, and Caddy (whose real name is Cadmium Gold) is 12 years old and perfectly content with life. At home it’s her and mum and Saffy and Indigo (dad Bill is often in London, but he does come home sometimes). And at school it’s her, Alison (who hates everyone), Beth (who’s perfect), and Ruby (who’s clever) creating a perfect foursome: AlisonRubyanBethanme. It was a charmed life.
Then the genie who controls everything (not really, but sometimes when you’re 12 it feels that way) shakes the bottle and turns Caddy’s world upside down. First, her mother gets pregnant, and before Caddy has a chance to really deal with that (she’s dealing mostly by pretending it doesn’t exist), the baby is born. Prematurely. On top of that, it doesn’t help that her friends are drifting apart: Alison is more surly than usual, Beth has gone on a “Norman Diet” (which means she’s trying to starve herself so she’ll get shorter, but didn’t tell anyone about it), and Ruby is dealing with the idea of having to leave her friends in public school for a private one that will better cater to her abilities. It’s perfect chaos.
Like the other Casson books, this one deals with heavy subjects — premature births, anorexia, boy troubles — with a light hand. Everything is delightfully chaotic and charming and mildly hilarious (Saffy and Indigo really do steal the show out from under Caddy). And even though it’s nominally about Caddy, it’s really Rose’s story; in the other books, you get hints about Rose’s birth, and how she didn’t quite know whether to stay or not stay, and finally, McKay saw fit to tell the the story of Rose’s birth. You can read this one first or last in the order; I think it would be a good introduction to the series, but it also works as a coda at the end.
Either way, it’s delightful.