This morning, I finished the final few pages of Sophie Dahl's novel, Playing With the Grown-Ups. The last chapter, providing the resolve for the story, scarcely fills one page. I had to read it two or three times, trying to squeeze the most I could from each word, phrase, and sentence. I was also sad that such a great read was coming to an end. Dahl is the granddaughter of Roald Dahl, one of my favorite authors growing up.
The book tells the story of Kitty Larsen, a girl growing up in England, then America, then England again... Her transient adolescence is due in no small part to her flighty mother's pursuit of men and happiness. Grown-Ups swings fluidly from Kitty's past to her present, and back again. It has a timeless quality that is lovely and refreshing. Save for a few British pop culture references, it could've taken place at almost any time.
Grown-Ups is as much about her mother as it is about Kitty. Marina is at once despicable and lovable (though by the end I had settled on the latter). A beautiful, bohemian, talented artist, she captures the fancy of many men- and vice versa. Eventually, she reveals the extent of her instability.
Kitty's preteen years reminded so much of my own that I couldn't help but love her. She wore large glasses, adored her mother, and practiced a careful skin-care regimen. She never quite felt she had the "right" clothes. She had a vivid imagination, and worried about strange, implausible events. She was intrigued by different cultures and faiths.
I loved this book. It is charming and poignant. Put this on your summer reading list!