I know. A recent classic of YA literature and I’m just now getting around to reading it. In my defense, I wasn’t doing a ton of YA reading in 2004 and this probably didn’t sound like my cup of tea at the time.
Fifteen year old Daisy has been sent from New York to live with her cousins, who she’s never met, in England. And if you know anything about this book, you’re probably doing a significant eyebrow waggle right now. To get it out of the way, yes, Daisy and her cousin Edmond fall in love. However, their relationship gets surprisingly little screen time; although they have a huge connection, they spend more time apart than together.
At first I had a hard time getting into this one. The tense is, I suspect deliberately, ambiguous, shifting from past to present and finally settling on a kind of immediately experienced past. I kept being jolted out of the story by this, at least until it settled into a more regular pattern. As I’m thinking about it now, this is probably partly explained by the epilogue, but still.
Similarly, Daisy’s world-weary attitude grated on my nerves a bit. I don’t know many fifteen-year-old socialites. (Okay, fine, I don’t know any.) The point is, to a certain extent I had a hard time with her age and how much was put on and how much was older Daisy filtering.
But then at a certain point, the writing just clicked and instead of slightly annoying Daisy and her cousins, we had a claustrophobic view of England in the throes of war and its cost. I do think that the switch from the personal story to the war story was a big help, since Daisy started to grow up, and instead of Edmond & Daisy being lovey-dovey, we had Daisy and Edmond separated and not sure when they would see each other again.
Again, just at first I kept noticing how dated this part felt in a certain way. That is, the story seemed to come out of the period just after 9/11 and 7/7. I wonder how it will read in a few years–whether it will seem even more dated, or whether in a way it will have cycled around to being entirely relevant. There’s certainly a sense of timelessness to most of it–Daisy’s fears and uncertainties especially. In the end, I managed to get past all of my issues and got completely sucked into the story, unable to pay much attention to anything else around me.
So this was an odd read for me–a book which I actually almost put down at least twice, but which ended up being rewarding to the persevering reader. I’m not sure I recommend it to everyone, but for the right reader it should be a real treasure.
Book source: public library
Book information: Wendy Lamb Books, 2004; YA