I have seen a movie version of this book already - it wasn't bad, and so when I saw this book in the cheap-as-chips Penguin edition I decided to get it.
It has been sitting on my bedside table for a few months now, waiting, but now I am on holiday - in a bach in a beachy location with plenty of time on my hands. Due to Easter falling one week before Anzac Day, I've taken three days leave and have ten solid days away from work! ... Anyway, the point is, I have finally picked the book up and read it from cover to cover in less than 24 hours.
The story is narrated by Fanny, a cousin/friend and onlooker on several families. She has grown up with several other English girls of the upper classes, all of whom are falling in and out of love. Along comes the beautiful Polly, home from India with her father the Viceroy and her frightening mother, and she doesn't seem interested in falling in love.
I give it a solid three stars. It was a good read with some great characters and there were some moments of real satirical genius. I particularly liked Uncle Matthew and his memories of the Boer War:
"Four days in a bullock wagon," he used to tell us, "a hole as big as your fist in my stomach, and maggoty! Happiest time of my life. The only thing was one got rather tired of the taste of mutton after a bit, no beef in that campaign, you know."
Then there's the splendid and ridiculous Cecil:
"Won't you take off your spectacles?" said Lady Montdore. "I should like to see your eyes."
"Later, dear Lady Montdore, later. When my dreadful, paralysing shyness (a disease with me) has quite worn off."
I also really liked the way it ended - it was quite funny. But I won't give away any spoilers.
It wasn't the best book ever, all the same. Perhaps it was the writing - it was fine, but not excellent. And I guess the reputation this book has for social satire made me expect a sort of 20th century Austen but it's not quite as biting as I had hoped.
So, all in all, a good-ish book.
Now - back to the holiday! I've got Katherine Mansfield's short stories sitting waiting for me....