Here is the book I chose to give out for World Book Night 2012, a beautiful story that captivated me despite only discovering it a couple of years ago, at 24. It’s the diary of Cassandra Mortmain, a 17 year old girl who lives in a rundown castle with her eccentric family. They’re poor as church mice, so when the castle changes hands and their new landlord turns out to be a handsome, rich American man, Cassandra’s beautiful and practical elder sister Rose spots an opportunity.
Cassandra is the beating heart of this novel. She’s imaginative, ethereal, observant and innocent to the point of being naïve, especially when compared with Rose, who is more cynical, and willing to do almost anything to secure a better future for herself and her family. Cassandra can see the beauty and romance of her life (most of the time), while Rose gets bogged down in the negatives. The duality of their characters speaks to me because I’m Rose, and I know I am, but boy, I wish I was Cassandra! I’m not Cassandra by a long shot and I never will be, but I can still try to cultivate the characteristics of hers that I like the best, like believing the best of people, behaving unselfishly and having even the tiniest spark of self-discipline.
If you have a special place in your heart for Anne Shirley, Mary Lennox or the Fossil sisters, then have them shuffle up to make some room for Cassandra Mortmain.