This is a gently whimsical and vaguely gothic story told from the perspective of young Cassandra Mortmain, living with her eccentric, genteely impoverished family in an old English castle. Writing in her beloved journal, Cassandra, an aspiring writer, creates a clear picture of her castle home and her brilliantly bizarre family; genius novelist father James with a case of intense writer's block, sweet, bohemian stepmother Topaz, elder sister Rose and servant boy Stephen.
The novel picks up pace when the wealthy Cotton brothers move from America to their English estate, very close to Cassandra's castle. This sets life into hectic motion for all the family, particularly Cassandra and Rose. As Cassandra chronicles the goings on, she gradually, gracefully grows up. Ultimately, this is a story about the joy and pain of love, particularly when that love is unrequited.
While there are moments when characters behave, well, randomly (why in the world DOES Simon kiss Cassandra?), the book has a quirky, lovable charm and beauty. Cassandra's voice is fresh and unaffected, and the characters and surroundings are finely sketched. A good read for anyone, particularly imaginative teenagers.