In a large though crumbling country house the Torringtons prepare for the twentieth birthday of their eldest daughter Emerald, while their youngest daughter, mostly known as Smudge, prepares her own Great Undertaking. But during the preparations a train derails and the family are entreated to look after the survivors.
I'm tiptoeing around spoilers here, even though the marketing for this book left great muddy footprints all over the cover. I can't really complain too loudly though as I probably wouldn't have even read the book if they hadn't been so indiscreet. The likes of Oscar Wilde and E.M.Forster are the the sorts of literary heritage this aspires to live up too. It's not quite consistent enough to pull it off completely and it suffers from having to hit its targets so far removed from the period of history it satires. It achieves on other levels though. It's engagingly written with many little impressionistic flourishes, entertaining throughout and did manage to put this reader on edge at times. It gave me pause to wonder that faced with a kitten neglected in a box (a present for Emerald) at the same time that the wretched train wreck survivors are similarly neglected, starving and cold in their own little box (the morning room), that the only forceful thought in my mind was: "Let the damn kitten out of the box!!!".