Playing With the Grown-ups
By Sophie Dahl
(Nan A. Talese, Hardcover, 9780385524612, 288pp.)
Publication Date: April 8, 2008
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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For Kitty, growing up at Hay House amongst bluebell woods and doting relations is heaven. But for her mother, the restless Marina, a bohemian beauty who paints and weeps with alacrity, this comfortable domesticity cannot provide the novelty and excitement she craves. Marina is utterly beguiling, but more often than not Kitty can only gaze on her antics with awe and toe-curling trepidation.
When Swami-ji, Marina’s Guru, sees Marina’s future in New York, the family relocates, leaving Kitty exiled in a colorless boarding school. Reprieve comes in the form of the Guru’s summons to the ashram; but then, just as Kitty is approaching enlightenment, she and Marina are off again, leaving for an England that is now fast and unfamiliar. This time no god, man, or martini can staunch Marina’s hunger for a happiness that proves all too elusive. And Kitty, turning fifteen, must choose: whether to play dangerous games with the grown-ups or begin to put herself first.
Playing with the Grown-ups is an enchanting novel about growing up in a loving, utterly chaotic household; it is also hilarious, heartbreaking, and scandalous. The offbeat and often comic adventures of the free-spirited heroines—Marina and Kitty alike—will remind readers of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. With her magnificent talent for storytelling and creating unconventional characters, Sophie Dahl ably carries on the literary legacy of her grandfather, the beloved children’s book author, Roald Dahl.
SOPHIE DAHL lives in England. In 2003 she and the illustrator Anne Morris published a small book, The Man with the Dancing Eyes. Ms. Dahl has written for the Guardian and Vogue, and is at present a contributing editor at Men’s Vogue.
“In the beginning, this story is quirky and thoughtful, just what one would expect from the pen of a granddaughter of Roald Dahl, beloved author of startling children's books. What's more, it's funny and moving, and worth devouring on its own as an Eccentric Mother Knows Best kind of tale. But this is no children's story. Read far enough, and the pages darken with a kind of coming of age that is only slightly more palatable than, say, Augusten Burroughs' in Running With Scissors. Playing With the Grown-ups grows beyond charming child's play to a clear-eyed compassion for the world's limitless store of tragic human comedy.”
“Captivating…Playing with the Grown-ups is rooted in biographical seeds but grown over by lush imaginative sentences that wear their seriousness lightly, in the manner of Nancy Mitford and Esther Freud…. Dahl’s profound empathy resonates most poignantly in Kitty’s relationship with her enchanting yet troubled young mother, Marina. With a fairy-wand touch, Dahl rouses some of the ogres–unspoken rivalries, boundary-crossing confidences–that lie between many mothers and daughters who are both emotionally close and close in age.”
“In a captivating, eccentric new novel called Playing With the Grown-ups, Dahl blurs the line between memoir and fiction with her portrait of an appealing, resilient girl named Kitty. Whisked around England, New York and distant ashrams by her loving but incompetent-at-life yummy mummy, Kitty shuttles between glamorously chaotic households, playing cool big sister not only to her half-siblings, but to her mother, Marina.”
–New York Times
“Sparkling, poignant, beautiful–I loved it”
–Cecelia Ahern, author of PS, I Love You
“A lyrical coming-of-age classic . . . A marvelous evocation of what it means to be a teenage girl, and the journey to womanhood.”
–Justine Picardie, author of If the Spirit Moves You
“A haunting story of an intricate mother/daughter bond.”
“A poetic love story…part Love in a Cold Climate, part Edith Sitwell and part any one of her grandfather Roald Dahl’s books.”
“Deftly written. Peopled by great British eccentrics, it is oddly ageless.”
“Dahl has genuine talent as a writer . . . the boarding-school sequences have a compelling emotional clarity.”
–Time Out London
“Packed full of bumbling aristocrats, boarding-school romance and American suitors proffering martinis, [Playing with the Grown-ups] proves Dahl has inherited her grandfather's talent.”
“Dahl is really very funny. I love the hopeless parade of Marina's men and boys…genuine and touching.”