Dodie Smith has always had beginner's luck. Her first play, Autumn Crocus, was a great success. Her first novel, I Capture the Castle, was a best-seller in England and America. Her first book for children, The Hundred and One Dalmations, published in twelve countries, was made into a brilliant cartoon-film by Walt Disney. Now comes the first volume of her autobiography and Beginner's Luck might well be its title, for she began life in a family where she was surrounded with all the warmth and humour which have kept her family play, Dear Octopus, alive for thirty-five years.
Born in Lancashire at the end of the last century, Dodie was brought by her early-widowed mother to live in Old Trafford, then a pleasant Manchester suburb, in a household consisting of grandfather, grandmother, three uncles and two aunts. The author has a remarkable memory for their characters, eccentricities, enthusiasms and fierce mealtime arguments in which she played her full part (encouraged by her mother: "You'll have to shout, darling") just as she has for the various houses she lived in, particularly Kingston House, where the back garden sloped towards the Manchester Ship Canal. And there was a much-loved de Dion Bouton. Of this classic horseless carriage she writes, "It was a four-seater with a door in the middle of the back... innocent of hood, windscreen and windows... our first car was certainly a gallant one, though it never quite understood about hills."
Holidays, long car journeys (taken only when fortified by pork pies), parties, weddings, amateur theatricals, visits to London theatres, above all people seen through the eyes of a child given equal status with grown-ups (and what a delightful child she must have been!) Dodie Smith describes them all in a vivid style, free of cloying nostalgia.
Look Back With Love: A Manchester Childhood by Dodie Smith. Published by Heinemann 1974. 1st edition. 181pp. Hardback with dust jacket. Dust jacket condition: Fair - slight wear to spine and inner flaps, with a little foxing underneath. Book condition: Fair - some foxing to preliminaries and fore-edge, but otherwise tightly bound and clean throughout.