Look Back with Love: A Manchester Childhood by Dodie Smith ~ 1974. This edition: Slightly Foxed, 2011. Hardcover. ISBN: 978-1-906562-30-4. 272 pages.
My rating: An easy 10/10. A pleasure first page to last.
This post should be extremely easy to write, as it is merely meant to be an enthusiastic recommendation of two things.
First and foremost, this stellar memoir by Dodie Smith (I capture the Castle, The Hundred and One Dalmations), detailing with immense good humour her childhood days in Manchester, when she lived with her widowed mother in a series of family homes.
Before reading this book I had come across several excellent and detailed reviews which inspired my search-and-purchase. I shall not attempt to add to their number, but instead will encourage you to follow these links to the several posts which led to this happy acquisition.
Geranium Cat’s Bookshelf – a wonderful review, with generous quotes from the text.
Simon’s Stuck-in-a-Book post is disarmingly chatty and wholly enthusiastic.
And from Elaine at Random Jottings, this excellent advice:
I beg you, please do get hold of a copy. If you are feeling miserable, it will cheer you up, if you are feeling ill (as I was when it arrived) it will make you feel better and, if you are already well and happy, it will make you even more so.
Sheer and utter delight from start to finish. I will end as I started. This is a lovely lovely lovely book.
Which leads me to the second recommendation I have for everyone, which is of a bookseller.
Look Back in Love in the original being fairly scarce and rather highly priced when found, the book I have in hand is a beautifully produced reprint from Slightly Foxed Editions, who specialize in (among other things) “pocket hardback reissues of classic memoirs.”
Take a good look at their list of offerings. I’ve read enough of these to be able to say that whoever is searching out these memoirs to republish has a keen eye for an excellent read. Well done, Slightly Foxed! If I’m ever in London my bookish pilgrimage will include their store (either before or after a sure-to-be-costly visit to Persephone – how can one possibly choose?!) to bow down at the source (as it were) of some of the best-chosen and best-produced vintage reprints currently available.
While not exactly cheap – a postpaid copy to Canada set me back a rather sobering £19, or about $35 Canadian dollars – I justified the cost with the thought that I was supporting a most worthwhile enterprise.
My Slightly Foxed edition is a joy to handle and to read, being compact and neatly cloth bound with a handy ribbon marker, a text block of smooth, creamy paper, and a nicely legible font. My only regret is that it does not contain the photographs included in the original edition; I love the inclusion of photos in memoirs as it adds so much to be able to see the characters and places referred to. But Dodie Smith’s words give such a wonderfully clear picture of both people and surroundings that one can envision the scenes perfectly well without visual aids.
I was so very pleased with this first volume of Dodie Smith’s memoirs – which takes her to the age of fourteen – that I have just tracked down and ordered the middle two volumes of the remaining three autobiographical books, Look Back with Mixed Feelings, and Look Back with Astonishment. I had already acquired Look Back with Gratitude, the last of the four, and though I have leafed through it with anticipation I am being stern with myself and will be saving it to read last, to maintain a chronological order.
And here, to further pique your interest (those few of you who haven’t already discovered this gem for yourselves) is a random page scan. Open this book anywhere and similar anecdotes abound. Even out of context, isn’t this a joy?