This is the first book in a series popular among many bloggers I read, including The Book Smugglers and Charlotte of Charlotte’s Library. I snagged it for some comfort reading, and it pushed its way to the top of my TBR pile without my quite knowing how.
Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay.
Saffy’s Angel hearkens back to the old-fashioned heart-warming large family story, but with a quirky, modern sensibility. Eve and Bill Casson are both artists, which is why she named all of her children after paint colors. The children are Cadmium, Saffron, Indigo, and Permanent Rose. As the story opens, Saffy is about six, and learns for the first time that she is adopted – Eve is actually her mother’s sister. This revelation rocks her world. But we quickly fast-forward several years, to when Saffy is 13, ten years after her mother’s death. Their beloved grandfather dies, leaving behind a cryptic will. Bill, the father, is the most odious father I’ve ever seen in a cozy family drama. He decided some years before that a real artist couldn’t work with so many children around, so he rents a flat and a separate studio in London and only visits on weekends. So when Saffy wants to know what the angel she was willed was and where it is, Bill just tells her it either never existed or was lost and she should forget it. But Saffy can’t. Her friend down the street, a rebellious rich girl in a wheelchair named Sarah, concocts a plan to take Saffy to Saffy’s first home in Italy to do research, while her siblings make their own plans.
But this is a whole family drama, and all of the family members have their own stories going on, too. Eve, the mother, while perfectly affectionate, is a classic absent-minded artist, so the children alternately take care of things themselves and direct her. Caddy, the oldest daughter, is stretching out her driving lessons as long as possible because of her strong attraction to her teacher, Michael. Indigo is trying hard to cure his fear of heights by hanging out of an upper-story window, so he can be a polar explorer. I found myself caring intensely about the family and all its members (with the exception of Bill, who never really belongs), despite the neglectful parents and the high level of mostly-happy chaos that they live with. I found the blogger-love deserved, and went on to the next book immediately.