Writing in Slightly Foxed, Dodie Smith’s biographer Valerie Grove describes Look Back with Love as ‘one of the happiest and funniest accounts of an Edwardian upbringing’.
And indeed it is. Best known for her first novel I Capture the Castle, for the evergreen The Hundred and One Dalmatians, and for Dear Octopus, her 1938 play set at a family reunion, Dodie Smith did not publish this account of her early life until 1974 when she was 78. Brought up among her mother’s family since her father had died when she was a baby, Dodie spent her childhood surrounded by doting adults. It was the jolliest environment imaginable – the Furbers adored seaside trips, motor-car outings, fairgrounds, circuses, jokes, charades and musical soirées. Above all they loved the theatre, and it was through her bachelor uncles’ involvement in amateur dramatics that she conceived her passion for the stage.
Dodie Smith’s memoir gives a wonderful picture of this large extended family and of life at that time in the ‘basking Sunday afternoon charm’ of Manchester’s Victorian suburbs. And of the funny, complicated, creative little girl who would later say of herself, ‘I think I’m an oddity really, but I do my very, very best to write well’ – which in Look Back with Love she certainly did.