Cassandra and her family live in poverty in a run-down old castle they have a 40 year lease on. Her father wrote a celebrated novel, then, in a farcial turn of events, ended up in prison for three months. They moved to Belmotte and it's nearby castle shortly after, and, for some reason, her father has stopped writing. Cassandra's mother is dead, and her father remarried Topaz, a former artist's model.
In many ways, this is a strange halfling of a book. It's so influenced by other books - The love story throughout the book is really just a 1940's retelling of Pride and Prejudice, with a couple of twists. Cassandra's father wrote a very unique novel, and although you never learn much of what it contains, it influences all of their lives, particularly Cassandra's, who has obviously inherited her father's love of experimental writing (with both her shorthand, and the 'exercise' of journalling her life over six months).
Another thing I noticed was how well the characters are drawn. Topaz, for instance, could have been portrayed as the mad, dramatic stepmother, but instead, we get glimpses of a woman self-aware and selfless enough to deliberately hide her beauty for the sake of Rose. Thomas, Cassandra's younger brother, reveals unexpected intelligence - always there, but simply not noticed by Cassandra when she was absorbed by her relationship with Rose.
I know I'm too old to be the target audience, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book, regardless.