Saffy’s Angel, Indigo’s Star, and Permanent Rose by British author Hilary McKay make up a series of books featuring one of the most dysfunctional functioning familes in children’s literature. The Casson family consists of Cadmium (Caddy), Saffron (Saffy), Indigo, Permanent Rose, mother Eve, and absentee father Bill. Caddy spends most of the three books being wishy-washy about her multiple boyfriends, while she remains somewhat committed to her driving instructor boyfriend, Michael. Saffy, who’s really the daughter of Eve’s twin sister, is an adopted Casson. She and her friend Sarah careen about town and home, Sarah in a wheelchair, seriously shopping, sunbathing in the nude, doing mountains of homework for fun, and creating culinary disasters. Indigo represents stability, sort of the strong, silent type, but totally accepting of his insane family’s eccentricities. Tom, Indigo’s American friend, is a callous dope, but Indigo and Rose “like dopes.” Permanent Rose (all the children are named after artist’s paint colors) is a feisty eight year old who sometimes shoplifts for the fun of it and who paints murals on the walls of the Cassons’ house. Eve, the mother of all these children, is an artist who produces what her husband Bill calls “not really art.” She spends her days and most of her nights in a backyard shed where she paints and dozes and daydreams. Eve also teaches art to juvenile deliquents and paints murals at the hospital to make a little addition to the family income. Bill, the father of this ridiculous family, is a “real artist” based in London in an immaculately orderly flat where he creates great art and lives with his girlfriend, Samantha. Bill and Eve are not divorced, and Bill sometimes visits his family and contributes to the housekeeping fund in a jar on the kitchen counter.
I forgot to mention that the Cassons keep pet guinea pigs in the garden, and Eve doesn’t know how to shop for groceries or cook. Sarah decides by the end of the third book that Eve is “a saint or just more or less totally bonkers. . . probably both.” If you can suspend disbelief for a while and take it on faith that a family like the Cassons could survive in modern-day England, then you might enjoy a visit with the Cassons. It’s a nice place to visit, but I think, like Bill, I’d have a hard time living there. At the very least, Ms. McKay keeps the reader guessing as to what totally bonkers thing will happen next. There’s a fourth book about the Casson family, Caddy Ever After, that I’m going to pick up soon, just for that very purpose, to see what will happen next. I feel a bit responsible after three books to see that they all come out all right.