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.

8 responses

  1. […] and Hildebrand, to name a few. The family and the names and the adventures all remind me a bit of Hilary McKay’s Casson family. Under the radar, out of print, and worth every […]

  2. […] I’ve decided after four books that I really love the Casson family. They’re totally bonkers, as the British would say, but I enjoy them anyway. Probably it’s the bonkers part that makes them fun. Anyway, I described the family and the first three books here. […]

  3. […] feel a bit responsible after three books to see that they all come out all right.” I read and reviewed the first three books in the Casson family series last July, and then I picked up the fourth book, Caddy Ever After, and reviewed it. The setting for the […]

  4. Martha Maria says:

    I love this family.

  5. Meabh says:

    I dont understand about Bill, Eve and Samantha. Does Eve know about Samantha?

  6. […] Other reviews of Saffy’s Angel: Book Nut, ten cent notes, Framed and Booked, Semicolon […]

  7. […] I love the Cassons: Cadmium, Saffron, Indigo, and Permanent Rose and their strange but lovable parents Bill and Eve. And now you’ve given me a new/old set of characters to love: the young ladies left behind at Miss Minchin’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies. Left behind? Yes, back when Frances Hodgson Burnett first wrote Sara Crew, or The Little Princess, at the end of the book Sara took her friend Becky, the scullery maid with her when she went on to fame and fortune, but she left several other young ladies, her friends, under Miss Minchin’s dubious care. Hilary Mckay in Wishing for Tomorrow gives readers the story of plain, plodding Ermengarde, mischief-making Lottie, scholarly Lavinia, sister Amelia, and poor Miss Minchin herself. […]

  8. […] as Most Delicious Memoir and Best Catnip for Anglophiles. I would recommend to her for 2013: Hilary McKay’s fictional family, the Cassons. The first book in the series is Saffy’s Angel. Also, Katie might want to add to her TBR […]

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