Review: Guard Your Daughters, Diana Tutton

The lovely Rachel of Book Snob sent me Diana Tutton’s Guard Your Daughters, a book that is reminiscent of, but not nearly as good as, I Capture the Castle. The five Harvey sisters have grown up rather isolated, with their invalid mother and their father, a famous mystery writer. The eldest, Pandora, was recently married, and now the next two girls, Morgan (our narrator) and Thisbe, are sort of on the lookout for men to marry, even though they have basically never met a man before. Two men show up in pretty short order, and everyone goes into a tizzy.

It’s not better than I Capture the Castle. I didn’t want to compare them, but you can’t not compare them. I kept thinking that Diana Tutton should have put some sort of “inspired by” notice in the front of Guard Your Daughters, because the basic structure of the book is so much like I Capture the Castle. Instead of crazy Topaz (wonderful Topaz!), there’s the frail, affectionate Harvey mother; instead of the failing Mortmain father who has not written anything in years, there’s the successful mystery novelist Harvey father. But in both cases it’s a group of girls living strange lives in isolated rural parts of England, wishing they would have a chance to meet men and get married and be taken away from all this.

Like I Capture the Castle, the book is, in the main, extremely charming. Morgan and Thisbe and Cressida are all fun characters to spend time with. I loved it that Cressida was the put-upon sister, and the way Morgan and Thisbe know they should pick up some of the extra chores but then don’t bother because they know Cressida will do it. That is a true thing from real life, y’all. I am okay about doing chores, yet when I lived with a girl who was a neat freak I never did anything. Because she was going to do it better, and with fancy cleaning tools. I also loved it when Pandora would come home from London and talk to Morgan about how strange and isolated their life was — you could see Morgan’s dilemma exactly, how she was hurt by what Pandora was saying, and also how she recognized that there was an extent to which Pandora is right.

What made it work less well for me than I Capture the Castle was that it came off a little affected. Cassandra Mortmain could have come off affected too, except that Dodie Smith very sensibly had another character accuse her of being self-consciously naive early on; and then the reader didn’t have to worry about it anymore. I like knowing that the writer knows more than her characters. That’s how it should be! The writer shouldn’t be taken in by the character’s quirks! I didn’t feel that Tutton was in control in the same way. Not Thisbe and not really Pandora, but the other three sisters are affected in the way they think and talk, and nobody ever really talks about it. I kept worrying about that instead of focusing on the story.

My other small gripe was the way characters dropped in and out. The dashing Gregory — spoiler alert! — we scarcely hear from again. Patrick is in and out; Pandora is in and out; I don’t know, it made it difficult to know what the thrust of the story was. But when they were in, they were really fun. Diana Tutton draws wonderful characters, and I enjoyed them one and all. I could have done with more from Gregory, who was entertaining, and more from Pandora, who was serious and engaging and could have been fun interacting with her sisters.

Overall very good! Recommended.

  • It does sound rather amazingly like I Capture the Castle. And the whole Cressida and YOU-IN-REAL-LIFE thing is like a mirror image of The Husband Ploy, in which the husband offers to help, but then does whatever it is so cruddy or makes such a mess, that the Put Upon One decides it is not worth it and does EVERYTHING herself. It’s all A PLOT. so to speak.

    • No! See, no. It’s not that ploy. I don’t do that ploy. That’s a mean ploy. My ploy is pure laziness, not extra work to avoid laziness.

  • I am glad I am not the only one who didn’t fall head over heels for this. The comparisons with I Capture the Castle are inescapable and, in every way, this comes off worse.

    • Well, yes, but ICtC is a very very high bar to clear, in fairness. Even Dodie Smith never seems to clear it after the first time.

  • Bring it home for Christmas! I am inured to authors who blatantly steal other authors’ plots (hello, all the Regency romances I read in high school), so I think I can enjoy it without pain.

    • Okay! I promise I will bring it home for you.

  • Oh Jenny! I’m sad you didn’t LOVE it but glad you enjoyed it nonetheless. Yes it IS a shameless rip off of I Capture the Castle but I thought it was a wonderful novel in its own right too and the rather interesting subplot of the selfish, mentally ill mother was rather original…no? Though I suppose one could say the same of the father in I Capture the Castle…oh well! I liked it just the same. I wonder whether Dodie Smith ever tried to do her for plagiarism!!

    Do take it home to Mumsy, I know she’ll love it!

    • But I liked it a lot, and thank you so much for sending it to me! Mumsy will enjoy it and so will Indie Sister. I definitely agree that the subplot with the mother surprised me. I felt sorry for poor Pandora!

  • Can you believe that I still haven’t read I Capture the Castle yet? I know, shame on me. 😉

    • Aw, you are missing out. You have to read it! It’s such a dear of a book!

  • I’d like to read this, the similarity puts me off however. If it’s so obviously a copy I’m not sure I’d be able to read it without that context, which if the similarity wasn’t acknowledged in the book would be so hard. I liked your review a lot though 🙂

    • Thanks! It’s not a copy copy, it’s just got a lot in common with I Capture the Castle. I may be doing Diana Tutton an injustice though; for all I know she never even read I Capture the Castle. :p

  • I am about a quarter through reading I Capture The Castle for the first time ever, and this whole post just made me wish even more that I were reading it instead of sitting at my desk (supposedly) working. My lunch break was not nearly long enough.

    Thank goodness this is a basically unsocial week and I can spend my evenings curled up under the Christmas tree with I Capture The Castle.

    • Aw, yay! I can’t wait to read your review of it. I’m glad you’re loving it. Isn’t it the sweetest book in all the land? Topaz is a particularly good character, but all of them are lovely. (Except Simon. I do not care for Simon.)

      • I just read the final words of this comment, just above my own, and was momentarily upset – but now it all makes sense 😉

  • Someone who comes down in the middle, on Guard Your Daughters – a first! It is, of course, totally ripping off ICTC, but I thought it was better (much though I love and adore ICTC) because Dodie Smith goes a bit mad in the middle, wandering off to London and losing the plot a bit – and also gets a little too histrionic with the bears etc. Tutton kept an even balance throughout, and the wonderful tone never wavered (I reckon.) But I definitely agree that one or other of the men should have hung around a bit more – although, having said that, I’m glad she focused on the family dynamics, rather than going all out on the romance.

    • But there weren’t any real bears! I liked that part because it was so crazy and I am partial to a crazy scheme, cf. my ferocious love for The Vampire Diaries. :p

      • I know, I know, but… running off in furs, and people believing the escaped bears story? Madness! Teehee – but I adore ICTC all the same. It’s lucky none of us have to choose between these novels 🙂

  • OK. Here’s what I think I will do. I will read this one first THEN read ICTC. Would that work?

    • I do not love your plan because it postpones your reading of I Capture the Castle, one of the loveliest books ever.

  • Hmm…I really need to find the time to read I Capture the Castle. I’ve had it on my TBR list for some time now and always hear good things. I think I’ll add this one to my TBR list as well!

    • Oh, do read I Capture the Castle! Its wonderfulness can’t be overstated.

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