Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones focuses on an orphaned boy, Cat. Although his older sister, Gwendolyn, is also orphaned, it’s quite hard to feel bad for when she’s nothing more than selfish and mean throughout the book. She’s a powerful witch, something she holds over her magic-less brother. But despite all this, Cat stays by her side because Gwendolyn is all he has. Or at least, that’s what he thought.
Then one day they receive a letter inviting them to live with Chrestomanci, the world’s most powerful enchanter who is blessed with nine-lives and is tasked with making sure magic is used properly. He has heard of Gwendolyn’s powers and wishes to be her mentor. As they are swept away to his castle, the siblings meet Chrestomanci’s refined children, Julia and Roger. While the two like Cat, Gwendolyn’s sour attitude makes the children immediately dislike her. Because of this, Cat is torn between remaining loyal to his sister (and last remaining family member) or embracing his new home and its lovely residents. Soon Gwendolyn becomes frustrated with the little acknowledgment of her giftedness and begins plotting. Her scheme could possibly un-glue the very fabric of time and space inbetween the known dimensions, and it’s up the determined, yet very ordinary, Cat to stop her.
“Cat enjoyed the tea. It was the first time he had enjoyed anything since he came to the castle. There were paper thin cucumber sandwiches and big squashy eclairs. Cat ate even more than Roger did. He was surrounded by cheerful, ordinary chat from the Family, with a hum of stocks and shares in the background, and the sun lay warm and peaceful on the green stretches of the lawn.” – Charmed Life (paperback) page 62
I attempted to make a cucumber sandwich for lunch. And I did make it, it just wasn’t very tasty. I combined several herbed cucumber sandwich recipes and made mine with fresh basil and cucumbers on whole wheat bread. The basil was a bit overwhelming and the cucumber had a bitter aftertaste (maybe because it was a large cucumber?). Anyway, it was cute thanks to my star cookie cutter, which made me feel a bit better about it tasting gross.