Friday, June 25, 2010

Review of I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

I Capture the Castle (Vintage Classics)Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain wants to become a writer. Trouble is, she's the daughter of a once-famous author with a severe case of writer's block. Her family--beautiful sister Rose, brooding father James, ethereal stepmother Topaz--is barely scraping by in a crumbling English castle they leased when times were good. Now there's very little furniture, hardly any food, and just a few pages of notebook paper left to write on. Bravely making the best of things, Cassandra gets hold of a journal and begins her literary apprenticeship by refusing to face the facts. She writes, "I have just remarked to Rose that our situation is really rather romantic, two girls in this strange and lonely house. She replied that she saw nothing romantic about being shut up in a crumbling ruin surrounded by a sea of mud." Rose longs for suitors and new tea dresses while Cassandra scorns romance: "I know all about the facts of life. And I don't think much of them." But romantic isolation comes to an end both for the family and for Cassandra's heart when the wealthy, adventurous Cotton family takes over the nearby estate. Cassandra is a witty, pensive, observant heroine, just the right voice for chronicling the perilous cusp of adulthood. Some people have compared I Capture the Castle to the novels of Jane Austen, and it's just as well-plotted and witty. But the Mortmains are more bohemian--as much like the Addams Family as like any of Austen's characters. Dodie Smith, author of 101 Dalmations, wrote this novel in 1948. And though the story is set in the 1930s, it still feels fresh, and well deserves its reputation as a modern classic.

I want to say a big thank you to Fiona of The Book Coop because she was the one who initially pushed me to read I Capture the Castle. When I first started this book, I had absolutely no idea what I was going to think of it by the time I finished it. I thought the style and the characters developed well throughout the story and I really enjoyed it throughout the whole.

It's been said before, but the characters in this book are so very real. I had a brief moment where I saw a bit of myself in Cassandra. As a reader, I found myself caring more and more about what would happen to the Mortmains as I went. I loved watching all of the characters grow and develop throughout the novel, and it helped me think of how I've grown as a person.

As for the writing, I wasn't sure about it at first. It almost felt a bit too quaint to me. However, about 200 pages in or so I found that Cassandra's narration became very honest, raw and open. She was an excellent narrator, and definitely not overly sure of herself, which I liked.

I also liked the bits of humor that Smith through into the book. I found myself laughing out loud at certain parts. However, I still also thought that in the end she incorporated some interesting ideas. Also, I would like to say that in regards to the ending, I thought it was really well done. I thought that pairing certain characters off just wouldn't have felt right for them, the author or the reader.

This is a beautiful and original tale and I think that anyone who has been in love or fallen out of love can relate to it.

Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book.


  1. I've had this one on my shelves for a scandalously long time, and it's one of those books I've promised myself to read by the end of this year. I hear and read almost nothing but good things about it, so I'm not even sure why I've waited this long! Glad you liked it so much.

  2. Holy beautiful Vintage cover! I had not seen that one. It's heavenly.

    I enjoyed this book very much for the majority of the time. The end ruined it for me a bit. But then I had very strong feelings about those boys. Ah, well, reading it is a lovely experience and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  3. Angie,
    I absolutely agree with you! I'm in love with the cover. And I can see why you would say that about the ending, although I like to imagine what happened after the story ended.



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