I Capture the Castle

“[…] two of us always on the look-out for life, talking to Miss Blossom at night, wondering, hoping; two Bronte-Jane Austen girls, poor but spirited, two Girls of Godsend Castle.”

I need to preface this review by saying that I have an old friend who I think of as my book buddy, because we have similar tastes and she gave me several good recommendations when we were in school together–The Princess Bride, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and The Eyre Affair. They all became favorites of mine, and the first actually cemented out friendship. But for some reason I never followed her advice about Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle until now.

She was right again.

I Capture the Castle is the diary of sixteen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain who lives in an old English castle with her family, including her beautiful older sister Rose. They are relatively poor, surviving on the royalties of Mr. Mortmain’s only book, but relatively happy with their dreams. Only Rose seems to feel the hardship, so when two rich Americans move to the nearby manor she resolves to marry one of them to save her family.

I loved Cassandra as a heroine and would rank her not too far below Anne Shirley. She dreams of becoming an author someday, and I always find that when the narrator is a writer the story seems more real. Cassandra is absolutely charming, as well as all the other characters, and seems almost ethereal. She loves Austen and Bronte but also disdains the type of “novel with a brick-wall happy ending–I mean the kind of ending when you never think any more about the characters…” That and the quote above really sum up the book for me. Days later I’ve still been thinking about the book, and as I write this review all my various emotions about it come back to me. It’s a story of family, of the meaning of happiness, of first love and of growing up. I can’t bear to think of leaving the characters behind; in my mind I make up stories for what happens later in their lives.

I don’t really want to talk too much about the book, because it’s better to go into it fresh and discover the magic for yourself. While reading I was torn between reading quickly to find out what happened next, and slowly to savor each delightful line. I’ll have to get a copy of my own so when I reread it I can mark all the good quotes.

I do wonder if Godsend Castle–a house built onto the remnants of an ancient castle–was based on a real place. Dodie Smith describes its layout so well that I could clearly picture it in my mind. Does anyone know for sure? I’ll see what I can find on the internet.

Please go read this if you haven’t. There’s so much more I could say, but it seems best to sum it up by saying I love it, I love it, I love it.

Published in: on November 12, 2009 at 12:11 pm  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith: Utterly enchanting. […]

  2. […] I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith […]

  3. […] mother are more realistic. In a small, surprising way, Charles reminded me a bit of Cassandra from I Capture the Castle, simply because his way of life is changing beyond his control. Can you have a coming-of-age novel […]

  4. […] mentioned in previous posts that a good high school friend and I first bonded over books our freshman year, and The Eyre Affair […]

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