Janet Crane Barley
I Capture the Castleby Dodie Smith
Lovingly passed down from generation to generation and long unavailable in American stores, I Capture the Castle has become one of the most requested items of used book dealers. However,/i>
Dodie Smith's first novel transcends the oft-stodgy definition of "a classic" by being as brightly witty and adventuresome as it was when published nearly fifty years ago.
Lovingly passed down from generation to generation and long unavailable in American stores, I Capture the Castle has become one of the most requested items of used book dealers. However, in the author's native England, the novel has never been out of print.
I Capture the Castle tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over a six-month period, first in a sixpenny book, then in a shilling book, and, finally, in a splendid two-guinea book, to hone her writing skills. And it is within these pages that she candidly chronicles her encounters with the estate's new, young, and handsome American landlords, the effects of her sister Rose's marital ambitions, her writer's-blocked father's anguished and ultimately renewed creativity, and her own hopeless, first descent into love.
By the time she pens her final entry, she has "captured the castle"--and the heart of the reader--in one of literature's most enchanting entertainments.
Janet Crane Barley
“This book has one of the most charismatic narrators I've ever met. Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain captures the castle in her insightful, witty journal entries.” Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling
“What a lovely book is I Capture the Castle. It's as fresh as if it were written this morning, and as classic as Jane Austen. I'm very happy to have met it.” Donald E. Westlake
“A delicious, compulsively readable novel about young love and its vicissitudes. What fun!” Erica Jong
“Dreamy and funny . . . an odd, shimmering timelessness clings to its pages. A thousand and one cheers for its reissue. A+” Entertainment Weekly
“I Capture the Castle is finally back in print. It should be welcomed with a bouquet of roses and a brass band. Ever since I was handed a tattered copy years ago with the recommendation 'You'll love it,' it has been one of my favorite novels.” Susan Isaacs
“It is an occasion worth celebrating when a sparkling novel, a work of wit, irony, and feeling is brought back into print after an absence of many years. So uncork the champagne for I Capture the Castle.” Los Angeles Times
- Samuel French Ltd
- Publication date:
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.24(d)
- Age Range:
- 12 Years
Read an Excerpt
I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining board, which I have padded with our dog's blanket and the tea cosy. I can't say that I am really comfortable, and there is a depressing smell of carbolic soap, but this is the only part of the kitchen where there is any daylight left. And I have found that sitting in a place where you have never sat before can be inspiring I wrote my very best poem while sitting on the hen house. Though even that isn't a very good poem. I have decided my poetry is so bad that I mustn't write any more of it.
Drips from the roof are plopping into the water butt by the back door. The view through the windows above the sink is excessively drear. Beyond the dank garden in the courtyard are the ruined walls on the edge of the moat. Beyond the moat, the boggy ploughed fields stretch to the leaden sky. I tell myself that all the rain we have had lately is good for nature, and that at any moment spring will surge on us. I try to see leaves on the trees and the courtyard filled with sunlight. Unfortunately, the more my mind's eye sees green and gold, the more drained of all colour does the twilight seem.
It is comforting to look away from the windows and towards the kitchen fire, near which my sister Rose is ironing though she obviously can't see properly, and it will be a pity if she scorches her only nightgown. (I have two, but one is minus its behind.) Rose looks particularly fetching by firelight because she is a pinkish person; her skin has a pink glow and her hair is pinkish gold, very light and feathery. Although I am rather used to her I know she is a beauty. She is nearly twenty one and very bitter with life. I am seventeen, look younger, feel older. I am no beauty but have a neatish face.
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. I must admit that our home is an unreasonable place to live in. Yet I love it. The house itself was built in the time of Charles II, but it was grafted on to a fourteenth century castle that had been damaged by Cromwell. The whole of our east wall was part of the castle; there are two round towers in it. The gatehouse is intact and a stretch of the old walls at their full height joins it to the house. And Belmotte Tower, all that remains of an even older castle, still stands on its mound close by. But I won't attempt to describe our peculiar home fully until I can see more time ahead of me than I do now.
I am writing this journal partly to practise my newly acquired speed writing and partly to teach myself how to write a novel I intend to capture all our characters and put in conversations. It ought to be good for my style to dash along without much thought, as up to now my stories have been very stiff and self conscious. The only time father obliged me by reading one of them, he said I combined stateliness with a desperate effort to be funny. He told me to relax and let the words flow out of me.
I wish I knew of a way to make words flow out of father. Years and years ago, he wrote a very unusual book called Jacob Wrestling, a mixture of fiction, philosophy and poetry. It had a great success, particularly in America, where he made a lot of money by lecturing on it, and he seemed likely to become a very important writer indeed. But he stopped writing. Mother believed this was due to something that happened when I was about five.
We were living in a small house by the sea at the time. Father had just joined us after his second American lecture tour. One afternoon when we were having tea in the garden, he had the misfortune to lose his temper with mother very noisily just as he was about to cut a piece of cake. He brandished the cake knife at her so menacingly that an officious neighbour jumped the garden fence to intervene and got himself knocked down. Father explained in court that killing a woman with our silver cake knife would be a long, weary business entailing sawing her to death, and he was completely exonerated of any intention of slaying mother. The whole case seems to have been quite ludicrous, with everyone but the neighbour being very funny. But father made the mistake of being funnier than the judge and, as there was no doubt whatever that he had seriously damaged the neighbour, he was sent to prison for three months.
When he came out he was as nice a man as ever nicer, because his temper was so much better. Apart from that, he didn't seem to me to be changed at all. But Rose remembers that he had already begun to get unsociable it was then that he took a forty years' lease of the castle, which is an admirable place to be unsociable in. Once we were settled here he was supposed to begin a new book. But time went on without anything happening and at last we realized that he had given up even trying to write for years now, he has refused to discuss the possibility. Most of his life is spent in the gatehouse room, which is icy cold in winter as there is no fireplace; he just huddles over an oil stove. As far as we know, he does nothing but read detective novels from the village library. Miss Marcy, the librarian and schoolmistress, brings them to him. She admires him greatly and says "the iron has entered into his soul."
Personally, I can't see how the iron could get very far into a man's soul during only three months in jail anyway, not if the man had as much vitality as father had; and he seemed to have plenty of it left when they let him out. But it has gone now; and his unsociability has grown almost into a disease I often think he would prefer not even to meet his own household. All his natural gaiety has vanished. At times he puts on a false cheerfulness that embarrasses me, but usually he is either morose or irritable I think I should prefer it if he lost his temper as he used to. Oh, poor father, he really is very pathetic. But he might at ] east do a little work in the garden. I am aware that this isn't a fair portrait of him. I must capture him later.
Mother died eight years ago, from perfectly natural causes. I think she must have been a shadowy person, because I have only the vaguest memory of her and I have an excellent memory for most things. (I can remember the cake knife incident perfectly I hit the fallen neighbour with my little wooden spade. Father always said this got him an extra month.)
Three years ago (or is it four? I know father's one spasm of sociability was in 1931) a stepmother was presented to us. We were surprised. She is a famous artists' model who claims to have been christened Topaz even if this is true there is no law to make a woman stick to a name like that. She is very beautiful, with masses of hair so fair that it is almost white, and a quite extraordinary pallor.
She uses no make up, not even powder. There are two paintings of her in the Tate Gallery: one by Macmorris, called "Topaz in Jade", in which she wears a magnificent jade necklace; and one by H. J. Allardy which shows her nude on an old horsehair covered sofa that she says was very prickly. This is called "Composition"; but as Allardy has painted her even paler than she is, "Decomposition" would suit it better.
Actually, there is nothing unhealthy about Topaz's pallor; it simply makes her look as if she belonged to some new race. She has a very deep voice that is, she puts one on; it is part of an arty pose, which includes painting and lute playing. But her kindness is perfectly genuine and so is her cooking. I am very, very fond of her it is nice to have written that just as she appears on the kitchen stairs. She is wearing her ancient orange tea gown. Her pale, straight hair is flowing down her back to her waist. She paused on the top step and said "Ah, girls…" with three velvety inflections on each word.
Now she is sitting on the steel trivet, raking the fire. The pink light makes her look more ordinary, but very pretty. She is twenty nine and had two husbands before father (she will never tell us very much about them), but she still looks extraordinarily young. Perhaps that is because her expression is so blank.
The kitchen looks very beautiful now. The firelight glows steadily through the bars and through the round hole in the top of the range where the lid has been left off. It turns the whitewashed walls rosy; even the dark beams in the roof are a dusky gold. The highest beam is over thirty feet from the ground. Rose and Topaz are two tiny figures in a great glowing cave.
Now Rose is sitting on the fender, waiting for her iron to heat. She is staring at Topaz with a discontented expression. I can often tell what Rose is thinking and I would take a bet that she is envying the orange tea gown and hating her own skimpy old blouse and skirt. Poor Rose hates most things she has and envies most things she hasn't. I really am just as discontented, but I don't seem to notice it so much. I feel quite unreasonably happy this minute, watching them both; knowing I can go and join them in the warmth, yet staying here in the cold.
Oh, dear, there has just been a slight scene! Rose asked Topaz to go to London and earn some money. Topaz replied that she didn't think it was worth while, because it costs so much to live there. It is true that she can never save more than will buy us a few presents she is very generous.
"And two of the men I sit for are abroad," she went on, "and I don't like working for Macmorris."
"Why not?" asked Rose. "He pays better than the others, doesn't he?"
"So he ought, considering how rich he is," said Topaz. "But I dislike sitting for him because he only paints my head. Your father says that the men who paint me nude paint my body and think of their job, but that Macmorris paints my head and thinks of my body. And it's perfectly true. I've had more trouble with him than I should care to let your father know."
Rose said: "I should have thought it was worth while to have a little trouble in order to earn some real money."
"Then you have the trouble, dear," said Topaz.
This must have been very annoying to Rose, considering that she never has the slightest chance of that sort of trouble. She suddenly flung back her head dramatically and said: "I'm perfectly willing to. It may interest you both to know that for some time now, I've been considering selling myself. If necessary, I shall go on the streets."
I told her she couldn't go on the streets in the depths of Suffolk.
"But if Topaz will kindly lend me the fare to London and give me a few hints
Topaz said she had never been on the streets and rather regretted it, "because one must sink to the depths in order to rise to the heights," which is the kind of Topazism it requires much affection to tolerate.
"And anyway," she told Rose, "you're the last girl to lead a hardworking, immoral life. If you're really taken with the idea of selling yourself, you'd better choose a wealthy man and marry him respectably."
This idea has, of course, occurred to Rose, but she has always hoped that the man would be handsome, romantic and lovable into the bargain. I suppose it was her sheer despair of ever meeting any marriageable men at all, even hideous, poverty stricken ones, that made her suddenly burst into tears. As she only cries about once a year I really ought to have gone over and comforted her, but I wanted to set it all down here. I begin to see that writers are liable to become callous.
Anyway, Topaz did the comforting far better than I could have done, as I am never disposed to clasp people to my bosom. She was most maternal, letting Rose weep all over the orange velvet tea gown, which has suffered many things in its time. Rose will be furious with herself later on, because she has an unkind tendency to despise Topaz; but for the moment they are most amicable. Rose is now putting away her ironing, gulping a little, and Topaz is laying the table for tea while outlining impracticable plans for making money such as giving a lute concert in the village or buying a pig in installments.
I joined in while resting my hand, but said nothing of supreme importance.
It is raining again. Stephen is coming across the courtyard. He has lived with us ever since he was a little boy his mother used to be our maid, in the days when we could still afford one, and when she died he had nowhere to go. He grows vegetables for us and looks after the hens and does a thousand odd jobs I can't think how we should get on without him. He is eighteen now, very fair and noble looking but his expression is just a fraction daft. He has always been rather devoted to me; father calls him my swain. He is rather how I imagine Silvius in As You Like It - but I am nothing like Phoebe.
Stephen has come in now. The first thing he did was to light a candle and stick it on the window ledge beside me, saying:
"You're spoiling your eyes, Miss Cassandra."
Then he dropped a tightly folded bit of paper on this journal. My heart sank, because I knew it would contain a poem; I suppose he has been working on it in the barn. It is written in his careful, rather beautiful script. The heading is, "'To Miss Cassandra' by Stephen Colly." It is a charming poem by Robert Herrick.
What am I to do about Stephen? Father says the desire for self-expression is pathetic, but I really think Stephen's main desire is just to please me; he knows I set store by poetry. I ought to tell him that I know he merely copies the poems out he has been doing it all winter, every week or so but I can't find the heart to hurt him. Perhaps when the spring comes I can take him for a walk and break it to him in some encouraging way. This time I have got out of saying my usual hypocritical words of praise by smiling approval at him across the kitchen. Now he is pumping water up into the cistern, looking very happy.
The well is below the kitchen floor and has been there since the earliest days of the castle; it has been supplying water for six hundred years and is said never to have run dry. Of course, there must have been many pumps. The present one arrived when the Victorian hot-water system (alleged) was put in.
Interruptions keep occurring. Topaz has just filled the kettle, splashing my legs, and my brother Thomas has returned from school in our nearest town, King's Crypt. He is a cumbersome lad of fifteen with hair that grows in tufts, so that parting it is difficult. It is the same mousey colour as mine; but mine is meek.
When Thomas came in, I suddenly remembered myself coming back from school, day after day, up to a few months ago. In one flash I relived the ten mile crawl in the jerky little train and then the five miles on a bicycle from Scoatney station how I used to hate that in the winter! Yet in some ways I should like to be back at school; for one thing, the daughter of the manager at the cinema went there, and she got me in to the pictures free now and then. I miss that greatly. And I rather miss school itself it was a surprisingly good one for such a quiet little country town. I had a scholarship, just as Thomas has at his school; we are tolerably bright.
The rain is driving hard against the window now. My candle makes it seem quite dark outside. And the far side of the kitchen is dimmer now that the kettle is on the round hole in the top of the range. The girls are sitting on the floor making toast through the bars. There is a bright edge to each head, where the firelight shines through their hair.
Stephen has finished pumping and is stoking the copper it is a great, old fashioned brick one which helps to keep the kitchen warm and gives us extra hot water. With the copper lit as well as the range, the kitchen is much the warmest place in the house; that is why we sit in it so much. But even in summer we have our meals here, because the dining room furniture was sold over a year ago.
Goodness, Topaz is actually putting on eggs to boil! No one told me the hens had yielded to prayer. Oh, excellent hens! I was only expecting bread and margarine for tea, and I don't get as used to margarine as I could wish. I thank heaven there is no cheaper form of bread than bread.
How odd it is to remember that "tea" once meant afternoon tea to us little cakes and thin bread and butter in the drawing room. Now it is as solid a meal as we can scrape together, as it has to last us until breakfast. We have it after Thomas gets back from school.
Stephen is lighting the lamp. In a second now, the rosy glow will have gone from the kitchen. But lamplight is beautiful, too.
The lamp is lit. And as Stephen carried it to the table, my father came out on the staircase. His old plaid travelling rug was wrapped round his shoulders he had come from the gatehouse along the top of the castle walls. He murmured: "Tea, tea has Miss Marcy come with the library books yet?" (She hasn't.) Then he said his hands were quite numb; not complainingly, more in a tone of faint surprise though I find it hard to believe that anyone living at the castle in winter can be surprised at any part of themselves being numb. And as he came downstairs shaking the rain off his hair, I suddenly felt so fond of him. I fear I don't feel that very often.
He is still a splendid looking man, though his fine features are getting a bit lost in fat and his colouring is fading. It used to be as bright as Rose's.
Now he is chatting to Topaz. I regret to note that he is in his falsely cheerful mood though I think poor Topaz is grateful for even false cheerfulness from him these days. She adores him, and he seems to take so little interest in her.
I shall have to get off the draining board Topaz wants the tea-cosy and our dog, Heloise, has come in and discovered I have borrowed her blanket. She is a bull terrier, snowy white except where her fondant pink skin shows through her short hair. All right, Heloise darling, you shall have your blanket. She gazes at me with love, reproach, confidence and humour how can she express so much just with two rather small slanting eyes?
I finish this entry sitting on the stairs. I think it worthy of note that I never felt happier in my life despite sorrow for father, pity for Rose, embarrassment about Stephen's poetry and no justification for hope as regards our family's general outlook. Perhaps it is because I have satisfied my creative urge; or it may be due to the thought of eggs for tea.
Meet the Author
Dorothy Gladys "Dodie" Smith, was born in 1896 in Lancashire, England, and she was one of the most successful female dramatists of her generation. She wrote "Autumn", "Crocus", and "Dear Octopus", among other plays, but her first novel, I Capture the Castle (Little Brown, 1948) was written when she lived in America during the '40s and marked her crossover debut from playwright to novelist. the novel became an immediate success and was produced as a play in 1954. Her other novels were The Town in Bloom, It Ends with Revelations, A Tale of Two Families, and The Girl in the Candle-Lit Bath. Today, however, she is best known for her stories for young readers, The Hundred and One Dalmations (Heinemann, 1956) and The Starlight Barking (Heinemann, 1967; Simon & Schuster, 1968). The Hundred and One Dalmations was inspired by Dodie's own Dalmation named Pongo, and became the basis of two Disney films. The Starlight Barking is also available in paperback from St. Martin's press. Dodie Smith died in 1990.
- Date of Birth:
- May 3, 1896
- Date of Death:
- November 24, 1990
- Place of Birth:
- Whitefield, Lancashire, England
- Place of Death:
- Uttlesford, Essex, England
- Academy of Dramatic Art, 1914
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I Capture the Castle has been sitting on my to-read pile for years…ever since my aunt gave me a copy and told me I’d love it. She was right! It is a sweet (and a little silly) coming-of-age story about a girl, Cassandra, who lives in poverty in a dilapidated castle with her eccentric family. She wants to live in a 50/50 mix of a Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte novel, so you can guess how the story progresses when a rich family moves in nearby! I’m happy that I took time to read this gem.
I bought an old copy of this book at an Estate sale in my town. This book just made me smile the whole time I was reading. I wanted to live in the castle and you can't help but love all the quirkiness of this family. The characters in this book are unforgetable and I am surprised that you don't hear more about this book. I highly recommend this book for a large age range. young adults and up.
I can't believe I never came across this book until now. It was unbelieveably good. I'm sure all Jane Austen fans will approve, since it reminds me of Pride and Prejudice, with a twist. Cassandra and her family were truly original, livng in their old, run-down castle. Plus her narration, written as a series of journal entries, was smart, funny and sometimes tragic. A perfect account of a young girl's first experience with love.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith is an interesting book with multiple layers that can be appreciated by readers aged 13 and up. The book takes place in the 1930s, and it tells the story of a family living in a crumbling castle in England. The dad is a well-known author who hasn't written since his first book was released to critical acclaim in both England and the U.S. The narrator is Cassandra, the 17-year-old daughter. Rose, 21, Thomas, 15 and stepmother Topaz, completes the family. With no income coming in, the family has gradually sold off all its furniture and other valuables until they are on the brink of crisis. When two young men from America inherit the castle next door, it's no surprise that the family sees the men as their salvation in more ways than one. The characters are all very complex, and as Cassandra writes in her journal, the reader watches them grow in many different ways. We see Cassandra grow from childhood to adulthood and take on more responsibilities. Some of the many things that can be discussed in a book club after reading this book: the changing role of women in society, love and marriage, the role of religion in our lives, money, children and their parents I served tea sandwiches and scones for dinner to my mother-daughter book club, and everyone seemed to think it was a fun tie-in to the book. We talked about our favorite scenes in the book, and all twelve of us had a different one. I think that's amazing depth for one book. As we talked about what we liked about the characters, I also felt like I learned a lot more about each one. The only criticism is that the book was a little wordy, and some people had a hard time getting into it. It also uses fairly sophisticated, complex language. With that in mind, I still highly recommend it.
Every time I picked up this novel, I was wrapped up in the eccentric and entertaining world of Cassandra Mortmain's family, and it was difficult to leave it. Cassandra is a clever and witty teenage girl with realistic problems which I could certainly relate to and believe. I felt like Cassandra was my best friend, and I was reading a long, beautifully written note from her. Her family members give the novel a unique flavor. Mr. Mortmain is especially fascinating to read about. At first glance, this novel is a simple coming-of-age tale about first love. Yet after looking a little deeper, it is really about writing, a topic which I found extremely fun to explore. I recommend this novel to writers, teenagers, and anyone who just wants a fun, special read.
I first read this book as a bored undergraduate (my college hall library had a copy which I started reading in the absence of anything more suitable)in the late 1960s, and have always remembered it as one of the books that made a significant impression on me. So much so that I recently bought my own copy to read and re-read (which I have!). The fact that a book about the hopes and fears of an adolescent girl in the late 1940s can fascinate a bored male student normally more interested in beer, ciggies and girls in kinky boots should give you some idea of the gripping power of this tour-de-force of imagination and fine detail.
Brilliant. Funny. Warm-hearted. I read this in my thirties when it was first rereleased about twelve years ago. I couldn't believe every librarian I'd known throughout my life hadn't tried to get me to read it alongside The Catcher In The Rye. It's that good.
Warm, wise and witty, a lovely (and quite funny) story of young love in a crumbling English castle. The voice is delightful and although I was, as I began reading, a bit concerned about the diary-entry structure, I needn't have been. Suits perfectly. And it made me want to drink lots of tea, which is always a bonus. Enjoy.
If you liked 'Anne of Green Gables', you'll love 'I Captured the Castle'!
This period piece was lovely and refreshing and took me away the entire time I was reading it! My book group was divided because they thought women wouldn't act like this now...and I pointed out that this book was not written "Now". Women's roles have changed over the past 70 years and it's easy to take for granted that we've always been this way. If you would enjoy escaping the everyday in the here and now, this is a wonderful way to do it! Charming!!!
I first read this book 13 years ago. I was 17. At the time I really connected with Cassandra and I could imagine being there and being her friend. Now, after having read the book many times over the years, I have a connection to each character for different reasons. The way Smith writes these characters- I feel like I really know them. They make me smile, laugh, and cry. I love Cassandra's honesty and the way she loves her family and friends. I don't have anything bad to say about I Capture the Castle. I will probably read it a dozen more times. I just wish it was available for Nook.
The movie inspired me to pick up the book, and I couldn't be happier that I did. I absolutely loved this book! After what seemed like ages of picking it up and putting it down (due to required reading for school); I finally did it! Cassandra is the perfect narrator... she's funny, intelligent, and very insightful. I love how she tells things as they are, and provides a very mature perspective for her age. All of the characters seem remind me of myself and people I know, and their eccentricities make them real to the reader. A truly wonderful read.
I made the mistake of watching the movie first - I`d never even heard of the book before, which is shameful. I did not like the movie at all, actually I couldn`t even finish it - despite the excellent cast, it did not pull together. But the book is a completely different matter. It all lies in the narrator`s voice, which is fresh, delighful, witty and funny. It really is a coming of age novel. Some have compared it to Pride and Prejudice - well, I didn`t see that. For one, this book is not romantic at all - despite the love stories and that`s why it hits you as real, I guess. In any case, read it and see for yourself. I enjoyed it, I think it well written and sometimes extremely funny!
I happened upon this book recently and am so glad I did. It is such a sweet, enchanting little story with a lovable narrator. It is a great read without being dark or depressing, as so many good adult books can be. Highly recommended.
I was given this book by a friend last year. Since then, I have bought it for 5 other people! The characters are rich and witty. There is something very special about this book.
What a fantastic book. I cannot believe I've never heard of this book until recently. It has every element of what I love in a book. The quirky, humorous writing, the interesting characters, the fantastic descriptions and best of all.. the promise of an ending that can be unique and personal to every reader. It was NOT a book I could just breeze through. I chewed and worked my way through this book at a pace much slower than other novels I'm able to read that are about the same length. Fantastic book.
I loved reading this book. It took a few chapters to get into it, but then you were hooked! The characters were developed in such a way you thought they were getting to know your good friends. I highly recommend reading this book!
This novel had one of the most charismatic, insightful narrators I've ever met. The writing itself is done brilliantly, with a sense of humor to match. This novel is a modern classic that deserves to be on the same shelf of Austen and Bronte, who the characters so try to emulate.
I think this book was worthy of some praise but not necissarily the best. The characters are pretty good but I think it would be better if it was not written in diary format. But I do have to admit that it did get incredibly boring and only lovers of reading can see the point in this story. I enjoyed reading it but I couldn't read it more that once.
One of my favorite books of all time.
Dodie Smith’s novel I Capture the Castle is a journey through the mind of a young writer as she attempts to chronicle her daily life. Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain has recently learned to speed-write, and she decides to work on her writing skills by describing the actions and conversations of those around her. Cassandra lives in a fourteenth-century English castle with an interesting cast of characters: her beautiful older sister, Rose; her rather unsociable author father and his second wife, artist-model Topaz; Stephen, the garden boy; a cat and a bull terrier; and sometimes her brother Thomas when he is home from school. One fateful day they make the acquaintance of the Cotton family, including the two sons, and a web of tangled relationships ensues. While I definitely recommend this book to other readers, I would recommend it to older teenagers, mainly because it will resonate better with them. The writing is tame enough that younger teens could also read it, but most of the characters are adults or on the verge of adulthood. Older readers would take the most from it since they can not only relate, but they may also better pick up on and appreciate Cassandra’s sometimes subtle humor. Over the course of the novel, Cassandra undergoes a definite transformation from child to mature young adult, even though it’s only over the course of several months. I love that I could see into her mindset and read exactly what she was feeling when she thought out situations. Her thoughts flowed well and moved the book along very quickly. Cassandra’s narrative voice is wonderful. She is serious at times, but also very witty, which makes for an engaging read. It feels absolutely real, as though I’m reading someone’s actual journal. Sometimes I forget that I am reading a story and not a real-life account. Her emotions and the dialogue are so genuine, and they are spot-on for a seventeen-year-old girl in her situation. Cassandra has many wonderful insights on life, on topics ranging from writing to faith to matters of the heart. I personally have had some of the same thoughts as Cassandra, except Ms. Smith was able to put them into words. I Capture the Castle should be essential reading for aspiring writers, those looking for historical fiction or romance, or anyone who loves reading amazing classic books. Dodie Smith is an exceptional writer, and I Capture the Castle is a book that will never become obsolete. Review by Lauren W., age 17, Mensa in Georgia