I Capture the Castle

( 102 )

Overview

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 ...

See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (10) from $2.33   
  • New (1) from $92.04   
  • Used (9) from $2.33   
Close
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
$92.04
Seller since 2008

Feedback rating:

(191)

Condition:

New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

New
0312993021 New. Looks like an interesting title!

Ships from: Naperville, IL

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Close
Sort by
I Capture the Castle

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$9.99
BN.com price
This digital version does not exactly match the physical book displayed here.
Marketplace
BN.com

All Available Formats & Editions

Overview

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.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Cassandra Mortmain captures the castle not with trebuchet or battering ram but with her pen. At a low point in the Mortmains' life in their castle, 17-year-old Cassandra begins a journal vividly describing her family's unusual life and her feelings about growing up. She explains how the family discovered their castle home back when they were wealthy and how their wealth and resources dwindled, forcing the Mortmains to sell off all their possessions of value. They become expert at making do with very little but are beginning to tire of the lack of food and other basics. As the journal begins, Cassandra's sister, Rose, half-jokingly invokes a spell to change their fortunes. Shortly afterward a series of events dramatically changes their lives. As in all good stories, there are ups and downs, disappointments and failures, along with the happy incidents. And as we know it will, the story ends on an optimistic note. The book, first published in 1948, was made into a play in 1954 and a movie in July 2003. This is the first novel of the author, born in 1896. She was one of the most successful female dramatists of her time. She is also author of 101 Dalmatians. I read this book last year and liked so much that I was happy to read every word again before I wrote this review. 2003 (orig. 1948), St. Martin's Press,
— Janet Crane Barley
From the Publisher
"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

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312993023
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/14/2003
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 346
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Dodie Smith

Dorothy Gladys "Dodie" Smith, born in 1896 in Lancashire, England, was one of the most successful female dramatists of her generation. She wrote Autumn, Crocus, and Dear Octopus, among other plays. I Capture the Castle, her first novel, was written in the 1940s while she was living in America. An immediate success, it marked her crossover from playwright to novelist, and was produced as a play in 1954. Smith also wrote the novels The Town in Bloom, It Ends with Revelations, A Tale of Two Families, and The Girl in the Candle-Lit Bath, but she is best known today as the author of two highly popular stories for young readers: The Hundred and One Dalmatians and The Starlight Barking. She died in 1990.

Biography

Before Dodie Smith died in 1990, she asked the novelist Julian Barnes to be her literary executor. As Barnes later told The Guardian, "She said she didn't think I'd have much to do as her literary executor -- in the last years of her life she was only earning around £12,000 from her books -- but since her death her career has revived in a spectacular way."

Indeed it has. Smith was once best known in the United States for her children's book The Hundred and One Dalmatians, which inspired an animated film from Disney -- and, later, the live-action movie starring Glenn Close. Her other major work, the 1948 novel I Capture the Castle, was out of print here for many years (though it has always had a following in Britain). But with the book's 1998 reissue, and the 2003 release of a film version from BBC Films, modern readers are rediscovering Dodie Smith.

As a young woman, Smith's first ambition was to be an actress, and she enrolled at the Academy of Dramatic Art (later the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) with hopes of going on the stage. But at five feet tall, she was "too short and not attractive enough," in her own words, so she gave up acting and took a job at Heal's in London, where she became the store's toy buyer. She still loved the theater, however, and in 1929 she wrote and sold a very successful play, Autumn Crocus. Smith followed it with several more hit plays, including Dear Octopus, which starred John Gielgud.

During World War II, Smith and her pacifist husband, Alec Beesley, moved to America to avoid the British draft. She wrote screenplays for Paramount and formed "great friendships" with other writers, including Christopher Isherwood. Although Smith missed her home, she and Beesley stayed in America for many years after the war ended -- they didn't want to put their Dalmatian dogs through the six months' quarantine that was then required to bring pets into England.

Homesickness helped inspire Smith's first novel, I Capture the Castle, which evokes a peculiarly English version of genteel poverty. The 17-year-old narrator and her family, who live in a dilapidated house built onto a ruined castle, belong to "that odd class of intelligent and cultured people who are also unskilled and unemployable," as Salon writer Charles Taylor put it. From its much-quoted opening sentence ("I write this sitting in the kitchen sink") to its bittersweet ending, Smith's witty coming-of-age tale has captivated adolescent and adult readers alike. Writers from J. K. Rowling and Susan Isaacs to Armistead Maupin and Erica Jong have praised it for the merits Penelope Lively summed up as "a good story, flourishing characters, and the most persuasive narrative voice."

Smith's other well-known work, The Hundred and One Dalmatians, was published in 1958 and is now considered a classic work of children's literature, though not all fans of Disney's 101 Dalmatians realize that the movie was based on a book. (Smith's sequel to Dalmatians, a fantasy titled The Starlight Barking, bears no resemblance to the Disney film sequel 102 Dalmatians). Towards the end of her life, Smith produced four volumes of autobiography: Look Back with Love: A Manchester Childhood, Look Back with Mixed Feelings, Look Back with Astonishment and Look Back with Gratitude.

A few of Smith's plays are still produced occasionally, but she remains best known for I Capture the Castle and The Hundred and One Dalmatians. To Smith's fans, this is no small accomplishment -- as Sue Summers pointed out in The Guardian, "Two prose classics in one lifetime is more than most writers achieve."

Good To Know

Though Smith's books have a cozy, old-fashioned charm, Smith herself was a bit of an iconoclast. After several youthful love affairs, she fell in love with a co-worker, Alec Beesley. For the first few years of their relationship, they lived in separate London flats but shared a weekend cottage in the country. After they married and moved into one house, Smith attributed their years of happy domestic life to their habit of keeping separate bedrooms.

Pongo, the canine hero of The Hundred and One Dalmatians, was named after the first of Smith's own much-loved Dalmatians. Smith said she began to get ideas for the story after a friend joked that a Dalmatian would make a good fur coat.

Disney once planned to film I Capture the Castle as a vehicle for child star Hayley Mills, but script problems kept the movie out of production. Years later, Smith's estate got the movie rights back from Disney in exchange for permission to make a live-action version of 101 Dalmatians.

Read More Show Less
    1. Also Known As:
      Dorothy Gladys Smith (full name); C. L. Anthony
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 3, 1896
    2. Place of Birth:
      Whitefield, Lancashire, England
    1. Date of Death:
      November 24, 1990
    2. Place of Death:
      Uttlesford, Essex, England

First Chapter

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.

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

Our Book Club Recommendation
Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle is a fascinating lost treasure of literature, a charming comic novel by the author best known for The Hundred and One Dalmatians. I Capture the Castle shares the distinctly English charms of Smith's spotted-dog story. But this often tongue-in-cheek romance features more than just a picturesque setting and a cast of appropriately colorful characters. Reading groups will find I Capture the Castle to be an insightful coming-of-age tale, as well as an appealingly eccentric slice of English life in the 1930s -- in the end, it's a small masterpiece that defies classification.

As narrator, Cassandra Mortmain provides a memorable portrait of her lovable, impoverished, and sometimes infuriating family, who live in a run-down castle in the Suffolk countryside. Readers will note the way that competition between the wise-beyond-her-years Cassandra and her older sister, Rose -- the "pretty one" in the family -- is closely connected to the sisters' love for one other. The difficulties come to a head, naturally, as the arrival of wealthy young men in the neighborhood raises the possibility of romantic developments. On this level, readers will be likely to spot the influence of books like Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility; the ways in which Smith both draws on and departs from her literary predecessors are sure to inspire lively conversations.

Although the story of Cassandra and Rose's complicated entanglement with Simon and Neil Cotton becomes the central story of the book, readers will also note how much this is a novel about writing. Cassandra's desire to become a writer (and her uncertain sense of what that will mean for her) is paralleled by the case of her father, a once-famous experimental novelist now bedeviled by writer's block. As she records her evolving feelings toward Simon in her journal, she discovers that the "plot" of her life story continually diverges from the fairy-tale setting that life in a ruined castle would seem to dictate. Similarly, her father's return to work as a writer comes through a means that no one expects, leading his family to erroneous conclusions. Throughout, themes of how writing relates to changes in the self -- and particularly to Cassandra's moving from childhood to womanhood -- provide rich fodder for readers to discuss.

This is also, in the end, a novel about how we see the world. Much of the book finds Cassandra balanced between anxiety for her family's financial situation in light of her father's inability to work, and her own surprising sensation of delight in her comically beleaguered life: "I think it worthy of note that I never felt happier in my life," she writes early on, sitting with her feet in the kitchen sink. Although the much more unsettling emotions of romantic love, jealousy, and disappointment come along to shake up Cassandra's native contentedness, I Capture the Castle offers a powerful suggestion that happiness has less to do with the fulfillment of our desires than with seeing all the moments along the way. (Bill Tipper)

Discussion Questions from the Publisher
1. I Capture the Castle was first published in 1948. How might readers have responded differently to the novel at that time? How might their responses have been the same? Why does the novel continue to appeal to readers today as it did in 1948?

2. I Capture the Castle is told through Cassandra's entries in her journals, an exercise she has undertaken in order to teach herself how to write. Why do you think Dodie Smith chose the form of the diary to tell the story of Cassandra and the Mortmain family?

3. Mortmain's celebrated novel is described throughout I Capture the Castle as a literary breakthrough, a predecessor to James Joyce's work, and meriting the analysis of famous literary critics. Yet beyond a few spare descriptions, Smith tells us little about the actual story. What do you imagine Jacob Wrestling to be about?

4. A voracious reader, Cassandra compares her situation to that of the Bennets in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. How would you compare the situation of the Mortmain sisters to that of the Bennet sisters?

5. Why does Mortmain encourage Cassandra to be "brisk" with Stephen? What does I Capture the Castle say about class in mid-twentieth-century England?

6. What is the meaning of the book's title?

7. Cassandra is fascinated by the Cottons and their American mannerisms, traditions and expressions, just as the Cottons are fascinated by the Mortmains and their English mannerisms, traditions and expressions. What does I Capture the Castle say about English preconceptions of Americans and America and vice versa?

8. How does I Capture the Castle reflect society's changing views toward women duringthe first half of the century? How do the women in the novel view the roles and opportunities open to them both in the family and in the world at large differently? Consider Cassandra, Rose, Topaz, Mrs. Cotton, and Mrs. Fox-Cotton.

9. Over the course of the novel, Cassandra comes to seem less a child "with a little green hand" and more a young woman. How is I Capture the Castle a story of Cassandra's coming of age?
About 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 Dalmatians (Heinemann, 1956) and The Starlight Barking (Heinemann, 1967; Simon & Schuster, 1968. The Hundred and One Dalmatians was inspired by Dodie's own Dalmatian 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.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 102 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(65)

4 Star

(25)

3 Star

(8)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(2)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 102 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2009

    One of my new favorites

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2008

    A reviewer

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2005

    A Delightful, Witty Novel

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2004

    Superb

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2002

    Good but could be better

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 8, 2012

    Brilliant. Funny. Warm-hearted. I read this in my thirties when

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 14, 2012

    Warm, wise and witty, a lovely (and quite funny) story of young

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 14, 2012

    If you liked 'Anne of Green Gables', you'll love 'I Captured the

    If you liked 'Anne of Green Gables', you'll love 'I Captured the Castle'!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 2, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Cute, old-fashioned romance

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 27, 2011

    Captured my heart

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended

    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!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 3, 2011

    Never fails to capture me...

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 3, 2011

    Just as good as the movie... if not better!

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 13, 2010

    Good narrator, iffy plot

    I enjoyed Cassandra's voice as narrator, but the book totally lost steam and focus in the second half, and the plot seemed really contrived, even as our narrator kept trying to convice us and herself it was real. Many of the relationships felt very forced, and it seemed as though Cassandra herself should not have felt as she did and that no one really came across as true to himself/herself, or that any of the characters really knew themselves, I suppose.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 8, 2010

    Delightful

    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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 20, 2010

    A Wonderful Find

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 30, 2010

    Love.

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Review of I Capture the Castle

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2009

    Wished it had a better ending...

    I rellay wanted to love this book, and I did enjoy it but I didn't like the ending. I prefer a definative ending. This one dissappointed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2009

    Very Cute coming of age 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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 102 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)