One of the 20th Century's most beloved novels is still winning hearts!
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 six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the castle's walls, and her own 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.
“This book has one of the most charismatic narrators I've ever met.” J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series
Bonus: Reading Group Discussion Guide included in this edition
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.42(w) x 8.21(h) x 0.94(d)|
About the Author
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.
Date of Birth:May 3, 1896
Date of Death:November 24, 1990
Place of Birth:Whitefield, Lancashire, England
Place of Death:Uttlesford, Essex, England
Education:Academy of Dramatic Art, 1914
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.
Table of Contents
I. The Sixpenny Book,
II. The Shilling Book,
III. The Two-Guinea Book,
Reading Group Guide,
Also by Dodie Smith,
About the Author,
Reading Group Guide
I. THE SIXPENNY BOOK: March
Chapter I (pp. 3-11)
Who is narrating I Capture the Castle? What do we learn about this person at the outset? How is the story being told? Describe the form and tone of this novel.
Identify the novel's primary setting and each of its main characters.
On page 10, Cassandra remarks, "I thank heaven there is no cheaper form of bread than bread." What does this mean? What sort of family life is described in the opening chapter? What are the differences between this family's past and present situation?
How did this change come to pass? And, in spite of all this, why does Cassandra add, on page 11, "I think it worthy of note that I never felt happier in my life"?
Chapter II (pp. 12-25)
What do we learn about Cassandra's close ties to her sister Rose? What do they share or have in common, not just physically but emotionally and intellectually? And how are these girls different from one another?
Who is Miss Blossom? What makes her different from the other characters we have met? Is she really a "character" in the way all the others are? Explain.
Describe the character of Miss Marcy. What does she do for a living? What is her background? What is the nature of her relationship with the Mortmain family? How is she helpful to them, in general and in this chapter specifically?
Chapter III (pp. 26-38)
How did the Mortmain family acquire their castle?
On page 36, we learn that Mr. Mortmain's only remaining social companion is the Vicar. What is a vicar? Why do you suppose he is Mr. Mortmain's only friend? And why has Mr. Mortmain "dropped all his London friends" in the first place?
What did you learn about the history and design of medieval castles from this chapter? What is a "keep" (page 37)? Why did square castle towers give way to round ones?
Chapter IV (pp. 39-53)
Why do the hands and arms of Topaz, Rose, and Cassandra turn green?
How do Stephen and Cassandra feel about one another? How long have they known each other? Describe their relationship. How does it seem to be changing - or becoming more complicated - of late?
Think back to the scene involving the statue situated high above the fireplace in the kitchen. What sort of "deal" does Rose make with the statue? Why does she make such a bargain? What is she afraid of, and what does she hope to gain?
Chapter V (pp. 54-67)
Who are the Cottons of Scoatney Hall? How are Cassandra and her relatives, and we as readers, introduced to the Cotton brothers?
Why are the Mortmain and Cotton families so charmed by each other? What does each clan have that the other is keen on or fascinated by? What do the Cottons represent to the Mortmains, and what do the Mortmains mean to the Cottons?
On page 63, Cassandra admits: "I like seeing people when they can't see me. I have often looked at our family through lighted windows and they seem quite different, a bit the way rooms seen in looking-glasses do. I can't get the feeling into words - it slipped away when I tried to capture it." How are the ideas expressed in this quotation amplified by the novel as a whole?
II. THE SHILLING BOOK: April and May
Chapter VI (pp. 71-95)
What did Cassandra overhear at the close of the preceding chapter? Why are the Cotton brothers now no longer calling on the Mortmains? Who is responsible for this breakup, and why?
Why are Cassandra and Rose called to London? Why are they so conspicuous for the duration of their visit? What do they acquire in London? Is it a blessing or burden? Explain.
How does Rose come to be mistaken for a circus bear while coming home from London? Who finally comes to "save" her when she runs away from the stopped train, and what is the truth behind this bizarre and comical episode?
Chapter VII (pp. 96-107)
Describe Mrs. Cotton. What is her manner of speech, dress, and social formality? How does Cassandra perceive her? And how does she impress the other Mortmains?
Look again at the conversation on page 103 about being a gentleman. Cassandra's definition of a gentleman is very different from Stephen's; she even calls his notion "old-fashioned nonsense." Explain their opposing views, and how each view reflects the background, education, and sensibility of the one who holds it.
Reread the four "private thoughts" about Stephen that Cassandra lists in her journal near the end of this chapter. What do these newly "discovered" feelings for Stephen mean to her? Why does she conclude that she must "be brisk" with him from now on? What is she telling herself?
Chapter VIII (pp. 108-30)
Who is invited to the dinner party at Scoatney Hall? Who shows up later? What important scenes and conversations transpire at dinner and afterward?
Who are Aubrey and Leda Fox-Cotton? What does each of them do professionally? What does Cassandra think of them? Why is Aubrey so taken with Topaz, and Leda with Stephen?
On page 121, the characters have a discussion in the gallery in which they assign painters to one another. What ideas and impressions do the characters seem to be communicating about each other, and themselves, here? What kinds of portraits are referred to?
Chapter IX (pp. 131-57)
"Now that life has become so much more exciting," writes Cassandra on page 131, "I think of this journal as a story I am telling." How has her diary changed since we first began reading it? How has she herself changed?
On page 138, Cassandra writes: "Gradually I slid into imagining Rose married to Simon. . . ." Often we find our narrator describing her "imaginings" about herself and her family and friends; I Capture the Castle is rich with such diversions. On pages 106-7, for example, Cassandra is "feeling dizzy" as she daydreams about Stephen. Identify other instances wherein Cassandra lets her imagination wander, about anything or anyone. How do these thoughts affect the narrative of her diary? What would this book be like without such flights of fancy?
Near the middle of Chapter IX, Cassandra and Simon talk in some detail about her father and the famous book he wrote years ago. What is the name of this book? What else do we know about it? What have we learned of Mr. Mortmain up to this point - of his intelligence, behavior, personality, and ability as a writer? Why do you think he keeps making mysterious trips to London? And why does Simon find him interesting? Why does he often baffle Cassandra?
Chapter X (pp. 158-83)
Why is Topaz so upset when she learns that Mr. Mortmain invited the Cottons for dinner at the castle? How does she manage to arrange for a dinner party without furniture, silverware, and china? Why does so much of the menu consist of ham?
Why does Cassandra ask Neil to go swimming with her? Where do they swim? To what extent does Cassandra set up Simon's marriage proposal to Rose? Do you think the proposal would have occurred without Cassandra's arrangements? Explain.
When Cassandra tells Neil of the engagement of Simon and Rose, Neil is not only disappointed but very angry. Why? What does Neil mean by calling Rose a "golddigger"? Do you consider this criticism accurate or fair? Defend your answer.
III. THE TWO-GUINEA BOOK: June to October
Chapter XI (pp. 187-98)
What is special about Cassandra's new journal? How did she acquire it?
Why have Rose and Topaz gone to London? Who are they staying with, and where are they staying? What is a "trousseau" and why is Rose due to receive one?
Reread the long letter Rose sends Cassandra. Is Rose happy in London? What does she like about it? What does she mean by writing, "Darling Cassandra, I promise you shall never make any more longing cat noises once I am a married woman"? Why do you think Rose is focused on money and material possessions? Does Cassandra envy her sister? Explain why or why not.
Chapter XII (pp. 199-224)
Why is Midsummer Day so important to Cassandra? What does it mean to her personally and emotionally? Who does she wind up practicing her beloved "Midsummer rites" with? Why does this encounter turn out to be so special?
What is "the Shape" Cassandra describes seeing on a Midsummer night many years ago? How does Simon interpret this phenomenon? What do their interpretations of the Shape - Simon's versus Cassandra's - tell us about these two characters?
"I feel asleep happier than I had ever been in my life." What do you make of this last sentence of Chapter XII? Why does Cassandra feel this way? What has happened to her? Specify your answers with references from the novel.
Chapter XIII (pp. 225-57)
Why does Mr. Mortmain ask Cassandra if Rose is truly in love with Simon? How has Rose led him to doubt the sincerity of her feelings? And though she convinces her father that Rose is in love with Simon, is Cassandra herself convinced? Explore Cassandra's conflicting emotions in light of her own feelings for Simon.
Go back to the scene where Cassandra visits the Vicar. What do they talk about? How does he assist her, or is he even able to? What happens when, after this conversation, Cassandra sits alone in the church? The next day, Cassandra has an encounter with Miss Marcy. In what ways are these two women alike in their view of the world, and in what ways are they different? Why, finally, does Cassandra realize that her friend Miss Blossom is "gone for ever"?
What birthday presents does Cassandra receive from Stephen and Simon? Which gift does she prefer, and why? Why does she then ask Stephen to go for a walk? And why does she allow him to kiss her?
Chapter XIV (pp. 258-90)
Why has Cassandra decided to visit Rose in London? Why is she so unhappy when she goes dancing after dinner with Rose, Simon, and Neil? On page 271, Cassandra admits some things to herself about Simon and her feelings for him: "But I knew, as I sat there amusing him while the band played 'Lover,' that many things which had felt natural to me before I first heard it would never feel natural again. It wasn't only the black dress that had made me grow up." Discuss the realizations that Cassandra comes to at this part of story.
For what purpose has Stephen traveled with Cassandra to London? How does Leda Fox-Cotton treat both of these characters in Chapter XIV? Why does she treat them so differently?
What happens when Cassandra finally confronts Rose, after everyone else has gone to bed? Who, and what, are they arguing about? How do their perspectives on Rose's impending marriage differ-and how, if at all, are they similar?
Chapter XV (pp. 291-318)
Who is Thomas? Describe his duties, interests, and personality traits, as well as his role within the Mortmain household. What are Cassandra's impressions of him, and how do they change over the course of I Capture the Castle?
Explain the trick that Cassandra and Thomas pull on their father. Does this "experiment" seem justified to you, or is it cruel or unfair? Defend your answer.
On page 303, Cassandra and her father talk briefly about her late mother, Mr. Mortmain's first wife. What do we learn about this woman over the course of the novel? Describe Cassandra's thoughts and feelings about her. Why is it important that, for most of the narrative, Cassandra cannot fully remember her mother's face? What causes Cassandra to suddenly recollect that her mother had freckles?
Chapter XVI (pp. 319-43)
On page 322, we read: "'Give me the key,' Topaz whispered to Thomas. 'I want to face it alone.'" Why does Topaz insist on being the only one who rescues Mr. Mortmain?
Next, reread pages 273-4, where Topaz confides to Cassandra what her "job in life" is - and always has been. Which description, if you had to pick one, would you assign to Topaz: supportive or possessive? Explain your stance with specific citations from the novel. How does Cassandra regard her stepmother - as her father's muse, his boss, or otherwise? Explain.
Who winds up with whom at the end of this love story? Were you surprised by how it ended? Explain why or why not. And were you satisfied with the ending, or disappointed? Again, explain your answer.
Finally, this book, which was first published in 1948, is widely considered a classic of its kind. Would you agree? Explain your view.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
I¿ll be honest. When I first came across this book in Barnes and Noble a number of years ago, I dismissed it as something I wouldn¿t like (literally, I judged a book by its cover, shame on me). I re-discovered this book a few months ago, and now I¿m wondering why, oh why, didn¿t I read this book earlier.I Capture the Castle is the diary, kept over a six-month period, of seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain, who lives with her unconventional family in a decrepit, crumbling castle. She keeps the diary in order to strengthen her skills as an author. The novel is written not so much as a diary; rather Cassandra writes it very much as a story is written (aside from mentioning the month, she doesn¿t date her entries).Cassandra¿s strength lies in her recreation of her family members and the people in the small country village in which they live; even the dog has a personality. All of the characters have depth; take, for example, Cassandra¿s stepmother Topaz, a former model who is more complicated than she appears at first. Cassandra narrates this story with a great amount of humor; especially funny is the story about the bear. Cassandra and her whole family are charming, and I absolutely fell in love with all of them. I think if I¿d read this book when I was seventeen, I would have loved it; but it¿s no less funny and poignant ten years later. It¿s a great coming-of-age story, especially since Cassandra¿s coming of age happens so imperceptibly over the course of the novel.
This book is a true delight. I've just reread it after about 30 years, and I remembered nothing about it, except that it was one of those books I would never let go, because I really, really enjoyed it. And I'm glad to say I still do.Cassandra Mortmain, 17, is an aspiring writer, and tells the story of her family, poor as church rats, who live in a beautiful castle but have had to sell almost everything just to have something to eat.Who could resist a book that begins with " 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."It's very romantic, yes, but in a very realistic way. And written so beautifully, not a word out of place, with beautiful images and lovable characters. Never black and white, capturing the joys and pain of living and loving perfectly. It's going on my list of favorites straight away.
The main thing that struck me about this book is the truth of the native. Maybe that's not the right word but it's the best I can do. There's no single point when you become aware that there is a writer. The story you are reading is plainly Cassandra's. It's youthful, it's optimistic and there is a sense of self-consciousness in the story that makes it seem so realistic. The bittersweet portrayal of romantic English life is comical in parts without being mocking. It's sad without being depressing. It's sentimental without being overwrought. It's a story of a year in the life of a family. Their ups and downs and, most importantly, their togetherness. And when you read it you'll think that it is the life of a real family. It's so rich and so beautiful.
Somehow I never heard of this one when young, even though I had other books by Dodie Smith. And now in the last few years, people seem to mention it all the time. It started out quite slow. The grinding poverty and so many additional forms of misery was a little dull after a while. I don't think she found her voice right away. And then when the Cottons first came on the scene, the Pride and Prejudice parallels were a little strong. But about 1/4 of the way in, it suddenly became un-put-downable. I finished it in two nights, staying up well past my bedtime twice. It didn't help that when I'd reach the end of a chapter, I'd be unable to resist glancing at the first sentence of the next and it was always full of excitement and news, so I'd have to keep reading. The actual writing was very lovely. Especially Cassandra's observations, like on love and happiness and wealth. They were an excellent balance of sounding like a genuine teenage girl and being thought-provoking. And because she was 17, it was simply realistic rather than irritating when she made poor choices. I actually liked the ambiguity of the ending, particularly since the odds only seemed about 50/50 that things would work out happily for most of them.
This is a charming story, with some echoes of Jane Austen, most noticeably "Pride and Prejudice", with the family with few means suddenly meeting upstanding gentlemen when they move into a neighbouring house. The similarity is not a bad thing, because the story turns out to be quite beautifully told in the words of the main character and narrator. In fact, the story is quite simple, with humour, romance and interesting relationships, but what makes it such a pleasure to read is the narrator's point of view.Cassandra's words are beautiful, sometimes sad, sometimes sarcastic and often logical. As the narrator, we only learn of the events through her eyes, but she describes them in such a detailed way we hardly need to know what is going on outside of her understanding. She's a delightful character because she is real to us, with both moments of extreme generosity and selfishness, with passions and emotional breakdowns, who makes mistakes and solves problems. She is not a flawless heroine, but that is perhaps why she gets under our skins. She makes us identify with her. And through her eyes we learn of her family, her life, her dreams, her passions and her feelings.I was hooked to this book from the first sentences, started reading religiously when the family gathered across the table to make a listing of those who could earn money to support them all, and was irremediably lost to it not too long after. The excentricities of some of the family members contrasted with the simplicity of other members of the household, and the wisps of romantic and brotherly love, of jealousy and forgiveness, made for a very entertaining reading.
Dodie Smith wrote "One Hundred and One Dalmatians" - my very favorite Disney movie, by the way, and also the best argument I've ever seen for the nuclear family. But that was a bit of a one-off - she was actually a rather well-known playwright, and had minor success as a novelist as well. I've read one of her other novels and it was sort of lame. But "I Capture the Castle" is delightful. The castle in question is a ruined one, currently inhabited by the Mortmain family, headed by Mr. Mortmain, a vaguely Joycean novelist who has not published a word in fifteen years or paid rent in four.I wou Consequent to his failure to earn, his family - 21-year-old Rose (beautiful and hungry), 17 year old Cassandra (curious and philosophical), 15-year-old Thomas (cheerful and oblivious) and the beautiful Topaz, stepmother to the children - are all trying to subsist on a non-existent income. Cassandra, a budding writer (hate that phrase) is trying to "capture" this strange and rather dream-like existence in the pages of her journal. Cassandra reminds me a bit of Joan Wyndham's "Love Letters"; she writes with that same mixture of naivite and pragmatism, laced with understated wit - I was on her side from the word Go. This would never be a desert-island book for me, but sometimes it is exactly the atmosphere I want. I would read it just for the descriptions of Topaz and her pseudo-intellectual commentaries on Art. "Oh, what worlds words weave!" says Cassandra, and I'm right there with her. It's lovely to visit the castle.