I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith – Quirky, Young Adultish and a Classic
21st June, 2016
From the creator of The 101 Dalmatians and Cruella de Vil, is a story about a young girl in a castle – this is Smith at her finest, snarky yet real. I am one of the few who read this book recently, as an adult and I must admit it was one of the best decisions I made in my reading life.
Cassandra Mortmain and her family live in a crumbling castle with finances so bad that they buy food by selling their remaining furniture. The unexpected arrival of the rich American brothers who have inherited the neighbouring home, sends Rose into a fever of husband-hunting. But does she find the right guy? Does Cassandra fall in love? Does the entry of the Americans make things better for the Mortmain family or were they better off living in poverty?
I Capture the Castle is a book filled with hilarious moments and subtle thoughts looming in the mind of a teenage girl. This one is definitely a fun read.
1. “I WRITE THIS SITTING IN THE KITCHEN SINK”
The opening line “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink” pulls you right into the novel. You are confused. Why would someone sit in a kitchen sink? Why is she writing in the sink? Is something wrong? Why would she write if something is? Or is everything okay? Why would one sit in a sink if all is well? You cannot ignore that sudden rush of bookish blood through your body and not continue reading.
Also 99.9% of the fans of this book will talk about this sentence (and that includes me).
2. THE CHARACTERS :
The book has the quirkiest characters ever. Cassandra (our seventeen year old diary writer), her sister Rose (whose sole ambition is to marry a rich guy), her step mother, Topaz (ex- model who is known for roaming around naked on the grounds), her father (eccentric, unproductive novelist who has written nothing after one modernist best seller and isn’t concerned about the household in the least bit), Stephen (the adopted handsome live-in-help who is hopelessly in love with Cassandra and copies love poems to her from books). And oh! There is a dog named Heloise and a cat named Alecard. What more can you want?
3. AMERICANS VS ENGLISH :
The flavor of Cassandra’s diary changes when they get new landlords in the form of two American brothers. The clash between the American and British style of speaking, mannerisms and even table manners (OH! YES) are hilarious.
4. MIDSUMMER EVE :
Every year, on Midsummer Eve, Cassandra holds rites at the foot of the tower. They include spell casting around a volatile fire, chanting and dancing. Now, how can anyone resist that?
WHY IT WILL APPEAL TO YA LOVERS :
Of course I Capture the Castle is a YA novel. Here is why YA fans will love it.
The whole story happens in a HUGE castle in the Sussex countryside. There is a moat, there is a tower, there are cold dingy rooms and there are spacious unfurnished ones. Also, the book boasts of every kind of moments – the creepy fearful ones, the romantic tug-your-heart string ones and also the ones that will break your heart.
2. IMPORTANT QUESTIONS AND WORDS OF WISDOM :
Would you be an Emily or Charlotte Bronte? Do you know speed writing? Why is summer mist romantic and autumn mist just sad?
“And no bathroom on earth will make up for marrying a bearded man you hate.”
Yes, Cassandra is full of thoughts. And she writes them all.
3. CASSANDRA IS NASTY :
Don’t get me wrong. She is nasty because she is so truthful in her writing. She writes about everything, her shortcomings, her fears and the mindset of the unusual inhabitants of the castle. This is one of the few books out there written as a journal and reads like an honest unedited diary of a teenage girl.
4. COMING OF AGE STORY OF A HOPELESS DAYDREAMER :
Cassandra daydreams about boys the way all teenage girls do. She spends time imagining herself marrying or having lusty time or fantasizing about being in love. Totally relateable.
5. SISTERLY LOVE AKA BFF :
The affection (and also the fights) between Rose and Cassandra is wonderfully described. It is Cassandra’s truthful portrayal of their situation that made me non judgmental about her sister’s desire to marry a rich guy.
6. ROMANCE :
This book is young love at its best – whether it be Stephen trying hard to impress Cassandra, Cassandra being unsure of herself, Rose thinking she can fall in love after getting married or Neil, the American brother, being cynical of love -this book has it all.
AND WHY IT IS A CLASSIC
I Capture the Castle maybe quirky and young adultish, but it is a classic in its own right. This was Dodie Smith’s first novel and she spend seven years editing it because she wanted it to be perfect. And it nearly is.
1. ARE YOU AND AUSTEN OR A BRONTE?
There must be no Classics lover who has not been part of this debate. Cassandra asks the same question. There are references to the books she reads and it is like talking to a book lover over tea.
2. SIMILAR IDEAS AS WOOLF :
Cassandra shares her room with her sister Rose. And she does feel the need of A Room of One’s own which is the gist of Virginia Woolf’s famous essay. Woolf’s essay also looks into why women lack a literary position as profound as men, citing poverty, lack of education and domestic responsibilities as the fundamental reasons which is exactly the situation Cassandra is in.
3. THE QUOTES (Grab your highlighter) :
There are so many amazing quotes in this book. My whole Kindle is highlighted in different colors. Two of them :
“I shouldn’t think even millionaires could eat anything nicer than new bread and real butter and honey for tea.”
“There is something revolting about the way girls’ minds so often jump to marriage long before they jump to love.”
THE THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME :
- The ending is too sudden and abrupt.
- Cassandra’s dad! Why doesn’t anyone ask him to act like a grown up an take some responsibilities?
WHAT THE TITLE MEANS TO ME?
The beginning of the novel is much like an Austen household and the women want to secure a good match and thus conquer the castle, like Rose’s aspirations. Cassandra shares this ideology at the beginning of the novel, but later changes her stand. For Cassandra, capturing the castle represents her finding her identity and making sense of the world and people around her as she transforms from a naïve teenager to an adult. Or perhaps she only hopes to capture the essence of her life in the pages of her diary.
A whimsical read with witty prose and marvelous characters. Cassandra is an enchanting narrator who takes you along as she tries to capture the castle in the most humorous and magnificent way imaginable. If you haven’t read this already, pick it up! This is required reading for every bookworm.
Title : I Capture the Castle
Author : Dodie Smith
Publisher : Vintage
Published : 2012 (Originally in 1948)
Language : English
Pages : 592
Rating : 4.5/5
Have you read I Capture the Castle? Did you love the read or not? Have you watched the TV adaptation of ICTC?
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Dorothy (Dodie) Smith was an English children’s novelist and playwright, known best for the novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians (1956). Other works include I Capture the Castle (1948), and The Starlight Barking (1967). Her novel I Capture the Castle was adapted into a 2003 movie version. It was voted 82 as “one of the nation’s 100 best-loved novels” by the British public as part of the BBC’s The Big Read (2003).