Friday Favorites: I Capture the Castle
Friday, December 17, 2010Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
I Capture the Castle
by Dodie Smith
The Mortmain family lives in a rundown castle in the English countryside in the 1930s. The book is presented as the 17-year-old Cassandra’s journal and in this way we see the world through her eyes.
There’s her father, a famous author who has become temperamental and withdrawn and no longer writes a thing. Topaz, her stepmother, a free spirit convinced that her purpose in life is to inspire great works in others. Rose, Cassandra’s older sister, is a beauty whose goal in life is to marry a rich man and escape poverty. Thomas, her brother, is a clever boy who never steps into the story’s spotlight. Finally there is Stephen, the son of their deceased maid, who lives with them and helps take care of the grounds. He’s a kind, humble boy and is devoted to Cassandra. He spends his extra time and money trying to make her life better in every way that he can.
Despite their financial ruin, Cassandra and her family are rather content. They make do with what they have, though it’s not a lot. Their lives are turned upside down when two wealthy American brothers, Simon and Neil Cotton, move into the mansion up the road. The two very different families find their fates unavoidable intertwined.
Like many literary second daughters before her (Jo March, Elizabeth Bennet) Cassandra makes a wonderful central character. She’s someone who you just want to be friends with. She’s a bit naïve for her age, but that’s because she’s grown up with almost no social interaction outside of her family. Throughout the book we watch her mature and begin to understand not only the world around her, but also herself.
This is one of those books that I just knew I was going to love. I’ve been saving it to read when I was in just the right mood. People had recommended it to me for years, comparing it to some of my favorites like, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Near the beginning of the book Cassandra and her sister share this exchange…
"How I wish I lived in a Jane Austen novel!"
“I said I'd rather be in a Charlotte Bronte.”
"Which would be nicest - Jane with a touch of Charlotte, or Charlotte with a touch of Jane?"
Please tell me how I could have resisted a book with a passage like that.
In the end it was all that I hoped it would be. The characters are rich, but deeply flawed. The plot is much more complicated than a simple happily ever after. The writing was wonderful and completely engrossing. Throughout the story I felt like I was there, enjoying the Midsummer Night’s Eve or sipping from my first glass of port on a rainy day right beside Cassandra. It did what so few books can do, left me wanting more from the characters who now felt like my friends.
A couple great lines…
“Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression.”
“They went on interrupting each other in a perfectly friendly manner.”