Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Just Read :: I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith
Cassandra Mortmain and her family live in a house built onto a crumbling castle sometime between the world wars. She lives with her elder sister, Rose, her younger brother, Thomas, her father, her stepmother, Topaz, and the son of their deceased housekeeper, Stephen. Her father once wrote a greatly acclaimed book that inspired scholarship, but has not written since a mildly humorous incident more than ten years before the narration begins. He has also been distinctly antisocial since their mother died, save for a few months, in which he met and married Topaz. The Mortmains are almost entirely out of money when the novel opens and without the means to begin earning any. The girls are not skilled in any kind of service and Thomas is too young to leave school. Stephen is able to provide some income, but the family is still in dire financial circumstances. Their luck begins to change when the Cottons arrive in town to lay claim to their family property, which includes the castle the Mortmains lease. A friendship develops between the Cotton family and the Mortmain family, and eventually results in an engagement.
Cassandra narrates the entire novel with a wittiness that becomes well-tuned as the story develops. She is thoroughly an optimist, even when she navigates the dreadfulness of unrequited love. She attempts to "capture" the people and experiences in her life through writing, and her skill grows stronger as the novel continues. The story is part coming of age, part journal, part an artist's journey, and entirely enjoyable. The plot is character driven and will bore you if you're looking for a lot of action, but make you smile if you are not.
I know I recommend every book I post here, but I really adore this one. Cassandra reminds me so much of myself in her interests and her tendency to go a little against the grain without ever being rebellious. If you were ever a book-loving, dream-prone, thoughtful teen, you too will sympathize with her. I smiled my way through this entire book. Give it a read and I think you will, too.
It's available for purchase here.