- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reissue edition (1 April 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 031231616X
- ISBN-13: 978-0312316167
- Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.4 x 20.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #8,21,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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I Capture the Castle Paperback – 1 Apr 2003
|Paperback, 1 Apr 2003||
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“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
“Dreamy and funny . . . an odd, shimmering timelessness clings to its pages. A thousand and one cheers for its reissue. A+” ―Entertainment Weekly
“I Capture the Castle is finally back in print. It should be welcomed with a bouquet of roses and a brass band. Ever since I was handed a tattered copy years ago with the recommendation 'You'll love it,' it has been one of my favorite novels.” ―Susan Isaacs
“It is an occasion worth celebrating when a sparkling novel, a work of wit, irony, and feeling is brought back into print after an absence of many years. So uncork the champagne for I Capture the Castle.” ―Los Angeles Times
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 Dalmations (Heinemann, 1956) and The Starlight Barking (Heinemann, 1967; Simon & Schuster, 1968). The Hundred and One Dalmations was inspired by Dodie's own Dalmation 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.
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The Mortmains are a crazy bunch. The writer and father James Mortmain’s creative juices seem to have run out after one successful book. The family lives in genteel poverty in the hope that one day he will produce another masterpiece. Topaz, is his loyal wife, and eccentric but beautiful stepmother to his three children. She communes with nature to keep her sanity and needs to be a muse to exist. They live with their daughters, Rose and Cassandra, and their little brother, the studious Thomas. They are joined by Stephen, the son of their dead housekeeper who does chores around the house.
Cassandra, the younger sister, is like Elizabeth Bennet in the sense that her mind is not on matrimony unlike older sister Rose. Like Austen, her mind is on literary pursuits. She dreams of becoming a writer like her father which one would think is surprising because of the example he has set. So she writes diary entries for practice to sharpen her prose.
In spite of her father’s example Cassandra wants to be a writer like her father. Both the sisters don’t do any housework – it is shared by Topaz and Stephen. The onus of earning money is on the menfolk. Published in 1934, the book appears dated because of the time period it is set in. The men and women were defined by set roles, rigid and fixed by society.
There’s talk of Bennets in the beginning, and Rose is hell bent on marrying the first rich suitor that comes a-knocking to get out of poverty even if she doesn’t love him. And that is where Simon Cotton comes in.
They live on the castle on a lease and haven’t paid the rent in a long time. It is when the owners arrive, the Cottons from America, the story takes a different turn.
Cassandra is a precocious narrator (I would never call her ‘consciously naïve because I don’t know what it means!), who wants to be a writer and is always recording things that happen in her life in a notebook. This was at a time when paper is scarce, and there was no electricity in the castle, mind you. She lives in her head (like most writers) which some times makes her miserable, and she has no understanding of how the world works that adds to the ensuing drama.
The way the story is narrated (Aren’t epistolary narratives the best?) by Cassandra through her journal entries, it puts us right in her shoes.
A few pages in I knew why I Capture the Castle is a cult classic. It seems like a fairytale in the beginning with very good dialogue, and the setting but the ending is ambiguous and quite realistic, open ended which is quite a departure for books written in those times, especially for the kind of story it told.
The book will give you a bad case of the giggles, whether you are reading in public or in private. I tried to keep the wide grin off my face to appear respectable (read not look like a complete idiot in the park where I have maintained over the years a very serious no nonsense persona) but the narration by Cassandra is such that you will fail.
A story where the women decide who, where, and when they want to end up with someone (if at all), and choose to walk out of marriages when it doesn’t work the way they want it to – it would have been groundbreaking for the time it was written in.
So many things have been talked about in this book without being self conscious, which would have otherwise made reading it a tedious affair. It touches on poverty, nudism, religion, psychoanalysis, distinction between the classes, and a very real portrait of a marriage and family. Also shows us a portrait of an eccentric writer, artistic expression and the way genius works (or doesn’t work) and what the people living with him have to put up with.
The book destroys many idealistic notions of love. The teens reading it will have a realistic idea about consent, love, longing, heartbreak and infatuation; they are different things whose boundaries sometimes overlap. The book drives home the message that it is okay to make mistakes. And most importantly it is okay not to find the love of your life the first time around.
The social observations the book makes and the way Cassandra views the world, it is true what another reviewer said and what I had felt from the beginning – it’s Austen for the 20th century.
I liked how the contrast between England and America is showed in little things – it comes from the author’s own experience.
The book shows how marriages crumble and how effective poverty can be in breaking families. How important compatibility is, especially if one of them has an artistic temperament (god help you if both are artists) because patience is needed to bear the tantrums idiosyncrasies that come with the territory.
The description of nature, beauty and of light – moonlight, starlight, dawn, dusk and the effect they have on her greatly appealed to me.
The book is real, comical, messy, dreamy, and colourful. Contradiction is the nature of the book, quite life like. I know it is hard to believe when most of it set in a crumbling castle and a madcap family lives in it but then which family isn’t mad? Mine most certainly is.
I identified with Cassandra because of her ambitions of becoming a writer and her habit of writing diaries though I am not an inveterate diarist like her, I do like to let it all out out from time to time.
I loved how the different notebooks Cassandra writes in divides the book into three sections.
The pets in the book are so delightfully portrayed, both the cat and dog, that hey are as real as the peopled characters.
As soon as I finished the book I wanted to seize someone and tell them to read Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle. (I am gifting and recommending it with a vengeance.)
Here are a couple of my favourite quotes:
“The table was a pool of candlelight -- so bright that the rest of the room seemed almost black, with the faces of the family portraits floating in the darkness.”
"Another great luxury is letting myself cry - I always feel marvellously peaceful after that. But it is difficult to arrange times for it, as my face takes so long to recover; it isn't safe in the mornings if I am to look normal when I meet father at lunch, and the afternoons are no better, as Thomas is home by five. It would be all right in bed at night but such a waste, as that is my happiest time. Days when father goes over to read in the Scoatney library are good crying days."
great service by amazon as always.
P.S. It is also one of J.K. Rowling's favorite books ;)
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