Thursday, November 10, 2011

I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
St. Martin's Griffin, 1998
Originally published 1948
343 pages
3.5/5 stars

Source: Library


Recommended by my new blogger friend Allie at The Book Stalker because of my love of the Betsy-Tacy books and the Chronicles of Narnia. While there was a lot to love in this book, there ended up being a couple of elements that were very personally not to my taste. They ended up dragging the book down and making me take about a week to finish this book. If I had loved it, I would have finished much faster.

It starts out promisingly introducing Cassandra Mortmain and her eccentric family who live in a crumbling castle in genteel poverty during the 1930s. Her father wrote a literary novel that is successful in America but has been unable to produce a successor over the years. Her stepmother Topaz manages on very little and takes care of the family. Then there's Cassandra's older sister Rose, who wants more than anything to get out of their crushing poverty and has aspirations to marry money. The last child is young Thomas, although he doesn't play a very big role. The last resident of the place is Stephen, a servant with almost undying devotion to Cassandra.

Everything starts to change though when the new American landlords move into the hall across the way. There are two sons bearded Simon and cocky Neil. Immediately Rose sets her cap for Simon and she manages to snare him. The father is finally inspired to write again, Stephen becomes a model, and the family's general standard of living drastically improves.

Well, I didn't end up liking Cassandra. I ended up sympathizing more with Rose and hating Cassandra for her selfish concern for Simon. She didn't care that maybe Rose didn't love Simon until it affected her; once she realized that she loved Simon, Rose's deceit bothered her. Sadly I spent most of this book waiting that outcome because I read spoilers of the plot. I really should avoid that. Thus waiting for the reveal had me dreading the book.

The other part I didn't quite like was the family's existence in poverty and seeming inability to get a job. I think it's the Depression so it's not like there are that many jobs available but they didn't even seem to try. Honestly I'm not sure I understand the full socio-economic circumstances behind that aspect. Additionally I was sometimes confused by some of the writing, which referred to works beyond my ken.

As you can, it's my very weird self that just wasn't digging this book despite the many factors that would make it seem like something I love, historical, fun writing, a generally sympathetic main character.

Overall: I was confused by the unsaid background information that informed the decisions of the characters and unenthusiastic about the pending plot twists.


  1. I tried reading this book two years ago but wasn't able to finish it unfortunately. I have heard that this is similar to A Brief History of Montmaray but I wasn't able to get through that one either. I found the pacing to be really slow and I didn't care for Cassandra. I may pick it up again sometime in the future. Sometimes I just have to be in the right mood for certain kinds of books. I was sure I'd love this book too especially since it is one of J.K. Rowling's favorites and so well liked in general. Maybe I will try the movie...

  2. Sorry you didn't love it! I can see why you wouldn't if you didn't connect with Cassandra. And, great review of Liesl & Po...going to pick it up for my Kindle now!


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