Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Ok, picture me holding this book lovingly to my cheek and caressing it with my fingertips. And then licking it because I LOVED IT SO MUCH!

Cassandra is a 17-year-old with an odd, eccentric family. Her father is a critically well-received novelist who suffers from the worst case of writers block ever. Her stepmother is a 29-year-old model who's a little flaky, likes to commune with nature in the buff, but who holds the family together. Her older sister Rose is a traditional beauty of marriageable age, but there aren't any eligible menfolk around. There's brother Thomas who is...there. And the deceased housekeeper's hunky son lives with them and brings in the family's ONLY income. Thank you, Stephen!

They live in a crumbling castle where they don't actually pay the rent on their 40-year lease. Cassandra spends her time writing in her journal and trying to "capture" all the goings-on and sharpening her writing skills. The story really takes flight when an American family, the Cottons, inherit Scoatney Hall and become the family's landlords. The Cottons include the dashing Simon and Neil. #chickabowow 

This book is just damn fine. Even though it's told through Cassandra's journal entries, they are quite long and sprawling in a way that reads more like traditional narration than journal snippets. The explanation is that she spends hours on the entries a few times a week instead of short, daily bursts. The book lets us bask in English country life even though the family antics are always veering from here to there and they find themselves stressed about needing new clothes or more food and more income. 

There's a wonderful humor to this novel--moreso than I expected from reading blurbs. In one instance, the girls run off to London to claim their dead aunt's estate (some clothes and furs), and when they come back on the train, Rose is mistaken for a bear in the luggage hold. Hilarity ensues. 

I admit, it did take me a couple of days to settle into this very character-driven novel. It is quite detailed, but I loved the detail and it had this charm that I find so hard to pinpoint. It reminded me a bit of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie for the level of comfort and charm in the writing, and it had Cassandra's sassiness thrown into the mix to swirl things up a bit. In short, it's any Anglophile's dream. 

Whenever you have one of those days you can devote almost exclusively to reading--especially if it's cold outside and there's hot chocolate to be had, tackle this book then. I hope it's as memorable a reading experience for you as it was for me. 

Thank you to Amanda and Heather for always pressuring me to get on with the damn book already!

Pub. Date: Originally, 1948; my edition, 1998
Publisher: Wyatt Books
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780312181109

Source: Bought it ages ago.




34 comments:

  1. Okay, yessss. I'm going to read this before the New Year. I WILL.

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  2. Sold! I'm definitely adding this to my list.

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  3. You make me want to reread!!

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    1. Haha! I know I'll re-read it somewhere down the road myself.

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  4. Yes, I'll admit it. I am sitting here with a smug look on my face. Shall I say it? I told you so? LOL :P

    Now will you read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn already???? :D

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    1. LOL, I know you are. And yes, I will. It's soon. Before December 21!

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  5. Yay, you loved it!! I Capture the Castle can do no wrong. It reminds me of the Flavia books as well. I always watch the movie during Christmas for some reason.

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    1. Oh good, I'm glad I'm not crazy for being reminded of Flavia. I havent' seen the movie yet, so I'll be watching it during my week off for Christmas!

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  6. I keep hearing that I must read this book. I promise I will, one of these days.....

    Is book licking the next step after book smelling??? :)

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    1. I think it might just be. lol I hope you get around to it sooner than later! So good.

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  7. That does sound like a book that can't be read in snatches which seems to be the only way I read these days.

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    1. I hear ya there. I haven't had nearly as much time to read because work is stupid crazy.

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  8. Oh, I Capture the Castle is wonderful! It's so nice to see other people discovering some of these books that tend to be the favorites of bibliophiles. I'm with Heather, you have to read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. And, in a similar(ish) vein, have you read Cold Comfort Farm?

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    1. It's been on my "to read' list for such a long long time. Sad that it's taken me this many years. :) Tree Grows in Brooklyn is up soon and Cold Comfort Farm is on my Classics Club list! :)

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  9. We read this for my book club and I enjoyed it. One of those books I would not have picked up had another person not selected to read it. Charming story.

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    1. Charming indeed! I'm glad you liked it!

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  10. I definitely need to read this book before the year ends! I've been putting it off for a while, despite multiple requests from friends to read it.

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    1. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! So cozy!

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  11. I feel shame that I've never read this one. Some many people whose opinions I trust rave about it. I need to get it soon!

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    1. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have, and as much as the wonderful ladies who have insisted that I read it! :)

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  12. YAY. YAY. YAY. And then imagine me saying a whole bunch more "yay" because I am so pleased that you enjoyed this book. Wonderful, wonderful Dodie Smith!

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    1. LOL, loved it! So glad to have finally read it. And I want to read more of Dodie Smith.

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  13. This sounds like a very strange collection of characters! It also sounds like it really worked though and made for a fun story :)

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    1. Absolutely! It was tons of fun.

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  14. First, I Capture the Castle and soon you're going to read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? You'll be coasting from one reader heaven to the next. :) And yes, Cold Comfort Farm is great - I really love it - though it seems not as sure as a hit with readers as the other two.

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    1. Right on! Love coasting from one reader heaven to the next. hehe I think I'll like Cold Comfort Farm. The premise and style look promising. :)

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  15. First of all, I have a gif-like image running in my mind of you licking this book! Second, I've been hearing of this one often lately, but didn't realize it was originally published in 1948. Do you know how it's suddenly come about again? I like the idea of longer journal entries, so I will add it to my list!

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    1. Jennine, this seems to be one of those books that remains perpetually popular. It's been on my radar since 2001 or so and I don't even know if it's ever gone out of print! Not many authors reach a level like that. :)

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  16. I love this book so much. Your post is making me think that Christmas time would be the perfect time to treat myself to a re-read.

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    1. It would be a perfect time to re-read! Cozy and awesome!

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  17. I so wanted to love this one when I read it a few years ago but I think I went in with such high expectations that it couldn't have lived up to it. It retrospect, I like it even more than I did when I'd first finished it.

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  18. Oh, this book is so fabulous! I actually read it while touring castles in Wales and Scotland (no accident on my part -- I love planning my reading with life events!), and I have such fond memories of both this book and that trip. Your review brought all the warm fuzzies back! It's one of the few novels I could actually see myself rereading.

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