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.

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