Thursday, June 23, 2016

Book Review: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

After reading Aimie K. Runyan’s Promised to the Crown (and thoroughly enjoying it, I might add), I wanted to venture into another romance. An oldie, but a goodie. Just after college, I lived with a girl who owned I Capture the Castle on DVD. Once, while sick at home, I popped it into the DVD player just for something to do. I loved it. And as most of us know, if the movie is good, the book has to be better, right?


In this case, right.


I Capture the Castle is a collection of diary entries written by the main character, Cassandra. She and her odd little family live in a castle—yes, a real castle—out in the English countryside. Cassandra and her family are struggling to get by when, unexpectedly, their landlord pases away and his sons move from America into the manor house nearby. The family nearly goes into a panic when the Cottons arrive, afraid of what the two gentlemen will do when they discover they actually own the castle and that the Mortmain family hasn’t paid their rent in years. What follows is the story of Cassandra and her family’s relationship with the Cottons and their bumpy journey back into society.


The author, Dodie Smith, gives Cassandra a unique voice throughout the novel. I appreciated the fact that, even though Cassandra is seventeen when the novel begins, she isn’t your modern, whiny, flaky heroine. In fact, Cassandra is, in my opinion, the most mature and level headed character in the entire novel. She is smart, independent, and knows her own mind. In fact, there are quite a few times the reader will forget that Cassandra is only seventeen. While there is a “love triangle” in the book, what you won’t find is a main character who is wishy washy and can't make up her mind about who she loves.


My other favorite character in the novel was Cassandra’s father, James. James had published a highly praised book years before Cassandra begins telling her story. Since then, he hasn’t written a single thing, much to the frustration of his family. Why did I like his character so much? Because he is a realistic portrait of all of my author friends. They have their good days and their bad days, and are desperately trying to find a way to put their thoughts onto the page in a way they like. Sound familiar to anyone?

My one concern with recommending this book? It was first published in 1948, which means the language and the style of writing may not be everyone’s cup of tea. The story reads like many of the other books written during that time period, and Cassandra never left her native England, which means some of the language might be confusing to us Yanks. However, if you like romance and have a longing for a narrator/character who actually sounds like a real person, I Capture the Castle may be a good choice for you. If not, you could always go and read another of Dodie Smith’s novels. I hear that The Hundred and One Dalmatians is good.


Sorry, still no portrait of Emily. She's still very well spoken of by her friends, and she knows even more about writing now that she helped us through Denver Comic Con last weekend. Stay tuned for more awesomeness and book reviews!

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