I have always intended on reading ‘I Capture The Castle’ by Dodie Smith for ages. It has come up several times in lists of peoples favourites; in fact just over a year ago Claire of Paperback Reader shared it as her favourite book at the first meeting of London book group The Riverside Readers. I said I would read it then… and then for some reason didn’t. I have the lovely Cornflower Books for finally giving me the kick up the bum to get on with it when she chose it as her latest online book group choice and as I had it on the TBR I decided I would join in.
‘I Capture The Castle’ is at its heart both a coming of age tale (and you know how I feel about those) and also a family drama. Set in a crumbling old castle we hear the tale of the Mortmains, a family who are living on pretty much nothing, through the eyes of the youngest daughter Cassandra. Ever since their father stopped writing (after his one big surprising and rather cult hit Jacob Wrestling) and the death of their mother Rose and Cassandra, along with their step mother Topaz and lodger Stephen, have resorted to selling their furniture in order to be able to eat.
As well as shedding light on her families past, in the journals we the reader are privy to, she also writes of the arrival of the Cotton brothers Simon and Neil who become the Mortmains landlords through inheritance. It is from this point that you feel and begin to learn that the Mortmains lives could be about to change but could it be for the worse or for the better. If Rose and her family have their way it will be for the better as she decides she must marry the eldest brother Simon, however things don’t always run according to plan do they? I shall say no more of the plot for fear I would give anything away.
What I will say is expect the unexpected and keep going. Why do I say that? Well, to be honest, after a flying start with the Mortmains and the wonderful narrative of Cassandra, who is one of the most original characters and voices I have read in some time. At some point after part one had ended and part two began I started to become a little bored. I am not sure why either. It wasn’t that the book is very descriptive or that the subtle plot went a little slowly, because I love both those things when done well as this is. If anyone says it’s because I am male I will come and find you and really tell you off.
It wasn’t Dodie’s fault because her writing is utterly superb proof of that is the fact that Cassandra could have easily become a precious little madam who needed a slap instead she was a funny, wry and intelligently observant young woman who you wanted to spend time with. I think it might have been that I was finding it a little contrived and slightly obvious in the way the story was going. Now it will not plot spoil if I say carry on because Dodie gives us the ending you probably wouldn’t think at all and I am very glad she did. In fact it was the twists and turns from the end of the second part onwards that saved the book for me and almost gave it a complete turnaround and left me very glad I had read it.
A book that will: show you how a tale can be made that much more special and above many of the others in its genre/time period because of a fantastic narrator. 7.5/10
Savidge suggests some perfect prose partners;
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley – Some of you might think I am potty for saying that but I think Cassandra and Flavia De Luce would be the best of friends and quite a duo.
All in all I am really glad I read ‘I Capture The Castle’ and though it hasn’t become an instant favourite of all time as I was hoping (which could be why it wasn’t – the expectation) its one that I will undoubtedly re-read one day so I can spend time with Cassandra again. Who else has read this and what did you think? Who hasn’t and why not?
Oh and as this is a classic (and I can see why) here is the schedule for Spending Sundays With A Classic on its veryown page which we discussed a while back, I do hope I will see you on a few, especially as the last one will be a farewell of sorts.