Thursday, March 17, 2011

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

I wanted to love this book.  It is told by Cassandra who has started writing a journal in an attempt to "capture" her family and their surroundings.  I liked her use of the word, and I liked her voice.  Her age was a little confusing, because she's 17, but I kept picturing her closer to 14.  It takes place in the 1930's, and definitely feels more modern than the Victorian novels it might be compared to.

Cassandra's family has been leasing a rundown castle for years.  She still finds the charm in it, but it's wearing off for everyone else.  They are desperately poor, without a lot of options to improve their situation.  Her father has become a recluse, and has not been able to write anything after his highly acclaimed first novel.  And that's where the story begins.  Then, surprise!  Their financial troubles are at least temporarily cured by a handsome, rich love interest.  But it's not quite as bad as it sounds.

My favorite parts of this book are the funny parts. In one of the first scenes, Topaz and Rose find a bottle of green dye.  Because their clothes are all worn and old, they start dying everything!  I thought this whole part was really funny.  Also, there is a dress form in Rose and Cassandra's room, and Cassandra talks for it in a fussy older woman's voice.  Every time she started with "Miss Blossom's" voice and motherly advice, I found myself smiling.  "Well, it's a start, girlies, there's no denying that."  When they first meet Simon Cotton, he has a beard.  The girls can't get over it and all their conversations about it crack me up.  "Simon Cotton's black beard looks queerer than ever by day light.....How can a young man like to wear a beard?" and "Rose, you couldn't marry a man with a beard."  I also really liked the symbolic shift of power when his beard is shaved.  But I don't want to spoil it anymore.

 Here are a few other lines in Cassandra's voice that I liked:

"When I read a book,  I put in all the imagination I can, so that it is almost like writing the book as well as reading it--or rather, it is like living it."

"That evening of the row was our lowest depths; miserable people cannot afford to dislike each other.  Cruel blows of fate call for extreme kindness in the family circle."

"I heard myself explaining to God as I always do about good, kind, useful lies."

I wouldn't discourage anyone from reading this, especially since it has been really well-received over the past 60 something years since it was published.  I enjoyed the story, but I wouldn't give it as a gift, or tell you to rush out and find a copy.  I liked it fine.

I'm guessing a lot of you have read it, and I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

A side note or two:  This is the cover of the paperback I got from the library.  Not until I searched for a jpeg to post did I notice the faces in the clouds, gag.  Also, the cover says, "the acclaimed novel is now the most romantic movie of the year."  That was surprising to me because I don't think the book is terribly romantic.  But researching the movie that came out in 2003 (R), I can see that they took a lot of liberties.  And apparently focused on some private nude scenes with the step-mom.  In the book, Cassandra just mentions how she "communes with nature" and it wasn't sexual.


Betsy said...

I had always heard good things about this one and so read it a few years back. Like you, I remember really wanting to like it, but in the end, feeling disappointed. Great review.

Sharlene, Mom, Grammy said...

Actually, I have never heard of this book. And I'm old enough that I should have. Hmmmm?

Thanks for the great review. I always check your reviews before I read anything.

I'm currently almost done with *Three Cups of Tea.*

Kacy said...

I love your book reviews and I love that you like me better than Sloane Crosley.

Lori said...

I read this a long time ago. I remember generally what it was about, but not a lot...and I don't really remember how well I liked it. I looked back at my goodreads review and saw that I gave it four stars. So I guess I liked it better than you do? :) said...

ditto. Didn'y love it either and found the ending unsatisfying