I Capture the Castle
When I was very young, around 6 or 7 I guess, I read Dodie Smith’s The 101 Dalmatians (1956) probably ten times. (This was before Disney got their hands on, and subsequently ruined, the novel. [Kudos on Glenn Close though, Disney – brilliant casting there.]) However, I never went on to read any of Smith’s other works. Then, a few years ago, my sister lent me her battered, old, and exceedingly charming copy of I Capture the Castle (1948). Since then, it has resided on my shelf, patiently waiting for me to have time to read again. Which I finally did this week, and silently cursed myself for not reading this book before.
I Capture the Castle revolves around 17 year old narrator Cassandra Mortmain, who lives with her father – an acclaimed author who has not written in years, her model stepmother Topaz, sister Rose, brother Thomas, and Stephen – the son of their now late housekeeper, in the ruins of a castle in Suffolk. They have no money, no income, nothing of value and a very narrow social circle. When the estate to which the castle belongs is inherited by a young American gentleman, their lives take a slightly Jane Austenesque (is that a word? It is now, at any rate) turn as they come to know their new landlord and his family. Cassandra, an aspiring writer herself, captures their lives in her journal in a mesmerising manner, and one cannot help but fall in love with her. Charming, witty and occasionally profound, I Capture the Castle is simply one of those novels one should read.