Tuesday, 27 September 2016

I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith

I Capture the Castle'I write this sitting in the kitchen sink' is the first line of this timeless, witty and enchanting novel about growing up. Cassandra Mortmain lives with her bohemian and impoverished family in a crumbling castle in the middle of nowhere. Her journal records her life with her beautiful, bored sister, Rose, her fadingly glamorous stepmother, Topaz, her little brother Thomas and her eccentric novelist father who suffers from a financially crippling writer's block. However, all their lives are turned upside down when the American heirs to the castle arrive and Cassandra finds herself falling in love for the first time.

Written like a diary, Cassandra recounts the day to day activities of her family and their slightly strange lives in an old castle. The story was very character driven, with portraits of her family was described by Cassandra, as best she can. And what a mad bunch they all were! Poverty stricken and reliant on their novelist father, who has written anything in years, the family are used to struggling to make ends meet. Which is why when the family of their old landlord turn up, they all have green arms from dying their dresses.

Suddenly there are new males to get to know, to flirt with - Rose in particular takes this as a challenge and uses her knowledge gained from Victorian romance novels to bat her eyelashes and laugh prettily, but all that does is freak them out! Even though Cassandra was aware of how handsome the men were and was daydreaming of possible happily ever after scenerios, she didn't take the whole thing very seriously, which was refreshing and highly entertaining to read.

The romance didn't go the direction I expected, which was actually kind of nice. It was definitely an exploration of maturing and personal growth as Cassandra battles her own feelings with that of her sister's for the man they want. It was also more about the overall happiness of their family and the fragility of their father's mental state, with Thomas and Cassandra going to extreme lengths to unblock his writers block.

I went into this knowing very little, having not really heard of it before, and ended up really enjoying it. It was almost like a 20th century Jane Austen, with its romance drama and family weirdness, and I loved it.

Published 5th February 2004 by Vintage. First published 1948.

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