I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith: Review

I Capture the CastleSeventeen year old Cassandra Mortmain decides to record the daily life of her family while practicing her homemade shorthand. The Mortmains patriarch is an eccentric author who moved his family to a dilapidated castle after he served a three month jail sentence (a misunderstanding). His wife is the glamourous Topaz, a former artists' model, and the glue that holds them together. It's she who sooths his ego and takes care of the needs of the family, including his three children. Besides Cassandra, there is Rose, the eldest child, and Thomas, the youngest. The other resident of the castle is Stephen Colly, the son of the late housekeeper, who was too young to be on his own when his mom died, but now works to keep the family from complete destitution.

Mr Mortmain hasn't written more than one novel, Jacob Wrestling, since before moving to the castle. They've sold all the furniture, dress in rags, and live on tea and biscuits. Even in this desperate state of poverty, Mortmain refuses to write or make any sort of living. Work is for other people. Topaz won't go back to her modelling, and none of the children are capable of finding work. They've tried nothing and it isn't working.

side eye
Yes, ladies, I'm giving this family's attitude towards work the side eye too.

The only solution is for the eldest girl, Rose, to marry into money. A scenario she'd happily grab onto, if any eligible men lived near the castle. In desperation, she offers up prayers to a castle gargoyle, and at that moment two bachelor brothers with money appear. The Cottons are Americans and one is the new owner of both the castle and nearby Scoatney Hall. From the first, the men are intrigued by the family and their bizarre bohemian lifestyle. However, a series of misunderstandings and potential heartbreaks threatens to upend all of Rose's plans.

I've seen I Capture the Castle on many of my favorite blogs lately so it was one I felt I really needed to read. It's charming with many funny scenes as Rose tries to attract at least one suitor. She's not without her pride though, as you'll find out. Cassandra records all the goings on as they happen, including her own feelings about the Cottons and Rose's schemes. At first, it's fun to help Rose get her man, but Cassandra starts questioning her motives. Is Rose in love? Is it okay for her to marry for the money?

Since I Capture the Castle is a diary of a young woman, sometimes the reader sees a clearer picture of what is happening than Cassandra can. Still, I was surprised by some of the developments. I thought the ending was perfect. Not too tidy. Cassandra grows up a lot by the book's closing.

Dodie Smith straddles the line between funny and downright depressing. The family is super poor. The least little problem and they'd all be dead. They have nothing to fall back on. The father would probably be diagnosed a manic depressive if this was a modern YA novel. He's a little scary. Somehow Smith makes all their problems just part of the Mortmains' charm. I wondered too if the Cottons weren't American but upper class British gentlemen if they would have found the family as appealing. Probably not. At least, that's what I've gathered from Downton Abbey.

Add me to the list of people who love I Capture the Castle. I liked it even more since I only paid $1.99 for it! (It was on sale at the time.)

18 comments:

  1. This sounds terrific! I hate that I missed that sale. I'm off to see how much it is now.

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    1. I hoped it still was then I would have linked to it but it's back to the original price. :(

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  2. This is one I need to reread soon - it was delightful.

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  3. I'm so glad you liked this one!!! Doing a little happy dance over here.

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    1. I must have seen it on your blog. I've forgotten now who read it!

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  4. I've tried to get into this book and I just can't. I don't like the movie much, either, honestly.

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  5. I've read this book and I was not won over by it! I don't know if it just didn't connect with me, if I just had too much going on at the time I read it, or what. I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed it though.

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    1. I think it's a book that can go either way with people. If the family is too out there for you, it's not going to work.

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  6. I really enjoyed this book too. It's been a long time since I've read it... but I did enjoy the film too. It's a little old fashioned but sometimes I am looking for that in a novel.

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  7. I have had this on my TBR for ages... I need to get around to reading it!

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    1. I just happened to be in the mood for something like this right now.

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  8. i've heard so many good things about this novel. I need to read it. Is it just me or did it kind of come out of nowhere?

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    1. I think it was recently re-released as an ebook.

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  9. Oh this wonderful book! I'm jealous that you got it for $1.99 -- I saw that sale but didn't do anything about it because my family imposes a buying embargo that begins after Thanksgiving and continues until Christmas, to avoid any duplication of gifts. Woe! I wish I had just cheated and bought my own Nook copy!

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  10. I love this book! I'm always excited when someone else discovers it.

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