Friday, May 29, 2009

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

This book came highly recommended by a friend and several book bloggers. It’s the story of Cassandra Mortmain, a seventeen year old who lives with her family in a crumbling castle. Written as six months of journal entries I Capture the Castle is hard to put down. Who wouldn’t want to read someone else’s diary, especially when it’s well-written and chock full of engaging ideas and understated wit? At first I was put off by the conversational tone of the book which didn’t seem very literary. But by page 24 when Cassandra and her sister are trying to decide if they are more “Austen” than “Brontë”, I was hooked. It was the first time in ages that I’ve read a novel that eclipsed all other distractions.

BUT I must add that I was disappointed with almost every character in the book. It seemed that everyone who was unable to win the affection of the one they loved settled too easily for second best. They hated themselves for doing it, but nevertheless they did it. I am a big fan of people who are faithful to their principles even when no visible reward is in sight (Jane in Jane Eyre, Mr. Harding in The Warden, Anne Elliot in Persuasion, to name a few) so it's hard to root for heroes with no moral fiber! The only character in this book that comes even close to loving faithfully and over the long-term is Stephen, but in the end he, too, disappoints. Although I enjoyed the book I cannot highly recommend it.

A few quotes:

It was late autumn, very gentle and golden. I loved the quiet-colored fields of stubble and the hazy water meadows. Rose doesn’t like the flat country, but I always did – flat country seems to give the sky such a chance. (p. 27)

On religion:
“You lose yourself to something beyond yourself and it’s a lovely rest.” (p. 245)

7 comments:

Jenny said...

Oh, I'm so sad you didn't love it - this is one of my favorite ever books, although I agree that the characters do let themselves down a bit. I think it's interesting how they do it though - and Cassandra has a really lovely narrative voice.

Nymeth said...

Sorry to hear you were disappointed :( This is actually one of my all-time favourites, but we can't all love the same books!

Framed said...

Was Stephen the good-looking servant type? He was my favorite also. Sad that I read this book just a couple of years ago and can't remember who's who. I enjoyed reading the book but was disappointed in the ending.

Memory said...

That's the one thing that bugged me about this, too. It's been a while since I read it, so I can't give you any concrete examples, but I remember getting really frustrated with the lot of them.

Jess said...

Oh no, this is my friend's favorite book. Maybe I will just try the movie instead. Thanks for the review.

Gretchen Joanna said...

I very much enjoyed this book, partly because I could not for the life of me guess how it would end, until it did--and yes, I was disappointed that everyone didn't pair off neatly. But it was delightfully different.

phd in yogurtry said...

I am on the verge of reading this. It's in my hands. Thanks for posting your opinions, commenters as well. There's definately a divide, here.