I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

i capture the castleThis is one of those books which has been sitting on my shelf for I don’t know how long. I decided that before the year was out I would read it, and I’m glad I did.

Set during the 30’s and told through the journals of Cassandra, aged approximately 16, it recounts her life and that of her bohemian once upper class family now reduced to poverty, living in a crumbling castle. When the wealthy American heir to the castle arrives Cassandra’s and her family’s lives are changed forever. It is reminiscent of many 19th century classics, particularly Austen. Two sisters who seek to escape the poverty through the wealthy marriage of the beautiful elder sister Rose. But of course the path of true love never runs smooth, and here the story takes twists Austen would never dreamed of, and which even when the book was published in 1949 may have raised a few eyebrows.

This book captivated me for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on. There are books which are easy to put down, books which are a struggle to put down, and then there are books which you can’t put down and you rush to get back to. This was one of those books. It casts a spell on you, drawing you into the strange dreamlike world of the castle with stepmothers who like to commune naked with nature, and tortured writer fathers. Cassandra’s narrative is filled with all the romanticism and hope of a teenager that you can’t help but relate to.

My one issue with the book, and which resulted in a rating if 4/5 rather then 5/5 was has it was all resolved. Things are a bit too neat but not in a “oh how romantic” kind of way which sweeps you along in its wake, and forgiveness given a bit too easily when a good slap may have been more beneficial. However this is a minor gripe, and diminished my enjoyment only marginally.

Rating: 4/5


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