Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book Review - Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: 1948
Format: Paperback, 352 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy(different edition than one reviewed)

Cassandra Mortmain spends her days in the castle recording her life in her journals. Content, yet poor. Her sister Rose is anything but content. She would make a deal with the devil if it meant a way out of this dreary life. Scrapping by on little to no food or money while suffering her exotic, and usually nude, stepmother, Topaz, while her father spends his time in his tower not writing a follow-up to his successful book Jacob Wrestling, Rose is desperate from some way out. Then the Cottons arrive one night. Not only do they own the local estate, Scoatney Hall, and therefore the castle, but they are young, single, American, fans of the girls father, and most importantly, a way out for Rose. At first it looks like Rose's desperation has scared the young men away, but soon Simon and Neil return.

After an embarrassing and amusing incident with some fur coats the girls have inherited from their aunt, Simon and Neil realize that they where wrong to judge Rose and Cassandra so quickly. Rose soon has the ring on her finger from the elder brother Neil, whom Cassandra ends up falling for on Midsummer's Eve while Rose is away in London buying her trousseau. Cassandra wallows in misery, convinced that Rose doesn't love Simon and that if they could only break their father's writers block then they would have money and Rose wouldn't have to prostitute herself. Using immersion therapy, Cassandra and her little brother go to extremes to get their father back. Even if they do get him writing, is it soon enough for Rose? And if Rose where out of the way, could Simon love Cassandra?

Cassandra is one charismatic narrator, as the cover proudly proclaims, thanks to J.K. Rowling. The way she sees her world and describes the day to day events makes you loath for it to ever end. The character of Miss Marcy, the local librarian and school teacher, says it best. She wonders what happens after. She sometimes spends nights awake wondering what came after "The End." This book more than most leaves me wondering the same thing. I don't just wonder, I want to know. I want to go into this world and live there. I want to live in the castle, preferably with enough food and a mattress without a wonky spring. I want to see the funny bathroom and stroll the battlements.

The plot, while it does exist, doesn't drive the book, the characters do. It's about capturing the lives of the people who reside in and around the castle. We are one with Cassandra as she comes of age and realizes what matters in life. How you can't always have your way or chose who you love. Life isn't nice and neat with a clear ending, but messy and romantic and cold and wet and wonderful all at once. And perfection really just might be a box of chocolates and a hot bath next to the fire.


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