Sunday, 12 January 2014

Sister Sundays | Review: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith


Book: I Capture the Castle

Author: Dodie Smith

Pages: 566

Time Taken to Read: 9 hours across two days

Plot Summary: 'I write this sitting in the kitchen sink...'

This is the diary of Cassandra Mortmain, which tells of her extraordinary family and their crumbling castle home. Cassandra's father was once a famous writer, but now he mainly reads detective novels while his family slide into genteel poverty. Her sister Rose is bored and beautiful, and desperate to marry riches. Their step-mother Topaz has habit of striding through the countryside wearing only her wellington boots. But all their lives will be soon be transformed by the arrival of new neighbours from America, and Cassandra finds herself falling in love...


What I Liked: I loved the Mortmain family and their crazy, slightly off-beat life in the giant, falling-apart castle. The Mortmains don't have any money- in fact, things are so bad that they take money from their maid's son- Stephen- to put food on the table. But don't for a moment think that I Capture the Castle is some sad, depressing book about poverty. It is anything but! True, the Mortmain family does not have any money- their father, a one-hit author, spends his days locked up in a room reading detective novels and since it is the 1930s, there is not much that the women can do to make money. However, in spite of their poverty and having only tea and no dinner, the Mortmains are not wallowing in self pity. I really love their spirit and how they make the best of a bad situation with good humour and spirit. 

I loved Cassandra's character- she is the protagonist and it is her journal which documents the lives of these characters in the castle. Cassandra is a young girl whose coming-of-age or growing up is documented in the pages of her journal (and hence, the book). Cassandra has a lot of insight for someone her age and I love her non-judgmental about the people who surround her- be it her step-mother's penchant for "communing with nature" (walking around in the nude occasionally) or her father's eccentricities. Cassandra also has a strong moral compass, which is wonderful, especially, given how abject poverty can easily make people choose the easy way out. 

I really liked Stephen as well. Stephen is the Mortmain family's maid's son who has been living with them in the castle since his mother passed away. Stephen is not really 'help' but he does a lot of work around the house. He takes another job to earn money when the family had no source of income. He adores Cassandra and does a lot of sweet things for her. Too bad his love is not reciprocated but I love how the author has given him a 'happy ending' of sorts.

Another character that I really loved was that of Topaz- Cassandra's step-mom. She is a wonderful woman who loves her step-children and has a wonderful gung-ho approach to dealing with all their money problems. She is just delightful! 

The Cotton family (the ones who arrive from America) are also pretty interesting. They are nice, kind and thoughtful and the way their arrival changes the lives of the Mortmain family is very interesting to read about. 

The book is also laugh-out-loud funny in several places, which is always a good thing. 

What I Didn't Like: I don't want to spoil the book for you, but there was one plot point which I felt was a tad bit predictable, which was slightly disappointing, but I can look past it :) 

Would you like it?: If you like reading about nice, quirky and interesting characters and love well written books, then this is a book you simply must read! It may even inspire you to keep a journal! 

Rating: 4.5/5 

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