Friday, 8 August 2014

I Capture the Castle

Instead of picking up the next book on my Cornwall TBR pile (I'm home now anyway...) I went for one I picked up recently at an independent bookstore at the same time that I bought Americanah.

I Capture the Castle


Dodie Smith


Children's literature, coming of age

One-sentence summary:

Cassandra Montmain lives in a castle with her eccentric family and writes a diary about her experiences and feelings, especially when her life is turned upside down by the arrival of two Americans.


Having heard this book mentioned a lot from people who say this is one of their favourite books, and I have to say I wasn't disappointed. I expected a fun, simple and (if I'm honest) predictable read, so I was pleasantly surprised to find something interesting, original, witty and often surprisingly perceptive. The story was beautifully quirky, and not in an obvious, try-hard way.

But the most important thing for me about this book was the depth of insight into Cassandra's character. Of course, the fact that it is written as a diary makes this insight especially possible, but it still resonated with me as being particularly well executed. The narrator bares her soul and exposes her most shameful flaws, though they just made me love her all the more, and her honesty makes her seem almost tangibly real. Her character was always shifting and changing as well. Often, she would comment on earlier entries and how much her feelings had changed since then, which rang true for me, especially as she is on the cusp of adulthood. I felt this theme of growing up was handled really uniquely too, with the loss of her childhood rituals (the rites and Miss Blossom especially), and the change in her attitude towards love. 

The one thing that did really annoy me was the character of Cassandra's father, who did nothing but infuriate me throughout the whole book. I felt like none of the characters showed a suitable level of annoyance at his refusal to write and provide for his family. But I felt like throttling him! I know he's supposed to be annoying to a certain extent, but I felt there was much too much focus on his genius and how it excused him to behave however he liked. I so wanted Cassandra to tell him a thing or two...

Final thoughts:

I'm so glad I read this book! It's so worth all the hype I've been hearing about it. I'd probably love it even more if I'd first read it when I was a bit younger, but there's definitely enough in it for adults and (older) children to all get some special enjoyment from it. And the anti-brick-wall, sort-of happy ending was the absolute icing on the cake!

So for that reason, I'm giving it:

Similar books:

Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster
Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech
The Railway Children by E. Nesbit

What did you think of I Capture the Castle? Do you agree with my review? Did you read this as a child and get a different perspective on it? Let me know in the comments.

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