Oh boy. Aren't you guys proud of me? I'm actually doing a Friday Favorite on a...*gasp* FRIDAY! Wahoo!
So I decided on this Friday's pick: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. Now, you might've heard of Dodie Smith, you might not have. You've certainly (I hope) seen A Hundred and One Dalmations (if you haven't what is wrong with you?) and Dodie Smith is the genius that wrote that book. So it's no surprise that I Capture the Castle, her young adult-ish first novel, is absolutely fantastic.
I Capture the Castle tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the castle's walls, and her own first descent into love. By the time she pens her final entry, she has "captured the castle"-- and the heart of the reader-- in one of literature's most enchanting entertainments.
I Capture the Castle is a heartwarming, coming-of-age tale that has one of the most realistic narrators I've ever read. When I found a tattered copy of this book at an used book sale, I never expected it to be quite so wonderful.
After reading I Capture the Castle, I really can believe that if I happened upon a moldering, leased out castle in England, I'd find Cassandra sitting on top of the kitchen sink with her diary, scribbling along in her cryptic shorthand . Or find her sister Rose, who "looks particularly fetching by firelight because she is a pinkish person; her skin has a pink glow and her hair is a pinkish gold, very light and feathery." Or even Topaz, Cassandra's flighty stepmother and former model. Topaz has a habit of communing with nature at night, minus clothes--and according to Cassandra, she is a great beauty. She married Cassandra's Father in his "one spasm of sociability." Father might just have the worst temper imaginable in a character--evidence found in a rib-cracking cake-knife brandishing incident related within the first few pages.
The characters are just so real, and alive. Cassandra is perhaps the most unforgettable narrator I've ever come across--witty, insightful, and altogether lovable. The voice throughout this novel is so strong and wonderful--I could read the lines penned by Cassandra over and over again. Actually, I have. And upon each re-reading, the greatness of this novel never ceases to amaze me.
Perhaps it's because I can relate so much to Cassandra. She's an aspiring writer too, and the diary is her attempt to improve her writing. This is classic-coming-of-age story; Cassandra is seventeen, ready to do something with her life, and tired of being referred to as the "kid". Her sister Rose is determined to marry herself off to the richest suitor possible--an attitude as archaic as one found in 19th century novels, which the two sisters spend their time reading. Their father is delightfully unsociable, "as far as we know, he does nothing but read detective novels from the library." Add a castle into the mix, and the girls have come to have a rather romantic take on life. Let me assure you, the castle mentioned in the title will not disappoint. *
When two rich, young Americans turn up, it seems that Rose might just get her way, as she always does. Cassandra is caught up with trying to coax her father into sociability again. So when she falls in love for the first time, it's somewhat unexpected--but ultimately endearing. The ending will not dissappoint--it stays true to Cassandra. How I wish there had been a sequel!
This book is just...just...I've run out of suitable compliments. I don't think I even have the strength to put into words how much I adore this book. I laughed, I cried **, I smiled. I rooted for Cassandra the whole time, while I savored each beautiful word, each sentence filled with a poignant, unforgettable voice.
Do me a favor. Do yourself a favor.
*(I will not drool over the setting. I. WILL. NOT. Okay, maybe I will. I've always harbored a love for castles. So can you imagine how much I love the setting of this book? Two words: CASTLE. CRUMBLING. My gawd, Dodie Smith is a genius. I'm pretty sure I Capture the Castle has had a profound effect on my life--when you find me at 50, sitting in a ramshackle castle, blame this book. Or praise it.)
**It was the onions, I swear.
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