Book Review: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

I Capture the CastleI Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I Capture the Castle was written by Dodie Smith in the forties, but it's set in the 1930's, after the Great War and during the Depression. It's narrated by a 17 year old girl named Cassandra, who lives with her father James Mortmain, step-mother Topaz, older sister Rose, younger brother Tom and sort of adopted servant Stephen.

They all live together in a crumbling castle, for which James has taken a 40-year lease. James had once written a book that was fabulously famous, and made them a lot of money. Since that book, though, he has written nothing, and the children's mother has died, taking her small income with her. James has remarried a model called Topaz, who he ignores, along with everyone else, as he sits in the gatehouse hour after hour, reading books brought by the local school teacher, Miss Marcy. Tom is in school, Cassandra and Rose are done with school, and Stephen works at the hard chores. They live in terrible poverty, with barely enough food for everyone, and even then, it's really not enough.

Rose, who is despondent over her bleak future, makes a wish on an old stone head high up on the kitchen wall. Not much long after, the American Cotton brother appear on the scene, having inherited the estate which includes the castle. The whole family is affected by these newcomers as Rose immediately looks to the older brother, Simon, as her way out of her horrible life, while Cassandra takes a shine to both brothers, fascinated by their American ways. James is brought back to life by the attentions of Mrs. Cotton, sparking the jealousy of Topaz. The fabulously handsome Stephen, who is in love with Cassandra, finds his own new career via relations of the Cotton family. Morality, desperation, unrequited love, hi-jinks on a train, hams and even a semi-kidnapping pull the Mortmain family, as well as the Cottons, into a satisfying ending.

The book is written as if it were Cassandra's diary. She's a charming, truthful girl, and the book reads very quickly. I highly recommend this novel to anyone from teenagers to seniors.

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