Tuesday, 7 August 2012

M's Review - I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

(This is part of our World of Stories series for August)

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Cassandra Mortmain is seventeen and lives with her slightly eccentric family in an old castle and its buildings. I Capture the Castle consists of three notebooks that Cassandra has written in coded speed writing (much better than a lock and key!). In her story, Cassandra attempts to capture the life of the very eccentric characters who inhabit the castle. She manages this very well – although it soon develops into a wonderfully honest story about the trouble with identifying first love and the highly complex processes of give and take that create and sustain social and intimate relationships.

This story tells of a time when marriage was still a key means of securing an income for families.  And the relatively isolated Mortmain family (who are extremely poor and have some unusual habits) are no exception to this. They despair of ever meeting any men – let alone rich suitors – for Cassandra and her older, beautiful sister Rose. But then some unexpected visitors turn up and everyone’s life is turned upside down and all around in ways none of them had ever imagined.

Cassandra – with the help of Dodie Smith of course – captures a very memorable and mainly endearing cast of characters. Among my favourites are Cassandra herself who is very funny and honest (at least, in her writing). There’s also Topaz, Cassandra’s stepmother, who communes with nature and may be spotted running around the countryside in nothing but her wellies (yes, Little M raised an eyebrow at the notion of this!). I have a soft spot too for the beautiful and maybe very daft Stephen. And of course, Heloise – she’s the one with a long snout on the cover!

I Capture the Castle is a delightful story (although there are some characters whose motives and ethics are very questionable – in my not so humble opinion!). It is full of cheeky moments and lots and lots of laughs. I can see why so many readers love it. Anyone who writes is also sure to love Cassandra and the creative plight of her experimental author father.

The Backstory pages in this Vintage edition provide a who’s who of the characters, two quizzes, prompts for further thinking, suggested themed activities and a bit of background about Dodie Smith and her writing.

What is particularly lovely about this edition though, is the cover. It absolutely captures the atmosphere of the novel: quirky characters looking off in their own directions, and a ramshackle castle full of nooks and crannies that add colour and texture to the story’s telling. The warm yellow glow gets it so right.

Appropriate for 12+ but it would probably be enjoyed much more by an older teen.  And adults? There are already plenty of those who continue to love this book. 

Publication details:
Vintage Children’s Classics, 2 August 2012, London, paperback

This copy: received for review from the publisher


Children's Classics Book Giveaway!!!


This review is part of our world of stories blog series for August.
To celebrate the launch of the VintageChildren's Classic, Vintage  is offering you the chance to win I Capture the Castle or a book of your choice from their launch list.
To enter, hop over and leave a comment on the competition post.

1 comment:

  1. I loved I Capture the Castle, too (the movie version was good, but I think the book is better) And since you enjoyed it so much you might also like the trilogy by Michele Cooper about the FitzOsbornes, which is very similar.


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