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I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
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I Capture the Castle (1948)

by Dodie Smith

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5,852199712 (4.15)505
1930s (58) 20th century (100) British (136) British literature (55) castles (99) children's (41) classic (76) classics (77) coming of age (211) diary (51) England (260) English (41) English literature (39) family (70) favorite (38) fiction (983) Folio Society (67) historical fiction (50) literature (46) love (42) novel (115) own (36) poverty (44) read (109) romance (216) sisters (43) to-read (152) unread (39) YA (101) young adult (179)
  1. 171
    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (weener)
    weener: Another superb girl's coming-of-age novel!
  2. 161
    Emma by Jane Austen (Voracious_Reader)
    Voracious_Reader: Both books are stories of precocious, witty young women coming of age, albeit in very different eras.
  3. 91
    A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper (Maid_Marian, FutureMrsJoshGroban)
    FutureMrsJoshGroban: Much, much better than "I Capture the Castle"!!!
  4. 92
    Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster (mybookshelf)
    mybookshelf: Both are classic stories about unusual young women who enjoy writing.
  5. 70
    The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice (khuggard)
  6. 60
    Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (casvelyn)
    casvelyn: The protagonists have a similar voice and outlook on life.
  7. 30
    The Keeping Days by Norma Johnston (wisewoman)
    wisewoman: Similar narrative voice, wry and funny and believable.
  8. 30
    The Town in Bloom by Dodie Smith (KayCliff)
  9. 10
    The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden (Lirmac)
    Lirmac: The Greengage Summer and I Capture the Castle are both exquisitly-crafted books narrated by girls on the brink of maturity. Both are engaging and timeless, and neither descends into the clichés of the 'coming of age' story.
  10. 21
    The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West (DieFledermaus)
  11. 44
    Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson (allisongryski)
    allisongryski: Another coming-of-age story dealing with sisters finding their own identities and searching for love.
  12. 11
    Seacrow Island by Astrid Lindgren (starbox)
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» See also 505 mentions

English (197)  French (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (199)
Showing 1-5 of 197 (next | show all)
I loved this book in a way that I didn't think I would.

My book club read it, and i loved the first third. I hated the middle third, and adored the end in a way that made me SO glad i muscled through it!

( )
  lmm161 | Mar 30, 2014 |
I find it hard to choose one 'favourite' book – there are so many – but, when asked to name just one, this is the book that comes most frequently to mind. It's as difficult to set down the reasons why I like it as it would be to explain why I like a particular colour, but the characterisations, limpid descriptions and air of romance (as in Walter Scott, not Mills and Boon) would all be worth noting. I am the proud owner of three copies of this book (including a cherished first edition) and am re-reading it as I move from my own 'castle' into something infinitely more prosaic. ( )
  Lirmac | Feb 12, 2014 |
I expected to love this book, but afterward I felt slightly disappointed. There were some great, engaging moments, but I thought the romances were handled badly. Stephen's plotline left a sour taste in my mouth--it's not that I wanted Cassandra to end up with him against her will, but his treatment just seemed cruel.

...And like Simon, I found Cassandra a bit "consciously naive." :) ( )
  thatotter | Feb 4, 2014 |
Very well written and captivating. The story is a tad sad tale of a girl coming-of-age and describes the successes and mistakes of those around her. Loved the novel! ( )
  DeanaDav | Jan 7, 2014 |
(NB it's at least 18 months since I read this book, so... this review might be a bit flaky)

"'What did you want a lion for?' I asked. 'Oh, they were kind of cute,' he said vaguely. Then the kettle boiled and we took the tea in."

This book has one of the most famous opening lines in literature: "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink." Thus we're introduced to the zaniness that is Cassandra Mortmain's life - a creative soul dying to see the grandeur of London, to be able to spend the money their accommodation boasts of, and to escape her equally desperate older sister, "fadingly glorious stepmother Topaz" (I can't say it better than the blurb) and her depressed, stifled father. When the American heirs to the castle in which they live (the aforementioned expansive accommodation) turn up to claim their property, Cassandra's life is turned upside-down - and not just because she's head over heels in love.

The characters are what make this novel. Dimming beauty Topaz, slightly crazy but somehow holding the family together and keeping a roof overhead. Rose, desperate to escape the idyllic country exile, rushes into the first opportunity that presents itself, and is left plenty of time to repent. She's an unusual first child (I have a certain sympathy for the birth-order psychology which appears popular these days) but certainly is headstrong and independent. I can't figure out the Father character, but maybe that's not necessary - it's enough that he's eccentric and creatively stifled and depressed and manic all at once. The conflict underpinning the plot is brought about by his inability to generate income as a writer - one of the saddest passages in the book is when Cassandra notes that she has seen him simply re-reading detective novels after a very short period of time, because the librarian knows he isn't working and won't give him more than one or two a week.

The writing: well, Dodie Smith writes children's literature beautifully, we know that, and it's just as unblemished here.

"And the feel of the park itself was most strange and interesting - what I noticed most was its separateness; it seemed to be smiling and amiable, but somehow aloof from the miles and miles of London all around. At first I thought this was because it belonged to an older London - Victorian, eighteenth century, earlier than that. And then, as I watched the sheep peacefully nibbling the grass, it came to me that Hyde Park has never belonged to any London - that it has always been, in spirit, a stretch of the countryside; and that it thus links the Londons of all periods together most magically - by remaining for ever unchanged at the heart of the ever-changing town."

The romance is of course all tangled up and full of misunderstandings, as any book with a teenage protagonist should be. I still think that it should have turned out differently (without spoilers, but if you've read it you know what I'm thinking should have happened), but all in all perfectly satisfactory at the end.

A wonderfully beautiful book. Should be mandatory reading. It is testament to the book's depth that Mini-Me, The Book Accumulator, The No Longer At All Resident Cousin and I have all absolutely adored it. I must re-read it. ( )
1 vote readingwithtea | Dec 18, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 197 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dodie Smithprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Agutter, JennyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grove, ValerieIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Steed, RuthIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
First words
I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.
Quotations
I know all about the facts of life. And I don't think much of them.
She was so scared, she forgot to be a contralto.
Topaz said she had never been on the streets and rather regretted it, which is the kind of Topazism it requires much affection to tolerate.
Contemplation seems to be about the only luxury that costs nothing.
When I read a book, I put in all the imagination I can, so that it is almost like writing the book as well as reading it—or rather, it is like living it.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
'I write this sitting in the kitchen sink' is the first line of a novel about love, sibling rivalry and a bohemian existence in a crumbling castle in the middle of nowhere. Cassandra Mortmain's journal record her fadingly glamorous stepmother, Topaz, her beautiful, wistful older sister, Rose, and the man to whom all three of them owe their isolation and their poverty: Father. I Capture the Castle has inspired writers as diverse as Armistead Maupin and Joanna Trollope and remains a classic tale of the triumph of youthful naivety over middle-aged cyncism.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 031231616X, Paperback)

Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain wants to become a writer. Trouble is, she's the daughter of a once-famous author with a severe case of writer's block. Her family--beautiful sister Rose, brooding father James, ethereal stepmother Topaz--is barely scraping by in a crumbling English castle they leased when times were good. Now there's very little furniture, hardly any food, and just a few pages of notebook paper left to write on. Bravely making the best of things, Cassandra gets hold of a journal and begins her literary apprenticeship by refusing to face the facts. She writes, "I have just remarked to Rose that our situation is really rather romantic, two girls in this strange and lonely house. She replied that she saw nothing romantic about being shut up in a crumbling ruin surrounded by a sea of mud."

Rose longs for suitors and new tea dresses while Cassandra scorns romance: "I know all about the facts of life. And I don't think much of them." But romantic isolation comes to an end both for the family and for Cassandra's heart when the wealthy, adventurous Cotton family takes over the nearby estate. Cassandra is a witty, pensive, observant heroine, just the right voice for chronicling the perilous cusp of adulthood. Some people have compared I Capture the Castle to the novels of Jane Austen, and it's just as well-plotted and witty. But the Mortmains are more bohemian--as much like the Addams Family as like any of Austen's characters. Dodie Smith, author of 101 Dalmations, wrote this novel in 1948. And though the story is set in the 1930s, it still feels fresh, and well deserves its reputation as a modern classic. --Maria Dolan

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:47:51 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

The story of 17-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Over six turbulent months, she fills three diaries with sharply funny yet poignant entries and manages to find herself hopelessly in love. By the time she pens her final entry, she has "captured the castle" and the heart of the reader.… (more)

» see all 8 descriptions

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