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I Capture the Castle (1948)

by Dodie Smith

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,852265768 (4.12)680
A novel of an eccentric and impoverished English family whose home is a ruined 14th century castle. The story is presented in the form of a diary by the family's teen daughter.
  1. 191
    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (weener)
    weener: Another superb girl's coming-of-age novel!
  2. 171
    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. 131
    Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster (mybookshelf)
    mybookshelf: Both are classic stories about unusual young women who enjoy writing.
  4. 90
    Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (casvelyn)
    casvelyn: The protagonists have a similar voice and outlook on life.
  5. 91
    A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper (Maid_Marian, FutureMrsJoshGroban)
    FutureMrsJoshGroban: Much, much better than "I Capture the Castle"!!!
  6. 60
    The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice (khuggard)
  7. 30
    The Town in Bloom by Dodie Smith (KayCliff)
  8. 30
    The Keeping Days by Norma Johnston (atimco)
    atimco: Similar narrative voice, wry and funny and believable.
  9. 20
    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. 10
    Guard Your Daughters by Diana Tutton (KayCliff)
  11. 10
    Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett (charl08)
    charl08: Both narrated by youthful, naive but entertaining protagonists.
  12. 21
    The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West (DieFledermaus)
  13. 10
    The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford (souloftherose)
  14. 21
    Seacrow Island by Astrid Lindgren (starbox)
  15. 10
    The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz (charl08)
    charl08: Both feature strong teenage characters dealing with first romance, family and growing up.
  16. 11
    Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt (nessreader)
    nessreader: Melancholic atmospheric coming of age books about introspective girls
  17. 00
    Tell Me a Riddle by Tillie Olsen (TomWaitsTables)
  18. 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.
  19. 00
    The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob (charl08)
    charl08: Both novels include a young female protagonist who is charismatic, surrounded by interesting characters and loving books. And both are funny.
  20. 00
    Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Although I Capture the Castle is a coming-of-age story, not a mystery, both witty novels are narrated by precocious girls who, left to their own devices by their eccentric families, pursue adventures within the confines of quiet English villages.… (more)

(see all 20 recommendations)

1940s (15)

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» See also 680 mentions

English (262)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (264)
Showing 1-5 of 262 (next | show all)
This was on a list of suggested reads and I'm glad I took the time to seek it out. The story is told through an ongoing journal by one of two sisters who lives in an old English castle with her quirky family. I love dry British humor and her perspective on their situation delivers on that love. It's a funny, serious and reflective view of life--and the unique circumstances of their living situation adds a layer of intrigue. Who hasn't dreamed of living in a castle? You may still want to after reading this book but you'll be shaped by the story of these two girls and their upbringing.

FYI that I then checked out the movie version of the book that was made several years ago (a BBC production, I believe). Okay but nowhere near as magical as the book. I suspected this would be the case because so much of the internal dialogue that makes the book special would be hard to bring to life on film. ( )
  jjpseattle | Aug 2, 2020 |
What a wonderful novel! Following the eccentricities and struggles of these characters in their crumbling English castle is everything -- touching, insightful, inspirational, philosophical and, in many, many scenes, hilarious. Through the viewpoint of Cassandra, telling the story in her journal, we get a great coming of age story with descriptions of the characters around her that remain as fresh today as when they were written decades ago. I was glad to be home alone to read one particular scene, because it made me roar with laughter. I am not sure I've ever had such a hearty laugh from the written word before! I may have to make reading this one an annual event. ( )
  MMKY | Jul 3, 2020 |
A radio play adaptation of Dodie Smith's classic novel. Cassandra lives in a crumbling castle in Suffolk with her family whose lives are dramatically shaken up by the arrival of two Americans who have inherited the property. The adaptation was sweet and charming, filled with the romance and drama of the original which nicely mixes Cassandra's diary entries with dialogue between all the characters. Having read the novel, I found this a great way to revisit the story. ( )
  MickyFine | Jun 24, 2020 |
This book was so highly praised that I kept reading way beyond when I would normally give up and give it away. In fact, I actually finished it because I was sure it would be getting better in just a page or two and all those 5 and 4 star reviewers couldn't be wrong. This is a book that you either love or you don't like it at all. I gave it 2 stars instead of 1 star because "it was OK." But i wouldn't recommend it. ( )
  PhyllisReads | Jun 2, 2020 |
The Mortmain family lives in a rundown castle in the English countryside in the 1930s. The book is presented as the 17-year-old Cassandra’s journal and in this way we see the world through her eyes.

There’s her father, a famous author who has become temperamental and withdrawn and no longer writes a thing. Topaz, her stepmother, a free spirit convinced that her purpose in life is to inspire great works in others. Rose, Cassandra’s older sister, is a beauty whose goal in life is to marry a rich man and escape poverty. Thomas, her brother, is a clever boy who never steps into the story’s spotlight. Finally there is Stephen, the son of their deceased maid, who lives with them and helps take care of the grounds. He’s a kind, humble boy and is devoted to Cassandra. He spends his extra time and money trying to make her life better in every way that he can.

Despite their financial ruin, Cassandra and her family are rather content. They make do with what they have, though it’s not a lot. Their lives are turned upside down when two wealthy American brothers, Simon and Neil Cotton, move into the mansion up the road. The two very different families find their fates unavoidable intertwined.

Like many literary second daughters before her (Jo March, Elizabeth Bennet) Cassandra makes a wonderful central character. She’s someone who you just want to be friends with. She’s a bit naïve for her age, but that’s because she’s grown up with almost no social interaction outside of her family. Throughout the book we watch her mature and begin to understand not only the world around her, but also herself.

This is one of those books that I just knew I was going to love. I’ve been saving it to read when I was in just the right mood. People had recommended it to me for years, comparing it to some of my favorites like, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Near the beginning of the book Cassandra and her sister share this exchange…

"How I wish I lived in a Jane Austen novel!"
“I said I'd rather be in a Charlotte Bronte.”
"Which would be nicest - Jane with a touch of Charlotte, or Charlotte with a touch of Jane?"

Please tell me how I could have resisted a book with a passage like that.

In the end it was all that I hoped it would be. The characters are rich, but deeply flawed. The plot is much more complicated than a simple happily ever after. The writing was wonderful and completely engrossing. Throughout the story I felt like I was there, enjoying the Midsummer Night’s Eve or sipping from my first glass of port on a rainy day right beside Cassandra. It did what so few books can do, left me wanting more from the characters who now felt like my friends.

A couple great lines…

“Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression.”

“They went on interrupting each other in a perfectly friendly manner.”

“It struck me that this was the first time I had ever been on my own in London. Normally, I should have enjoyed getting the”feel” of it — you never quite do until you have been alone in a place.”

UPDATE: I reread this one a decade after first discovering it. I discussed it in four different sections with my book club and loved delving deeper into the relationships. ( )
1 vote bookworm12 | May 5, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 262 (next | show all)
This book was such a wonderful, enchanting and unpredictable read that by the end of it I felt like I almost was Cassandra, since her confessions, recordings and thoughts in her journals gave me a thorough insight into her. I also loved how the sections of the book were arranged in differently priced notebooks, which really demonstrated the progression of the story
It feels, reading it now, as if this is the story that every romantic comedy Hollywood has ever made has been trying to tell. And when we come towards the end of the book and a marriage proposal and happily-ever-after storyline seems to be in the offing, I was worried we were going to stray into that territory. But Smith is too good a writer, Cassandra too interesting a person to settle for this.
added by Nickelini | editthe Independent, Evie Wyld (Jul 19, 2013)

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dodie Smithprimary authorall editionscalculated
Agutter, JennyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grove, ValerieIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Steed, RuthIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.
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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