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Home » Book Review » I Capture the Castle–class structure in mid-20th century England

I Capture the Castle–class structure in mid-20th century England

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I Capture the Castle

by Dodie Smith

To label I Capture the Castle as a “coming of age” story is true, but the novel is so much more. It is related in her journal by Cassandra who lives in poverty under the leaky roof of a crumbling castle. Her father Mortmain is a writer with one successful book to his credit before he hit a writing desert. He secured a forty-year lease on the castle on a whim. The other residents are his son, another daughter, a boy taken in when his servant mother passed, and Topaz, the children’s stepmother. All in the family realize that the only way out of their financial straits is for at least one of the girls to marry into a rich family.

Author Dodie Smith has gifted us with a book full of nonconventional characters, a beautiful romantic background, and moral dilemmas. The plot begins with touches reminiscent of Pride and Prejudice but deviates fairly quickly. There is a similar theme of class differences, but without Austen’s use of satire. Two of the potential romantic interests grew up in America, one in the East and one in the West. Their backgrounds add another layer of social and cultural differences. Cassandra’s family is caught in the middle. They clearly had money in the past, but they have sold off most of their belongings and are reduced to very meager meals and one or two threadbare outfits per person. They have to be very creative to be acceptable in the social milieu to which they aspire.

I Capture the Castle has the depth necessary for a book to stand the test of time and appeal to a wide audience. It includes topics like women’s roles, art and sexuality, depression, literary criticism, and the laws of inheritance in Great Britain. While it addresses these issues, it remains an interesting and well-told tale with an ending that does not tie everything up neatly. Instead, it gives the reader the opportunity to speculate on the characters’ future decisions and actions which is a good way for this novel to conclude.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, General Fiction

Notes: 1. There are discussion questions at the end.
2. The book has been made into a movie.

Publication: 1948—St. Martin’s Press

Memorable Lines:

I am writing this journal partly to practice my newly acquired speed-writing and partly to teach myself how to write a novel—I intend to capture all our characters and put in conversations. It ought to be good for my style to dash along without much thought, as up to now my stories have been very stiff and self-conscious.

The taxi drew up at a wonderful shop—the sort of shop I would never dare to walk through without a reason. We went in by way of the glove and stocking department, but there were things from other departments just dotted about; bottles of scent and a little glass tree with cherries on it and a piece of white branched coral on a sea-green chiffon scarf. Oh, it was an artful place—it must make people who have money want to spend it madly!

In the end, Topaz got Stephen to take the hen-house door off its hinges and make some rough trestles to put it on, and we pushed it close to the window-seat, which saved us three chairs. We used the grey brocade curtains from the hall as a table-cloth—they looked magnificent though the join showed a bit and they got in the way of our feet. All our silver and good china and glass went long ago, but the Vicar lent us his, including his silver candelabra.


10 Comments

  1. This sounds like a great book, everything about it I love. I would love to find the movie too. What fun it would be to write a novel!

    Like

  2. Carla says:

    Wonderful review, Linda. I recently watched this movie after someone posted about it on their blog. I enjoyed it, but now I wish I had read the book. The quotes your selected are wonderful of course.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gretchen says:

    I’m so glad you enjoyed this one, Linda! Reading your review helped me see things I didn’t see when I read it. And reading your quotes brought me right back to the story. I don’t re-read books often, but I can see myself re-reading this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lghiggins says:

      I am the same way about rereading. When we downsized I had the difficult task of saying goodbye to some of my books. One of my criteria was “Would I read this again?” This is one that the answer would be “yes.”

      Like

  4. WendyW says:

    This sounds like my kind of book. I might try and find the movie somewhere and watch it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. After reading your review and the other comments, this sounds like a must read to me! Thanks Linda~

    Liked by 1 person

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