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I Capture Castle [Paperback]

Dodie Smith
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (182 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 1 2003 VMC (Book 217)
I write this sitting at 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 Mortmin's journal records her fadingly glamorous stepmother, her beautiful, wistful older sister and the man to whom they owe both their isolation and poverty - Father. The author of one experimental novel, and a minor cause celebre, he has since suffered from writer's block and is determined to drag his family down with him. But if the iron has entered Father's soul it hasn't penetrated Cassandra's ...

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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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


This book has one of the most charismatic narrators I've ever met J.K. Rowling A delicious, compulsively readable novel about young love and its vicissitudes. What fun! Erica Jong Much more fun than the reader has any right to expect THE WEEKLY STANDARD Dreamy and funny...an odd, shimmering timelessness clings to its pages. A thousand and one cheers for its reissue. A + ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

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I WRITE THIS sitting in the kitchen sink. Read the first page
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Began as a sheer joy but didn't keep its ease June 18 2010
By Samantha TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was a little confused when I began reading the book because it seemed at once aimed at teenagers but written with adult sensibilities. Eventually, I just relaxed and let Cassandra, the seventeen-year-old narrator take me away. And she did it beautifully. I loved the quotidian simplicity of her world, her romantic bent of mind, her precociousness. I was lulled by the language and thrilled to be enjoying a book written seventy years ago. Until the last quarter of the book. It took a sharp turn that made me want to skim. Suddenly it seemed clearly written for teenagers. I couldn't swallow the romances that bloomed and faded. Then Cassandra stopped being endearing; she became shallow, fickle and immature. I almost gave the book 4 stars because of the delight I felt for most of the book, but the ending was just too disappointing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I Capture the Castle book Nov. 11 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
When I was about 16 or so I found this book on my mother's bookshelves. I loved the book and have re-read it over the years. I now have a daughter of my own and gave it to her one day to read. She loved the book as well, and I wanted to give her a copy of her own for Christmas this year.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Dated in some respects, delightful in others. Sept. 8 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the writing style, but could have done without some of the descriptions and the repetition. Still, a charming story and a fun read. The characters were unique and fun to get to know. I admired Cassandra's resilience.
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4.0 out of 5 stars And She Captured My Heart Aug. 6 2012
I Capture the Castle was a delight for almost the entire novel. Cassandra, a strong, resilient, and talented girl in her late teens, narrates the book through diary entries. Her family, once well-off, has crumbled into decay and is living in an ancient castle with almost no money and little to eat. She writes of her sister's plans to marry out of poverty, her fears for her father's sanity, and her family and romantic relationships, with insight and wisdom. Dodie Smith also wrote '101 Dalmatians' prior to writing this charming little book.

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Not particularly impressed by this book. Picked it up because J.K. Rowling recommended it... As implied by my review, it seems like a Jane Austen novel set in the 1930s, narrated by a "precocious" seventeen-year old "child" in a situation akin to the de Luce household...
That being said, the first person narration is very well done. And, if you are looking for a modernized Austen-like book set in early 20th century, (so imagine cold crumbling manor houses, impoverished girls, star-crossed lovers and the underground and wireless sets), you'll be sure to enjoy it.
For me, though, it was swift read on the train, but not something I would reread.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book July 17 2005
By Allyson
After reading the latest reviews on Amazon I felt obliged to write my own review.
This is a wonderful book. It reads very easily and the story is a joy to follow. I love Cassandra and her very matter-of-fact love lorn ways. Rose is the character that you want to hate but just can't. All the characters are enjoyable and life like.
Of course, this is a book for younger readers. I still feel it is a very good read for any age. I read it in one sitting and loved every minute of it. I have since re-read it twice and I still love it.
I have heard that this is also one of JK Rowlings favorite books as a child, and that it inspired her to write.
High praise indeed.
Please read it for yourself and don't let those without imagination turn you away from it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Capture this book! June 26 2004
By Kat
I came across this book accidentally. My co-worker had it on the library reference desk. She said it was the next book in her book discussion group. After she told me a little about it I decided to read it. Then, I had second thoughts. So, I read reviews of it on Amazon. I still wasn't sure if I wanted to read it when I read that people said it was like Jane Austen would write if she was around today. Even though I'm a former English major and a librarian, I will commit the great heresy and admit I don't like Jane Austen. She's too hoity-toity for me. But, then, in a review I read the opening couple of sentences: "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining board, which I have padded with our dog's blanket and the tea-cosy." This is such a great and intriguing opening that I had to know what was going on. I'm glad I decided to read it. It is a delightful novel, especially describing the poverty the Mortmains experience living in the castle. (You don't associate living in a castle with poverty! That, right there, makes the book different.) I have to admit, it does rather read like a modern Jane Austen and yet I didn't mind all the talk about who loved whom and who was going to marry whom. I also enjoyed sharing the challenge of getting James Mortmain to go back to his writing. It's a very good read with interesting characters, including the castle itself. And, if you like romances, you will really like this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Will capture your heart June 7 2004
Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain, an aspiring author, is keeping a journal in which she chronicles her life in a ramshackle old English castle. Life is not easy for the Mortmains. Most of the family's possessions and furnishings have been sold off, they do without electricity, and there is barely enough to eat. In spite of all this, the family keeps a cheerful outlook and manages to get by, thanks in part to the generosity of the wealthy American Cotton family who has inherited the estate upon which the castle sits and who have taken the Mortmains under their wing.
The Mortmains are an offbeat family. Cassandra has flights of fancy and unusual schemes that often have unexpected results. Father, an eccentric and innovative writer, is suffering from severe writer's block and can no longer support the family. He spends his time holed up in the gatehouse reading novels. Stepmother Topaz is a flighty artist's model who enjoys roaming the estate in the buff. Cassandra's older sister Rose is tired of living hand-to-mouth, and she decides to find a way to marry the landlord's wealthy grandson. Handsome Stephen, a hired hand who stays on with the family even though the Mortmains cannot afford to pay him, has difficulty hiding his unrequited love for Cassandra.
First published in 1948 and set in the 1930s, the story has an old-fashioned feel to it, especially on the subject of courtship and marriage. It also highlights the cultural differences at that time between the Americans and the British. Possessing a wisdom and maturity beyond her years, Cassandra spends much time analyzing the people and events that surround her and then recording her observations. "Contemplation," she says, "seems to be about the only luxury that costs nothing.
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