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I Capture Castle Paperback – 2003

4.7 out of 5 stars 183 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Virago Press (2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844080218
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844080212
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 281 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 183 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,678,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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I WRITE THIS sitting in the kitchen sink. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
I CAPTURE THE CASTLE was recommended to me by an acquaintance when it became available a few years ago, in print after a long absence in the United States. It has become one of my favorite books not for it's depth or subject matter but for the shimmering state of existence it captures- that of a precocious girl becoming an intelligent young woman. Don't let the recent film adaptation prevent you from reading the book because its charm lies in the first person narration (something never captured in film) of Cassandra Mortmain. She chronicles her family's life in an old castle where her beautiful elder sister Rose chafes at her isolation and poverty, her father, the once promising author, continues to suffer from writer's block, his artist's model second wife, Topaz, makes the best of it, and the solid Stephen helps the family without pay. Their world is inevitably changed by the arrival of new American landlords and eligible bachelor brothers Simon and Neil Cotton.
However what could become a trite romance or standard coming of age story is carefully avoided by the thoughtful honesty of its narrator tempered by the comedy of the situations and by a hint of the sadness that accompanies all change. I confess I have purchased eight copies of the book and given them to friends because of the transitory feeling it so accurately grasps. Set in the 1930's, the narration still feels fresh even if the social codes have changed. This is unlike Dodie Smith's famous work, 101 Dalmatians, though, it is perhaps more like her plays, indeed, she even wrote a stage version of I CAPTURE THE CASTLE. It is an imminently readable and enchanting book.
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