Thursday, 13 September 2018

I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith

I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith
First published in the UK by William Heinemann in 1948.

One of my Classics Club Challenge reads

How I got this book:
Bought from a charity shop

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain and her family live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the castle’s walls, and her own first descent into love. By the time she pens her final entry, she has “captured the castle” –and the heart of the reader- in one of literature’s most enchanting entertainments.

For some unknown reason I had managed to get completely the wrong idea about I Capture The Castle. I'd avoided reading it for years because I expected a kind of boys own adventure for younger readers! When I spotted a cheap paperback in a Torquay charity shop earlier this year however, I actually read the synopsis and realised my mistake! I'm so glad I did because I love this novel!

A vivid coming of age story, the title I Capture The Castle refers to our heroine, Cassandra who is attempting to hone her writing skills by capturing in prose all the details of her somewhat eccentric family and their life of genteel poverty in a ruined castle. Despite the perpetual cold and lack of sufficient food, I was absolutely entranced by the castle! The history of the place and the idea of its varied rooms and towers totally captured my imagination. I think if I could have a fictional upbringing, something similar to Cassandra's environment would be amazing!

The narrative does focus on the need for women to marry well and we see Cassandra's sister, Rose, set her sights on the new Lord of the Manor, Simon. Smith doesn't take the predictable route though and I loved her character portrayals of everyone from shy Simon to abrasive Leda Fox-Cotton. Dialogue crackles off the page and I appreciated seeing how Cassandra matures from little more than a child at the beginning of her journals to very much a young woman by the end. A wonderful novel and a deserved classic.

Etsy Find!
by Belle Book And Co in
the UK

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Dodie Smith / Young adult books / Books from England


  1. I'm so glad I wasn't born in a time where my only good prospect in life would be to marry a rich man. This sounds like an interesting story.

  2. This was one of my absolute favourite books growing up- I always dreamed I'd live in a ruin with a moat! I think there is far more of a Feminist narrative within it than you would expect- the girls actually wield the power- the step-mum is the earner in the household, Cassandra knows her own mind and Rose plays the games she needs to in order to achieve what she wants. I love this book and re-read it every year! Fab review!

    1. You're absolutely right! It's praise indeed that you reread this one annually :-)

  3. It sounds like you really loved this book and I am so glad you did! I want to read it as well now, and I like that it will be about a writer and have a setting that comes into play. The characters sound quirky and like they make unique choices which is what I love to read about :)

    1. I think this one would be an enjoyable read for you. Smith does capture her characters perfectly!