Monday, 21 May 2012

Review: I Capture the Castle by Dodi Smith

I Capture the Castle by Dodi Smith
Released: 9th April 2012 (this edition)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing (this edition)
Source: Gift
Rating: 5/5

Goodreads description:

This enchanting novel tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her unusual family who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Cassandra’ s eccentric father is a writer whose first book took the literary world by storm but he has since failed to write a single word and now spends his time reading detective fiction. Cassandra’s sister, Rose, despairs of her family’s circumstances and determines to marry their affluent American landlord. She is helped and, sometimes, hindered in this by their bohemian stepmother, an artists’ model who likes to commune with nature. Finally there is Stephen who is hopelessly in love with Cassandra. Amid this maelstrom Cassandra hones her writing skills, candidly capturing the events that take place within the castle’s walls, and her own first descent into love

My thoughts:

I wasn’t sure how much I’d like this, but I really, really enjoyed it (as you can tell by the 5/5 rating)! The story is told through journal entries of Cassandra, the 17 year old girl living in near-poverty in a rundown castle that her family haven’t paid rent on for several years. But, as she’s attempting to improve her writing, she recounts the events as if she were telling a story, which adds both a depth and realism and a level of drama and humour that I didn’t anticipate. I read a large portion of this on a train journey and did, much to my embarrassment, laugh out loud on several occasions (especially at the ‘Green Sleeves’ incident, lol). 

This wasn’t really the sort of book to rush through, I  enjoyed savouring  it and the beautiful writing, it didn’t feel too dated or overdone as  books written ‘ages ago’ can feel. I didn’t find the pacing or the plot too slow at all, I thoroughly enjoyed the snapshot into such an unusual and dysfunctional family situation. I’ve always been fascinated by 1930s/1940s Britain, so I really enjoyed the social history element of reading a novel set in this era. 

Cassandra was very easy to like, strong-minded and probably quite freethinking for her time.  She wasn’t all obsessed with finding a husband (like her sister) and she wasn’t prepared to settle with Stephen just because he was attractive and it made sense financially. She was a bit na├»ve and selfish at times, but I did like that side of her, it was more realistic. I do wish she’d  had a little bit more ambition. By this point in history women DID have a lot more rights and social standing, and I would have liked to have seen Cassandra want to make something of herself a bit more. Having said that, it was easy to see how trapped she was by her circumstances. 

Rose, I understood her, and I wanted to dislike her, but I actually couldn’t. I couldn’t blame her for wanting to be free of her circumstances and make life better for herself and her family cause who could? The way she went about it wasn’t exactly ideal but it was all she knew how to do. She made the right decision eventually though, and I was happy about that.Topaz and Cassandra’s father were fantastically complex. In fact, most of the characters, even the Americans were complex. Cassandra’s way of writing captured them all in a really life-like way and huge props to the author for achieving this. I loved the psychological element of her father’s reluctance or even inability to write another book, and Topaz’s eccentricities and kindnesses. 

I was so busy enjoying the book that I totally didn’t guess the end which really surprised me! If I’d thought more about it, I probably could have gotten the twist, but it was nice to be caught up in a story enough to not be thinking hard enough to figure it out. I did really like the end, I can see how it would be unsatisfying but I can’t imagine it ending another way.

This would easily be a YA novel if published nowadays; it’s a fantastic coming-of-age story with a really relatable main character with an extraordinary voice and it’s beautifully written. I think it will be going on my all-time favourites list and I wish more people would pick this up!


  1. your review makes me want to pick this book up! it sounds very intriguing, and I love your review. definitely going to have to check this one out some more. :)

    Ashelynn @ gypsy book reviews.

  2. This is one of my favourite books EVER! I can read this over and over again. I am so pleased you enjoyed it too. I don't think it dates at all.

  3. Another thing we will have to agree to disagree on ;). I really didn't like this book. I did read it a while ago, but I remember finding it boring, finding Cassandra annoying and I absolutely detested her love interest :P. But I'm glad you enjoyed it! Great review :).

  4. great review Cait, I really want to read this one after hearing Viv gush over it so much, it sounds just amazing!

  5. I know we already discussed this but I'll repeat myself. It's funny to me that this would be YA if it were published today but because it's a classic people that only read YA avoid it. Aw well, they're missing out.

  6. You know, ordinarily I might look this one over because despite that I tend to love the historical books I read, I can be quite a snob sometimes too :P But you have absolutely convinced me that I need to add this to my ever-growing list of books to read. ALL TIME FAVOURITE?! Wow.

    I really like the sound of Cassandra and I love when you get so caught up in a book that the laughs just flow freely, regardless of where you are. Awesome review, Cait!! Consider me intrigued ;)

  7. I loved this book too - completely agree with you on how likeable Cassandra is. Have you ever read Michelle Cooper's Montmaray Journals series (begins with A Brief History of Montmarary)? I think that the narrator, Sophie, has a very similar voice to Cassandra. Actually there were a few things that were similar to I Capture the Castle, which kind of bugged me at first, but as you continues, it gets more and more its own story, and Sophie becomes a stronger, more individual character too.


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