Smith’s novel saw me through the entirety of my read-a-thon participation and was an absolute delight to spend several hours reading. If you think you’ve never heard of her before (and many of her novels are out of print), she wrote 101 Dalmatians! What more do you really need to know after that?
I Capture the Castle could be described as a young adult/coming of age tale about a precocious 17-year-old in early 20th century England. Cassandra and her family live in this cozy, little hamlet and their house is a dilapidated old castle! Her father made money initially off writing a critically acclaimed novel, but then spent some time in prison after threatening a neighbor with a butter knife and never wrote again. They live in extreme poverty with seemingly no way out. Cassandra, her older sister, younger brother, father and stepmother (who loves getting naked outdoors) are completely sequestered away from modern society and come off as very eccentric – basically, freaks. Rose and Cassandra’s hopes appear to rely solely on finding a rich husband, but with no marrying men about what’s a girl to do? Enter their new landlords, the exceptionally rich Cotton brothers straight out of America and you’ve got yourself a little golddiggery on the horizon!
Smith’s novel is excellent, but on the same eccentric side as her characters. Cassandra is our narrator via her diary and you honestly wouldn’t know she was 17 except that she tells you so in the first few pages. I constantly thought of her as 12-14 with her naivety being so overwhelming. You really get a sense of how closed away this family is from anything remotely normal. But this aspect also makes Cassandra and her family super charming and refreshingly unique. You never really know what’s going to happen next due to the family’s quirks and that made the pages easy to turn. The Cotton brothers help ground the novel in actual reality when the Mortmain family seems sure to transcend into fairytale land at any moment and add just the right amount of romantic intrigue.
The best way I can describe how I felt reading I Capture the Castle is enchanted. I wanted to climb the castle’s walls, hold midsummer bonfires, and get swept away by the riches of London right along with Rose and Cassandra. If I have any complaints, it’s only that sometimes the Mortmains seemed a bit too unrealistic, but that was also half the fun. And let me just take a moment to recommend the film version because I watched it a year or so ago and loved it! Henry Cavill stars and he’s a bucket full of fried chicken – YUM! Notice how I just got real Southern on y’all? That’s what Mr. Cavill does for me.
So don’t waste anymore time reading this post – go pick up a copy of I Capture the Castle pronto!