Friday, January 25, 2013

Review: I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith. The GoodReads summary:
I Capture the Castle tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who 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.
I read this book as a teenager, and I remember that I liked it, but recently when it came time to read it for book club, I realized I only had vague memories of what happens in it or what made me like it. Although I did remember two things quite clearly: I loved Cassandra, and I hated Simon. So with that in mind, I started off on my reread—though honestly, most of the time it was like I was reading it for the first time.

I fell in love with Cassandra at exactly the same place I did when I first read it: at the top of the second page. Cassandra is describing herself and she says, “I am seventeen, look younger, feel older.” That statement just so perfectly encapsulated how I felt my entire teenage life—that disparity between how others saw me and how I saw myself. That quote spoke to me then, and it still speaks to me now. Cassandra is quite insightful and observant and witty, and she made me grin constantly and even laugh out loud a few times. Which is not to say that Cassandra is perfect. I got so frustrated with her for the way she acts with Stephen, like his adoration of her is her rightful due and that she doesn’t have to think about how her actions affect him. I also got a bit tired of her constant whining and moping during the last quarter of the book. But I can forgive her all that because of how well she captures so much of what I felt growing up and because of how easy it is for me to relate to her.

I was kinda hoping that I was misremembering my disdain for Simon, and that this time around he would win me over. But he didn’t. I think the majority of why I didn’t like him when I first read the book was his creepy beard, but this time I thought that while he’s perfectly nice, he comes across as a bit too weak and boring for my taste. And I don’t like how he (spoiler) falls for Rose for her beauty and for who he thinks she is, rather than for who she really is. And I really can’t forgive him for kissing Cassandra when he’s engaged to Rose and then acting like it’s no big deal (end spoiler).

The ending was much better than I remembered it being the first time around. (Spoiler) I thought that the book ended with Simon and Cassandra getting together, but it doesn’t—it leaves it open. For most people that’s probably frustrating, but since I don’t like Simon, I was quite happy with it. Yes, the book ends with Cassandra still in love with him and with the possibility of them being together in the future, but the openness of the ending leaves room for me to believe that Cassandra will outgrow him eventually and find someone better—and if that someone just happens to be an older and wiser future Stephen, I wouldn’t mind a bit (end spoiler).

Overall, I was glad that when I finished the book this time, I liked it just as much as I did the first time I read it. Even a little more maybe, because I felt like I understood things that I missed before. It never ceases to amaze me how a book written in 1948 can speak to me so well 65 years later.

Rating: 4 / 5


  1. I need to go back and read this as a grown-up too! I so wanted some sort of happy ending to be handed to me on a platter that I was cross, and never have gone back to it...



    I did not like this book because of how Cassandra fell for Simon; I felt like she was stabbing Rose in the back even if Rose wasn't super invested in him anyway. I hate when sisters are interested in the same guy (speaking as a sister whose sister has thankfully very different taste in guys) and since I had read spoilers myself, I spent most of the book dreading that moment and hating it when it happened.

  3. I was thinking of starting a YA classics feature and this has been sitting on my shelf for ages, waiting for me to get my act together. Now I'm even more excited to read it!

  4. I read this as a teen as well and this review makes me want to grab a copy and re-read it again to see if like you I still feel the same about it now as an adult.


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