Friday, April 1, 2011

I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith


This review comes to us from the Tristi Pinkston, published author (see here and here), freelance editor, and blogger extraordinaire.  She is also a Cubmaster, chocolate-lover, and a Pisces.  While impressive, these aren't the reason that I love Tristi.  I love Tristi because she is supremely sarcastic. You might not believe this, but I think she might be more sarcastic than me. *Gasp* I know, right?!

Want to see more of Tristi?  Visit her blog or website.

Summary and Review:  Every so often, I will read a book that hits me so close to dead center that I feel as though the author somehow knew me and had found a way to reach out and grab me and pull me in to their world, and keep me from ever wanting to leave. “I Capture the Castle” by Dodie Smith was exactly this kind of book for me. I forget how I learned about it for the first time—I think I saw it recommended on a book blog, I put it on my to-read list, and happened upon it in the regular course of things. Now I wish I’d read it much, much sooner … so don’t delay, like I did.

The premise: The book is set in England in the 1930s. Cassandra Mortmain is a seventeen-year-old girl who lives with her older sister, Rose, her younger brother (whose name really isn’t important), her eccentric step-mother, Topaz, and her father, a brilliant man who authored one novel but has been unable to write anything else. In an attempt to find his muse again, he takes out a lease on a crumbling old castle, thinking the surroundings will do him good, but his well has run dry, and his family starts selling furniture so they can continue to eat.

Cassandra is our first-person narrator, who tells us the story by the aid of journal entries. Smith does an amazing job of creating this character beautifully in our heads. I felt sucked in from the first paragraph. In fact, I have that first paragraph on a book bag my husband bought me: “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it. The rest of me is on the draining board.” She tells the history of the family, shows us who the family members are, and then launches into the main story.

Two young men have moved into the neighborhood, and Rose, who is determined to have a better life, decides that if she were to marry Simon, the older son, she could save the family from their utter poverty. She sets out to win his heart, enlisting Cassandra’s help. Cassandra is only too eager to see her sister happy, and to help her father out of his morbid depression, but she soon develops feelings for Simon herself. Her loyalty to her sister keeps her from saying anything, and why would he want her, anyway? Rose is the beautiful one, the talented one, while Cassandra is just a girl, and a tomboy at that.

We follow the two girls as they plot and scheme to win Simon over to Rose’s cause, and then we see them make realizations about themselves and about their lives that are truly breathtaking. The ending was unexpected, yet beautiful. I would not have seen it end any other way, even though I feel as if I left a piece of my heart inside the pages.

My Rating: 5 Stars

Sum It Up: Breathtaking coming-of-age novel that will live in your mind long after you’ve closed the covers.


Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

Thanks Tristi!
I've had this book on my bed side table for 6 months!!!! We were supposed to read it for book club, but somehow, something else took it's place. Must get to it soon!!

Anne Bennion said...

I absolutely adored this book. The descriptions are so real that I almost expected to look out the window and see what the characters were seeing.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Thanks, Anne!

Melissa, don't delay a single minute more! You'll thank me!


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