Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Book Twenty-Eight - I Capture The Castle - Part Two

Dodie Smith
I loved this book. It took about 60 pages to get into it and then I couldn't put it down. I love the characters! I Capture The Castle contains truth, humor, mystery and love.

I'd heard several people say Cassandra is a magnificent narrator but I didn't guess that the novel is told in first person through journal entries. Smith uses this so effectively that I didn't feel I was missing anything even though I only had one person's point of view. Cassie is one of those teenagers who was born an old soul. She has tremendous insight yet she also has the limited view inherent in being a teenager.

The book was published in 1948 and set in the English countryside. Smith's descriptions are magnificent - she seems to blend her description into the narrative so flawlessly that I felt as if I were seeing everything as Cassie did. I wanted to learn more about Smith and discovered that she wrote The Hundred And One Dalmatians! She began as a playwright. (Why is it spelled "playwright?" Shouldn't it be "playwrite?") She wrote I Capture The Castle while living in the US, which explains her cute little tangents into the cultural differences between the British and the Americans.

Cassie is quite an honest narrator. As she imagines receiving her first kiss, she fantasizes the entire scene - what he will say, what she will say, etc. And she even realizes that the reality can never match the fantasy! Of course the man never says anything as good as she imagined him saying. Even at her age she grasps the difference between fantasy and reality. Later in the book her fantasies become so strong that she feels exhausted after indulging in one. She knows she is tormenting herself but doesn't want to stop.

This is not Cassie's only flaw. She sees the duplicitous acts others commit but does not admit to her own.  Despite her insight, she definitely has a naive side - but then, she's seventeen.

The Vicar! I love him - there's one scene in which he is very Dumbledorian with Cassie - leading her gently along her own path of thought and then allowing her to work out the answer for herself. And Stephen! Oh how I love Stephen. So selfless and so devoted.

The ending was unsatisfying but real. Do we choose who we love? Cassandra would say no. But how many times does the person you fall in love with fall in live with you? When is simple companionship enough?

Oh, and calf-love instead of puppy-love? Was that the saying back then?

I was intrigued by Heloise and Abelard. I thought it was a literary reference, so I checked them out. It turns out that they are real people in the 12th century who had a doomed love. Seems to fit as Heloise is the dog and Abelard the cat.

A couple of favorite passages - 
... miserable people cannot afford to dislike each other. Cruel blows of fate call for extreme kindness in the family circle. 
A year ago I would have made a poem out of that idea. I tried to, yesterday, but it wasn't any use. Oh, I could think of lines that rhymed and scanned but that is all they were. I know now that is all my poems ever were, yet I used to feel I could leap over the moon when I had made one up. I miss that rather.  
That's a perfect metaphor for life, isn't it? We grow up and must put behind the things of youth, including some we cherish.

Mini-tangent - scanning means a poem meets the requirements for feet and syllable stresses - as in sonnets and iambic pentameter. I know what those things are but have never been terribly interested in them. I can appreciate poetry but am not much adept at the technical side (another reason Shakespeare was genius - he managed to jump through all those technical hoops and still write brilliance). I can write a fair haiku, but that's about it.

I also watched the 2003 adaptation of the novel on Netflix. I loved it, and cried at the end just like I did at the end of the book. Romola Garai plays Cassandra, and she's the one who helped me finally like Emma Woodhouse - in the 2009 adaptation of Emma. Both are from the BBC. By the way, how cool is it that Smith mentions Jane Austen?!



  1. I read this for the first time last year and fell compeltely in lvoe with it! I'm so glad you did too.

  2. I'm about page 60 right now. Good to know it picks up. I'm enjoying the characters, but it has been a little slow so far. I will definitely come back and read the full review once I finish it. I'm so glad you loved it. I'm really looking forward to seeing the movie when I finish it as well.

  3. I'm so glad you loved this one, too! It was one of my favorites so far this year.

  4. I finished this today, so I thought I'd come back and read your complete review. I loved Stephen too! What a sweet boy and so dedicated to Cassandra without ever pressuring her.

    The ending was a bit abrupt. The romantic in me wishes it would have ended differently, but I really think the author did the right thing. It was realistic, albeit a little sad.

  5. This one is in both of our top 5 for a reason! It is such a realistic look at love....the truth that love can be painful, but that it is still worth it! We are so glad you loved it! The audio version of this is amazing as well!