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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

One of the 20th Century's most beloved novels is still winning hearts! 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 Capture the Castle

by Dodie Smith

Overall Book Review:

‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.’

What first attracted me to I Capture the Castle was the beautiful and symbolic cover of the Vintage Children’s Classics edition, and the story is just as colorful. Set in 1934, it tells the story of 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain and her weird family over the course of six months, through her journal entries. 

‘I intend to capture all our characters and put in conversations.’

Cassandra’s amusing journal tells of a family that is anything but ordinary, and their lives are peppered with love, poverty, depression, desperation and sacrifice. Events cause their lives to change, and the three different notebooks Cassandra writes in are symbolic of the changes that occur at different stages.

‘I am a restlessness inside a stillness inside a restlessness.’

Most interesting is Cassandra, whose writing and soul-searching leads her on a journey of self-discovery, and forces her to look more closely at the people she cares and writes about. Far from being depressing, I Capture the Castle is funny, engaging, and shocking at times.

There were a few things that I wish were better about the book. One character was not developed until the last few chapters, which was disappointing as the character turned out to be interesting. Also, the story got a little too descriptive in parts; this and dated references made for slow reading. In addition, I thought the ending could have been better.

Overall, I Capture the Castle is an interesting read with a good dose of drama and plot twists.

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  1 religious exclamation; 5 mild obscenities; 2 anatomical terms.

Violence/Gore:  A character brandishes a cake knife at his wife and hits someone who interferes; a character slaps another; a character shoves his child and unintentionally slams her into a door; a character throws crockery at his child; characters imprison another character with good intentions; a character tries to summon the devil in a half-serious attempt that ends up being scary.

Sex/Nudity:  A character is said to have posed nude for paintings; nude pictures are vaguely described; a character enjoys walking around nature privately in the nude; a character considers prostitution; characters think and talk about different characters kissing on several occasions; characters imagine vague sexual scenes with other characters on a few occasions, though not explicitly;  characters kiss on a few occasions; a character sunbathes naked; a character wants another character to pose naked for a photograph; vague sexual activity between two characters is implied; characters flirt on a few occasions.

Mature Subject Matter:

Extreme poverty, depression, divorce, marital infidelity entertained, pagan rite.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Characters drink at a dinner party and at a bar; a teenager drinks alcohol on a few occasions legally; a teenager drinks till slightly tipsy. 

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

I have been an avid reader since I have been able to read. When I was a kid, I read everything I could lay my hands on – storybooks, newspapers, bibles, pamphlets, textbooks and even product labels. I constantly made trips with my parents to bookstores and libraries, and I have developed a dependence on fictional books, especially action, adventure, mystery and fantasy. I truly believe that reading is the best kind of mental therapy there is, and that the world would be a better place if more people read books.