Be amazed, fellow readers! Here it is the beginning of March and I have already finished my Classics Club spin book! I know, I know, I impress myself, too. 🙂
Seriously, though, it wasn’t exactly a hardship. I Capture the Castle is a lovely, highly readable book. I had seen the movie years ago but this was my first experience with Smith’s writing, and I definitely want to read more now.
The story centers on the Mortmains, an impoverished family who live in the ruins of a castle in the English countryside. The father is a writer with only one published (albeit famous) work, and he has since done nothing productive. The children–Rose, Cassandra, and Thomas–are school-aged, and the mother has passed away. The father has remarried a former artist’s model, Topaz, and the household is completed by Stephen, a servant/unofficially adopted boy who lives with them.
The story is told from Cassandra’s point of view, and she is a delightful narrator. She reminded me in many ways of Flavia de Luce from Alan Bradley’s series of mystery novels, although she is older (17-18) and less mischievous. Still, she has a similar sense of adventure and a dramatic flair with which she approaches life. She is sensitive as well and has aspirations of becoming a writer.
Enter Simon and Neil Cotton: two wealthy, eligible brothers who are the true owners of the castle. They arrive in England from America and bring about a reversal of fortunes for the Mortmains. The plot revolves around the interactions between the two families and the way in which each is changed by them.
I don’t want to give too much away for those who haven’t read the book, but suffice it to say that the end result is a very enjoyable read. I particularly loved the way that Cassandra details her emotions and experiences–it was like I was watching her grow up as the book progressed. She has so much integrity and insight for such a young woman, and I thought the resolution of her story was just perfect.
If I had any complaints, it would be with the sense of entitlement that the Mortmains seem to have despite their poverty. They are perfectly willing to let poor Stephen go off and work to keep them in bread, while none of them are capable of earning any money whatsoever on their own. I particularly disliked the father, who lets his family suffer while he waits for the muse to inspire him to write again. He also has a violent nature that his family seems to forgive quite easily. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the parents in Jeannette Wells’ The Glass Castle; even though he is portrayed in a mostly favorable light through Cassandra’s eyes, I found him to be shockingly negligent.
All in all, though, I really liked I Capture the Castle and would definitely recommend it. Though it was published in the 1940’s, it has a very modern feel, and the character of Cassandra alone makes it worth the read.