You know those lists? The ones that float around on the internet that tell you which books you ought to have read already and how you suck at life for not meeting an arbitrary milestone? Perhaps you just kind of ignore the smug implications of such lists. I wish I could. List bullies. Anyway. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith is one of the books that often pops up on said lists, and I finally got around to reading it. Finally. It sat on my Kindle unread for like 2 years. Oops.
I Capture the Castle is written from the perspective of a 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain. In 1934, she and her family have fallen on hard times. Her father, once a respected novelist, has the world’s worst writer’s block and as a result, the family is destitute. Ironically, they reside in an actual castle in the English countryside. It’s a dilapidated, leaky affair, but it’s got a moat! Broke, but not without eccentricities, the Mortmain clan’s adventures are recorded in Cassandra’s journals.
I fully expected to love this book. I mean, come on. A ruined castle with a moat full of quirky Brits and a dog named Heloise? You can understand where I’d be under that impression. Unfortunately, I had some issues with it. More specifically, I had some issues with the female characters. Just… Hear me out. (This is probably kind of spoilery, so read at your own risk.)
First, Topaz. She’s married to Cassandra’s father and models for artists. She’s a pretty great character, all artsy and glamorous even while half-starving in those crumbling walls. The problem? She has bounced from starving artist to starving artist seeing herself as a muse of sorts… And she FULLY EXPECTS TO BE ABUSED. Physically, emotionally, whatever. She just assumes it’s part of the deal. Because artsy types can’t help it?! Mortmain isn’t a monster or anything, but she’s almost disappointed by his lack of vitriolic mood swings. Unhealthy, yo.
Second on the list is Cassandra’s beautiful sister, Rose. Girl’s a gold digger, hardcore. Unfortunately, she’d expected by society and her family to marry for love and nothing more. Love is all well and good when you’re not literally starving in a moldering castle. It’s not like she had a whole heck of a lot of options. Frivilous and flighty, I didn’t much care for Rose, but I couldn’t fault her for making a cash grab. Homegirl’s gotta eat.
Finally. Cassandra. I know you’re 17. But come on. Let’s talk about poor romantic decisions, shall we? Who should one get hung up on? The fellow who is completely unavailable for very good reasons, OR the extraordinarily handsome fellow whose kind generosity in the face of poverty is equaled only by his adoration of you? WTF, Cassandra? Get a grip girl. And make it a grip on Stephen. Swoon.
Good news and bad news, I guess. I can now check another box off on my next judgmental internet quiz, but I didn’t love it. Ah well. Not every book works for everyone. Talk to me Bookworms. How many of you have read I Capture the Castle? Did you love it? Hate it? Or are you with me in Ambivalent-ville?
*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I’m considering installing a moat in my yard, so, you could help me live the dream.*