Friday, 8 October 2010
I CAPTURE THE CASTLE by Dodie Smith
This is such a wonderful book, I don't even know what to do with myself. I began it on the train home from Bath in the evening, and suffice to say I finished it all before bed time. You know how it is when you look at the clock and it's 00:05, and then, ten minutes later it's 01:20? At that point, you're sleep schedules all fucked anyway, so you may as well just keep reading! Hurray! It was a total binge.
Though now, as with all the best binges, I'm sorry for it. Because now I have no more I CAPTURE THE CASTLE to read. The cover says: "I know of few novels - except Pride and Prejudice - that inspire as much fierce lifelong affection in their readers as I Capture the Castle." (Joanna Trollope) And I believe it. The first person I told about having read it practically chewed my arm off in delight, as she loves it too, and she told me it was recommended to her initially in an equally crazed fashion. I looked it up on Amazon, and it has a vast majority of 5 stars. Though three morons who need to smoke less crack gave it 1 star.
I CAPTURE THE CASTLE is written in journal format; and that that is successful is a major feat I think. It's a hard thing to do. That ghost story I read a few books ago was in that format, and it was sadly creaky: the hardy young explorer was bizarrely literary, and kept saying “I write this journal because xyz” in a not very believable way. I CAPTURE THE CASTLE is very successful in this respect. It's allegedly written by a seventeen year old girl, and not only is the voice itself charming, but, amazingly, it remains believable as she changes and grows over the course of the journal.
The girl, called Cassie, lives in a delipidated old castle with her sister and brother, her stepmother, and her father, who is struggling with his second decade of writers' block. As their father is not writing, they have almost no income, and while very middle class, are so poor as often to be underfed. The owner of the nearby manor home dies, and his estate passes into the hands of his American nephew Simon. Simon and his cousin Neil arrive, and the former falls wildly in love with Cassie's sister Rose. Rose is swept up in preparations for the wedding, and only slowly discovers that she does not in fact love her new fiance. In a quite unexpected twist, Cassie falls in love with him too, and this causes much upset. The book captures very well the sort of achingly painful love that is so common in adolesence and, thank god, not so very common afterwards.
There is much that is beautiful in the writing of this book: there's one bit, about a nightime swim in a moat, that is just gorgeous. There's a lovely capturing of English countryside too, and a real love of a certain English way of life. It makes me sad blogging about it because I've already read it, and there's no more left.