Thursday, July 19, 2007

Book Review: I Capture the Castle

August 19, 2007

I like this book by Dodie Smith, author of several novels but known most for creating 101 Dalmatians. First of all, the narrator, Cassandra, is wonderfully smart and witty. This is her journal, in which she, at age 17, writes "partly to practise my newly acquired speed-writing and partly to teach myself how to write a novel--I intend to capture all our characters and put in conversations." The characters include her family, who live in poverty in a falling-down old English castle; their new American landlords; and various townspeople. Her journals record the amazing events that happen in one short year with the arrival of the American brothers, Simon and Neil.

The family itself is quirky in an Addam's Family kind of way. The father, Mortmain, was once a brilliant author, but for the past decade he has produced nothing (ergo earning no income), preferring instead to read detective novels all day. Older sister Rose longs to escape their poverty but sees no way out; younger brother Thomas goes about living a normal school boy's life. Topaz, the stepmother, makes it her goal to be Mortmain's muse while scrounging wildly to feed the family. And Cassandra observes and analyzes and ultimately steps out of childhood and becomes one of the characters.

I loved the spirit of timelessness captured in this novel. It reminds me somewhat of The Thirteenth Tale in that respect, although the overall mood is light and even romantic in a castle sort of way. It was an excellent novel for a bit of escapism. Also, I'd really like to live in a castle for just a little while.

No comments: