Posted by: whimsicallibrarians | February 23, 2008

“I Capture the Castle”

I was recently reading Nancy Pearl’s “under the radar” picks from NPR’s morning edition.  She talked about a book by Dodie Smith called “I Capture the Castle.”  Dodie Smith’s name may not be familiar to you but she wrote the great 1956 classic “Hundred and One Dalmations.” She was inspired to write Hundred and One by her own dalmation Pongo. A friend, who was visiting her,  suggested that Pongo would make a great coat! I didn‘t really remember that Ms. Smith wrote anything except “Hundred and One Dalmations”, but I do remember reading that book,  so I was motivated to pick up another book by her and try it.  Once I read the first few sentences, “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it;” I knew I was going to enjoy this story.

Dodie Smith wanted to be an actress when she was in her teens but soon realized that at five feet tall ” and to short and not very attractive”, she probably would never become famous. Dodie Smith She took to writing instead and wrote several noted plays.  Dodie grew up in England and married Alec Beesley, a man she met while working at Heal’s in London.  During WWII they moved to the U.S., as her husband was a pacifist and wanted to avoid the British draft.  They lived in the U.S. for many years after the war, mainly because they didn’t want to leave their dalmations in quarantine for 6 months.

It was here in 1948 that she wrote her first novel, “I Capture the Castle.” “I Capture the Castle” This is a well plotted, witty book and in some ways like a Jane Austen novel.  Even though the story was set in the 1930’s it still felt fresh and alive.  Cassandra Mortmain is a 17 year old girl who lives with her eccentric family (father, sister, brother, and bohemian step-mother) in a decaying English castle.  They have just about used up all the money their father received from a book he wrote, many, many years earlier and are struggling to survive.  Cassandra, who is an enchanting narrator, (she writes first person entries in her journal) gives the reader a great peek into the trial and tribulations of her life as well as her family.  Even though this book is told through the eyes of a seventeen year old, I was still enamoured by Cassandra and her family.

This is a great book to pick up on those cozy, warm nights, sitting by the fire, with a hot cup of tea and a book.  Let me know what you think.

Nancy

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Responses

  1. I read I Capture the Castle as a child and really enjoyed it. At the time, I didn’t realize that 101 Dalmatians was a book, let alone written by her. Thanks for the brief bio.


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