Thursday, October 21, 2010

Capture your world while you can

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
                Ok, this is a classic for a few reasons.

1)     Cassandra lives in a castle! A run down, drafty castle, but a castle!
2)     Her family is incredibly poor even though her dad wrote Jacob Wrestling, a modernist classic.
3)      Her sister, Rose, begins the novel by saying that she’s so tired of being poor that she’s going to sell herself on the street. She doesn’t end up doing that. She does possibly sell her soul to the devil, though.
4)      It’s set in 1930’s Britain and written in the 40’s, so it has all the lovely and ridiculous details of British life that both charm me, and make me very glad I live in the present day.
5)     There is unrequited love and then there is unrequited love in I Capture the Castle. I think I would need to make a graph or something to show all the connections.
6)     Stephen! He’s incredibly handsome and loves Cassandra and would do anything for her. She doesn’t love him and finds that he has a “rather daft look on his face.”
7)     Cassandra’s stepmother Topaz is an artist’s model who loves to commune with nature in nothing but her rainboots.
8)   It was written by the author of 101 Dalmatians

.                      Looking at the list, you probably are thinking that I have terrible taste, but honestly, Cassandra Mortmain charms me like no one else. She is honest to a fault about herself and her family as she writes in her notebooks and tries to “capture” her family and the castle she lives in. Of course, the story would be incredibly boring (and depressing) if it were only about how poor the Mortmains are, so the narrative really kicks in when the new landlord from America, Simon Cotton, arrives with his brother Neil. Everyone, including Rose, decides that Rose needs to marry one of the two so that the family won’t flounder in poverty forever. As well, it would be great if their father would write a second novel  and not just read mystery novels all the time.

                      With those two goals in mind, Cassandra does what she can to help, and records the consequences of everything. There is a lot of talk about modernism and how music can make you feel, and a few moments of discomfort that always make me squirm with recognition. Of course, there are twists and turns, and even Cassandra finds herself in love.  Not everything ends happily, but that’s life. 

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