If you haven’t played bookstore roulette, I highly recommend it! The rules are simple: walk around the bookstore until you find a book that catches your eye. Don’t read the back of the book, grab it off the shelf and see what you get. This is exactly how I found this gem of a book titled I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith. The plain green cover sat on the shelf right next to my favorite author, Betty Smith, of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
Ironically, the voice of main character, Cassandra Mortmain, in I Capture the Castle highly echoes that of Francie Nolan in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn...to a certain extent. This novel is written in a diary-like fashion from the point of view of 17-year-old, Cassandra Mortmain. Cassandra and her family (father, step-mother, older sister, younger brother, and stable boy) live in a captivating castle, but they are unbelievably poor. The Mortmain family basically lives on what can be scraped together from selling off their furniture because Cassandra’s father, who wrote one best-selling novel, has suffered from writer’s block for the past ten years.
Like I said, Cassandra’s intelligence and insight is so much like the character of Francie Nolan that I fell in love with the novel immediately and mentally added it to my very long list of favorite books. Unfortunately, as the novel continued, and Cassandra transformed from wise to weepy, she lost a bit of her charm. The book did regain some of its magic by the end, but by this point, my affection for Cassandra had waned.
If you enjoy books that include plenty of main character introspection, you will definitely enjoy this novel. Just don’t judge Cassandra too harshly in the middle of her journey! You will also love the fact that Dodie Smith is the author of a beloved children’s book, One Hundred and One Dalmatians!
Sara’s rating: 4 stars