Alyson's Reviews > I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
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Oct 14, 2008

it was ok
Read in October, 2008

** spoiler alert ** i found this book to alternate between delightful and infuriating.

here is the delightful:  
-images of the english countryside and the crumbling, fantastic castle
-cassandra's optimism and intelligence (pre-simon)
-perfect descriptions of peaceful, contemplative moments

and here is the infuriating:
-cassandra's father. a supposed genius but in reality a sexist, abusive, loathsome, distant fellow. he appears sporadically to ignore his children, leave his wife lonely, make everyone question his sanity and demand his supper from the ladies of the house. the frustrating part of this character is that his terrible behavior is overlooked and often glorified when he should be taken to task. i spent a good part of this book longing for someone to throw him into the moat.

-cassandra's personality meltdown after "falling in love". the optimistic, intelligent, loving, happy girl turns at once into a mean-spirited, self centered fool. she begins to hate her sister and engage in other sorts of petty, miserable behavior. not only is her change of heart unbelievable in how quickly and totally she becomes a different (mean, angry, self-centered) person, but  somehow the author seems to insinuate that this very change of heart (for the worst!) is in itself the act of growing up. what a sad commentary on aging cassandra's behavior is!

the back of the book declares, "by the time she (cassandra) pens her final entry, she has captured the castle. . ."
i do not believe that cassandra "captures the castle" by the end of this book. i think she loses the castle. she has lost her optimism and her ability to write without a certain bitterness. her words are tainted by her own anger/sadness/jealousy about her troublesome "love". i feel that capturing the castle would have meant cassandra maintaining  her original good nature, selflessness and happiness despite her failure in love. it would have been rectifying (in person) her horrid behavior towards her sister and most certainly standing up to her father.
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02/06/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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message 1: by Liz (new) - rated it 5 stars

Liz I think Cassandra goes through a time of being selfish, but at the end, she refuses to go with Simon to America, and she even says she would've given Rose back to him is she could. That's pretty selfless. She's wiser, too. She realises that giving Simon 'a sort of contentment... isn't enough. Not for the giver'.

Yes, she gets a bit snarkier as she gets older, but it's just part of the way that she grows up--not how everybody has to grow up. People change because of experiences. She's remaining true to herself, even if it means leaving some of the things of her childhood behind.

And although more of her diary is to do with Simon, she still makes more discoveries and learns more things AND cares about what's happened as well, and not just him. Plus, everyone's entitled to go a little loopy over someone they like, right? At least she's sensible enough not to waste the last three pages of her book writing 'I love you, I love you' over and over again.

Cassandra is realistically flawed, she makes mistakes, but she comes out all right in the end.

I'm sorry, but I think you've got the heroine of the book all wrong.

The father, though, I completely agree with.


Gail Jaitin Agree agree agree agree. Cassandra is lost to me at the end. I was very surprised to find her still pining for Simon on the very last page! I had hoped she'd wise up and go for Stephen, one of the only decent men in the book. No such luck, though.


message 3: by [deleted user] (last edited Sep 26, 2009 02:12AM) (new)

Yes but Stephen is inferred to be, well, not the most complicated of people. Cassandra, who is clearly intelligent and thoughtful, I think would be throwing herself away on him.

However, he was so good-looking in the film, so that made it tricky :D


message 4: by Liz (new) - rated it 5 stars

Liz Lol. I think it's just that Stephen's less educated. The film actually made me dislike Simon, and I had to go back to the book to like him again.


Corinne The beginning was so nice and wonderful until everything changed about midway and I wanted to throw the book.


ella-b-ella But don't you think that is the wonderful thing about this book? The fabulous characters, it's striking originality and it's heart. I thought Cassandra captured the castle beautifully. True she does become a little self centered and mean but I think you forget she is only seventeen and therefore still just a teenager and teens are apt to behave the way she does.


Beks I think Cassandra capturing the castle is more about providing a well rounded description about the castle and it's inhabitants, not so much about how you described it. Cassandra starts off describing it and it's inhabitants, and in the end realises how her descriptions may have been one dimensional. Part of her growing up is realising how hard it is to 'capture' the things around her because they are so nuanced and changeable. The best case in point is Stephen, when, towards the end Cassandra realises her assessment of him at the beginning may be wrong, and that he has more to him than he seemed at first.


message 8: by Kendra (new)

Kendra Cummings I think Cassandra's dad is like that because he was in jail just like the experiance stopped him from writting it made his peronality a little ruff but after being trapped in belmotte tower he is a little nicer.


Lucy Bignall It's funny how people read this book so differently. I felt that it was a brilliant example of the "show don't tell" that is meant to be the pinnacle of all good writing. Dodie Smith doesn't say in so many words that Cassandra's father is a spoilt, self centered boar, because it is obvious that he is. And though Cassandra tries her best to respect him,as was expected in those times, you can feel that her eyes are being opened to his character.
As for Cassandra changing so much when she fell in love - I would love to meet the seventeen year old who doesn't become a mawkish self centered bore as soon as her heart is broken. She's only seventeen!! I have a nasty feeling I was every bit as bad when I was that age!!!


message 10: by Emma (new) - rated it 3 stars

Emma Bancroft I completely agree with you!


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