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Group Reads Archive > I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith - March 2010 (Spoilers Likely)

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message 1: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Welcome to the March Group read for the 'Beyond 1940...' category:

I Capture the Castle (Vintage Classics) by Dodie Smith I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith Dodie Smith

Enjoy the read and when you're ready, pop back and let us know what you think...don't be shy!

Ally


message 2: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1525 comments I got my books today so I will see if this measures up to the hype. That is the trouble with building a book up - does it measure up?


message 3: by Christine (new)

Christine (sam_can_do_it) So far, I’m really enjoying it. I love the insane family, though, I think I’d go crazy if they were my family. I’m actually really surprised by how much I’m liking it as it’s not my usual genre.


message 4: by Christine (new)

Christine (sam_can_do_it) I really connect with Cassandra, but I have to agree with you, Stephen is my favorite. He's so hardworking and loyal and you're right, the only one who seems to actually try to better their situation.

I like Cassandra, because even though she's not really trying to physically make the situation better, she is trying to see the silver lining.

Rose is, so far, probably my least favorite. She seems ready to complain about everything, but she won't do anything about it. Although, I'm trying to remember this is a character in the journal of her sister and I'm trying to imagine how I'd come off if my sister wrote a book.


message 5: by Lisa (new)

Lisa I read this a few months back and, like Brenda, found it charming. Unfortunately, that was about it. Jan, I'm afraid it didn't live up to the hype for me; I'm left wondering if I would liked it more if I had just picked it up without such high expectations. Stella Gibbon's "Cold Comfort Farm" has some of the same themes and I liked that one a great deal; not as sweet, much more wit and bite. Maybe that says something about me more than the books-ha!


message 6: by Ally (last edited Mar 02, 2010 12:02PM) (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
I hate to say this - but I actually like Rose!...at least I like the way Smith uses her as a device.

Imagine being a beautiful young teenager, living in faded grandeur (...or perhaps its squalor with potential!) and having Topaz's faded glitzy frocks and fantastical memories around you and tons of youthful hopes and dreams that look never to be realised...oh the frustration that would cause! - plus - she's a fantastic source of fun in the novel!

Ally


message 7: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Moore | 2 comments At first I thought that the book was a little dry. Now I love it. It's hard to pick my favorite character, but I'd have to say it's Cassandra. She's got such an entertaining look on live.

Debbie


message 8: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 9 comments Cassandra is the voice of this story. It sounds like she isn't really lighting a spark for you though. I just re-read it for another group and enjoyed it more than ever before. I really love the novel. It is Austenesque and very modern too. It is a look at a very literary, artistic family of that time period. Give it a chance and you'll see that Cassandra is a very strong character and you might like that she proves that in the ending.


message 9: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 9 comments There are definitely some strengths in the novel -- no guarantees you like it of course -- haa haa, but I love some of Cassandra's lines, I like the contrast between her and Rose. I like the complicated family and Topaz's role -- (I am a step mom too, so maybe I can stand in her shoes). The romance part of the book might hide the meatier stuff a little, so don't let that put you off. And really the romantic element of the story isn't overdone, but still some might put it aside at first as too romancey, but they shouldn't.


message 10: by Christine (new)

Christine (sam_can_do_it) Brenda wrote: " I am surprised at how much it reminds me of Jane Austen's style of writing only a little bit more humorous.

Does anyone else feel that way?"


I thought that too, the humor helps me pull away from the Austen-esque feel though. I've never been a big Jane Austen fan. The stories were always a little too tradtionally chick flicky for me.

Another big difference I'm liking is that I have no idea who's going to end up with who. I mean, I feel safe in the guess that Simon and Rose will end up together, but it doesn't feel as definite as, for instance Jane and Bingley in Pride and Prejudice. I can't for the life of me figure out who Cassandra will end up with: Stephen, Neil, or Neither. I'm about halfway through and I can't figure it out.


message 11: by Christine (new)

Christine (sam_can_do_it) As far as Austen goes, I understand that a lot of the formulaic plots were her original formulas that modern storytellers continue to use and her work was a brilliant accomplishment.

I don't think Stephen thinks of her as a child. I think he's head over heels for her and is annoyed that others still think of her as a child.


message 12: by Christine (new)

Christine (sam_can_do_it) The Movie "I Capture the Castle"

I am very proud of myself for having not yet watched it. It's on NetFlix instant list so that I could at any moment, but I promised myself I'd wait until I'd finished reading. The only thing I really knew about the movie is that Marc Blucas is in it, but I didn't know who he played.

The second Neil was introduced in the book, I knew Marc had to play him. I looked it up on imdb, and sure enough I was right.

Has anyone seen the movie? How does it compare to the book?


message 13: by Christine (new)

Christine (sam_can_do_it) I actually think she is, but she's so caught up in helping Rose and Simon that she doesn't notice. This is one of those things about myself that I see in her. I hardly ever notice I'm being flirted with until a friend smacks me in the head, figuratively speaking most of the time except for the one time when a friend litterally took my copy of The Simarillion out of my hands to slap me. I think Neil is crazy about Cass and she doesn't realize because of the whole America/England thing. I think she really likes both Stephen and Neil, but doesn't exactly understand that that is what she's feeling.


message 14: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 9 comments I have read Jane Austen's work for years and have never thought of any of her novels as formulaic or chick lit -- but I realize that is not the topic of this thread.


message 15: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 9 comments Brenda, do you have a preference for other 19th century authors? (again, not trying to go off-topic, but I thought you might have other favorites)


message 16: by Monica (new)

Monica (imelda85) I just started the book last night! I'm only on page 26, but so far so good! Hopefully, I will really get to dive into it this weekend. :)


message 17: by Christine (new)

Christine (sam_can_do_it) I won't let slip any details or anything, but this book is suddenly twisting in a direction I so did not see coming! I always like a book better when it can do that to me.


message 18: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Moore | 2 comments I agree that Cassandra doesn't really know what she's feeling for Neil or Stephen. She does seem but off about Stephen going to London, maybe it's a bit of jealousy. I'm enjoying this book and can't wait to see what happens next. I'm on page 206.


message 19: by Christine (new)

Christine (sam_can_do_it) Brenda wrote: "what page are you on Christine?"


257, I just finished chapter 13!


message 20: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
The Thing I love about I Capture the Castle is that its so gentle and enchanting and that it completely captures a typically English brand of eccentricity.

I completely understand what you're saying about some parts becoming a little slow - but to me that adds to the structure of the novel - life in that castle is slow when nothing is happening, no-one calls and theres no money to do anything. It also helps build suspense - i.e. the who is Cassandra going to end up with and is Rose going to get her cumuppance!

I'm wondering about the English/American characters - how well wrought are each Nation's characters? do they do justice to their country?

Ally


message 21: by toria (vikz writes) (last edited Mar 07, 2010 09:18AM) (new)

toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) I am really loving this book. It's enchanting. And, if I'm honest, I'm enjoying it's undemanding nature. Especially, since I have just finished Anna Karenina which is quite a demanding read.

I love the characters. Yes Brenda It does remind me of Little Women and much of Austin's output. Cassandra, who I really like, mentions Austin on several occasions.

One thing that unites much of Austins work with little women and this book. Is the father. They seem either to be absent, useless, weak or wounded. What do you make of the father in this one. I'm not sure. What's with the crime novels. What do you think dodie smith is trying to sasy there.



toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) Brenda wrote: "Very interesting observation, and I agree. I wonder if these women, who were strong in their own way, wanted to make a social comment on men of their era or was it just a way to propel the story f..."

Not finished yet. So, I'll let you know when I get there. Read AK in my teens and now re-read it with the Western Cannon group. Found it hard going but really interesting. I am really enojoying this book.


message 23: by toria (vikz writes) (last edited Mar 09, 2010 07:40AM) (new)

toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) Brenda wrote: "Very interesting observation, and I agree. I wonder if these women, who were strong in their own way, wanted to make a social comment on men of their era or was it just a way to propel the story f..."

Just finished and I can understand what you mean about the Cassandra's father redeeming himself. Cassandra's and Simon's discussion of literature is interesting. Especially the questions concerning language and its ability to describe events and emotions. This seems to be a theme in most of the books of this period. What do you think can language describe emotions? It also deals with another key theme of the time psycho-analysis and its abiliy, or inability, to understand the human condition.


message 24: by Monica (new)

Monica (imelda85) I'm really enjoying all of the characters so far! They're all so lively and fun! I love Rose and Cassandra's conversations with "Mrs. Blossom!" Cassandra is so creative and imaginative, the castle would be a bit dreary without her! :)


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) Monica wrote: "I'm really enjoying all of the characters so far! They're all so lively and fun! I love Rose and Cassandra's conversations with "Mrs. Blossom!" Cassandra is so creative and imaginative, the cast..."

I agree I really like her too


message 26: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Vikz wrote: "What do you think, can language describe emotions?..."

Interesting question.

I think some writer's have a wonderful gift for describing emotion, so much so that they actually invoke that same emotion in their readers, who then see and feel everything the protagonist sees and feels. - I'm thinking particularly of Katherine Mansfield's Miss Brill here. (if you haven't read it yet, you must!)

However - I think this is a real skill or art and is not shared by the majority of authors out there, who may have a wonderful storytelling knack but who can never fully realise the extent of emotion in their language. We humans rarely know what we're thinking and feeling most of the time let alone be able to articulate such complexity in writing!

I think that human thoughts and emotions are far better expressed through poetry than through novels or literature.

I'd be really interested to know what others think on this point.

Ally


message 27: by Christine (last edited Mar 09, 2010 11:34AM) (new)

Christine (sam_can_do_it) Vikz wrote: "What do you think, can language describe emotions?..."

I actually think that they can come close but they can't fully do it. The majority of authors can't even come close, but even the best can only go so far as making you feel things you've experienced by forcing empathy with the characters, but every human in the world experiences emotions differently, and therefore, they are not something that's really quatifiable.


message 28: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 561 comments "The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - that you'd thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you've never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it's as if a hand has come out, and taken yours. "
— Alan Bennett (The History Boys: A Play)

This is one of those quotes that struck home for me when I first heard it; and I think it goes to the heart of the observations the three of you have been expressing.


message 29: by Fini (new)

Fini | 13 comments Thanks for the quote Ivan, I think you're so right.

I'm afraid, I'm a bit late, I only just started the book. Have to say I was charmed already by the first paragraph. Think I am going to like Cassandra a lot, especially her dry original kind of humor.


message 30: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ivan wrote: ""The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - that you'd thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someo..."

This is an experience I'm having a lot as I read "Cassandra's journal." That may be one reason why I am enjoying the book so much. Yes, Cassandra is a bit "consciously naive" as Simon says. But despite this, or perhaps because of it, I like her. I think of her as a real person, as the author of, rather than a character in the book.


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) Alicia wrote: "Ivan wrote: ""The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - that you'd thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set ..."

So do I. I think it's because Dodie Smith used the diary format (1st person) this allows you see what into Cassandra head and heart.


message 32: by Alicia (new)

Alicia I think I would have been annoyed by Cassandra if I met her, but because I can see into her heart, I love her.


message 33: by Christine (new)

Christine (sam_can_do_it) Alicia wrote: "I think I would have been annoyed by Cassandra if I met her, but because I can see into her heart, I love her."

I agree, in fact, I'm fairly certain every single person in this story would have infuriated me, but I learned to love them because Cassandra shows us not just her own heart, but everyones.


message 34: by Fini (new)

Fini | 13 comments So I'm not British and I have a question - what is a "squashed fly biscuit" (page 100, 2004 Vintage Ed.) It can't be as bad as it sounds, can it? :-§


message 35: by Christine (new)

Christine (sam_can_do_it) Fini wrote: "So I'm not British and I have a question - what is a "squashed fly biscuit" (page 100, 2004 Vintage Ed.) It can't be as bad as it sounds, can it? :-§"

I am also not British, but wiki is practically my religion

The Garibaldi biscuit commonly known as "squashed flies" consists of currants squashed between two thin, oblong biscuits - a currant sandwich.


message 36: by Fini (last edited Mar 11, 2010 11:29AM) (new)

Fini | 13 comments Thank you, Christine !
Not as nasty as it sounds, but not particularly tempting either :)


message 37: by Felisa (new)

Felisa Rosa (glassmongoose) | 23 comments Love the quote, Ivan. So true. To me, Cassandra doesn't seem particularly annoying for a teenager. I love her matter-of-fact commentary and her biting remarks. I read this book when I was about Cassandra's age and I'm happy to note that it's still quite entertaining.


message 38: by Monica (new)

Monica (imelda85) I just finished the book last night and thoroughly enjoyed it! I already miss Cassandra and the castle.


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) Monica wrote: "I just finished the book last night and thoroughly enjoyed it! I already miss Cassandra and the castle."

So do I.


message 40: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
I'm so pleased people seem to be liking this book - Its one of my all time favourites and I'm glad I'm not alone! - its so enchanting and makes a real change from the deep and meaningful fiction I usually like to read without being full on 'fluff'! LOL


message 41: by Christine (new)

Christine (sam_can_do_it) Ally wrote: "I'm so pleased people seem to be liking this book - Its one of my all time favourites and I'm glad I'm not alone! - its so enchanting and makes a real change from the deep and meaningful fiction I ..."

When I finished it, I passed it to my mother, when she's done she's handing it off to my Godmother. I have a feeling it's going to make the circles of my Jane Austen Tea Party group.


message 42: by Monica (new)

Monica (imelda85) I'm glad the book ended the way that it did because I would have been disappointed to see Cassandra tied down in any way. She is very much a free spirit.


message 43: by Fini (new)

Fini | 13 comments Ally wrote: "I'm so pleased people seem to be liking this book - Its one of my all time favourites and I'm glad I'm not alone! - its so enchanting and makes a real change from the deep and meaningful fiction I ..."

Monica wrote: "I'm glad the book ended the way that it did because I would have been disappointed to see Cassandra tied down in any way. She is very much a free spirit."

I agree with the above! Ally, you couldn't have put it any better. I have some points of critique with this book, but I won't mention it because I'm afraid I might only damage other people's enjoyment of the story.
What I liked about it: the humor, the involvement of smells in the description of scenery and feelings, some of those really original besides from Cassandra, like how she recognized and smiled at the maid during the supper at Scoatney ...
What I found especially interesting: to compare this book to The Bolter (by Frances Osborne) where upper class society is described as completely jaded and disillusioned as far as sentiments like "true love" or "being faithful to one's self" go. I Capture the Castle is so much more tender and dear in this respect.
Cassandra's confession to be an atheist - one tends to think of that generation (would be my grandparents) as having had more religion than our generation. Guess, Smith's warning not to take generalizations about nationalities too seriously also hold for different generations?


message 44: by Fini (last edited Mar 16, 2010 02:20AM) (new)

Fini | 13 comments Hi, Brenda!

Since you ask for it :)
When I read the first paragraph of I Capture the Castle, I was reminded of Banana Yoshimoto's Kitchin, which begins with the narrator (girl of similar age to Cassandra) telling us that her favorite place in the world is the kitchen. I love that book, though it's much sadder and way more strange. It is also very poetic and absolutely original, one of its kind, as far as I can tell. Castle is much more conventional, so I was a little disappointed at that. Also, the concentration on the romantic story line left little room for all the other aspects of Cassandra's life - she seems to have absolutely no friends from former school days? Or anyone in the village her own age? And then, every woman in teh book seems to accept that they just live to make the men in their families happy ... Cassandra's father is such an pathetic figure - not the least rebellion from Cassandra, Thomas or Topaz (only Rose seems capable to hold her own agaist him - I like her for that in spite of her superficialities in other respects)
Wow, this turned into quite some rant, maybe I should have just said, I don't like how small and confined women's roles are in that story. Though, that's probably just how women's life was like at the time. Still, I don't have to like that.


message 45: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Oh, Rose made me crazy! She didn't like being poor but she absolutely would not do anything to better her situation other than to look for a husband.

I have to agree with Fini on all points. Women's roles were pretty confined at that time but these women seemed content to sit in poverty just because the so-called man of the house didn't work. If he were a drunk, they would have found a way to earn a living but they excused his refusal to work because of his "creative" nature.


message 46: by Christine (new)

Christine (sam_can_do_it) I think that Rose was the only one who really minded the poverty. Cassandra seemed happy in her life and Topaz is the kind of person who appreciates suffering for the chance to be a muse! Rose did what she could at the time!


message 47: by Ally (last edited Mar 16, 2010 12:10PM) (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
...of course, Dodi Smith wrote this in America at the start of the war and was very home-sick for England so a lot of the eccentricity (the women forgiving the 'creative' father, Rose's tea dresses and desperate search for a husband, Cassandra's forgiving naivety, Topaz's new-age celebrations of mid-summers eve) was embelished in order to evoke the spirit of English genteel poverty rather than its REALITY. -

Also - this novel is 'comic' so some of the structure and the characters are designed to act as foils for the humour - so Rose's desperate search for a husband is parodied. Topaz is a diversion - the roles of women are not necessarily supposed to be taken literally in this book.

Two important points for me are comedy and nostalgia - Smith was writing for personal reasons - to bring 'home' closer to her when she couldn't go to it - she wanted to lighten the situation (comedy) and she wanted to evoke the England of her dreams/childhood/imagination (nostalgia).

Ally


message 48: by Felisa (new)

Felisa Rosa (glassmongoose) | 23 comments I loved this book (and it's an old favorite, so I'm a bit attached), but I also don't mind hearing criticisms of a good book, particularly when they are voiced so pleasantly. I agree that women's roles were a bit narrow, but I didn't get the impression that either the author or the narrator were exactly satisfied with that lot in life. The many references to Jane Austen led me to believe that the author was playing within a genre, and one that demanded a focus on romance and marriage. And, though Cassandra gets caught up in the intrigue and drama of their interactions with the Cottons, she still questions the validity of this type of obsession, saying (pg. 55 in my edition) "...there is something revolting about the way girls' minds so often jump to marriage long before they jump to love. And most of those minds are shut to what marriage really means. Now I come to think of it, I am judging from books mostly, for I don't know any girls except Rose and Topaz. But some characters in books are very real--Jane Austen's are; and I know those five Bennets at the opening of Pride and Prejudice, simply waiting to raven the young men at Netherfield Park, are not giving one thought to the real facts of marriage." She goes on to end with one of my favorite of her lines: "I know all about the facts of life. And I don't think much of them." Much later in the book Cassandra also makes the funny observation about Topaz: (pg 275, my edition) "...and (I) wondered if she would stay on to inspire me; but I think she only sees herself as an inspirer of men."
Cassandra really seems to be thinking about what marriage actually means, at least until she sinks into romantic obsession in the later part of the book. But that seems pretty realistic for a teenager. And she still has the good sense to cut short what could have been a half-hearted proposal.


message 49: by Fini (new)

Fini | 13 comments Thanks, everybody for your comments!
You're certainly right when you say that one has to mind the time when the book was written. And inspired by your comments (!), thinking about it a little more, I have to say that where Cassandra started out pretty resigned with the hard facts of the marriage market, in the course of the book her outlook changes. In the beginning she takes Rose's determination to get married no matter what as something necessary, demanded by their poverty and the times. Towards the end, after she has fallen in love herself, Cassandra discovers the bedrock of her ethics, so to speak. She speaks out for a romantic ideal that it is very hard to live up to when you are that poor. Actually, I love her idealism and I can very much identify with her in that respect. Even her pose as "consciously naive" might have been an attempt to stay out of the marriage market, stay a child at the age of 17 - maybe because she always knew she couldn't sell herself like that? I like her values, don't always like her reactions.
Still don't like the father, can't find any valid excuses for him.
Ally, you are right about the nostalgia - I was aware of that during my reading when she described the little villages or the countryside, but when I got too exasperated with the characters I kind of forgot or felt like I couldn't be bothered with such an explanation. -this is awkward, sorry, don't know how to better express myself :(

Brenda wrote, "but truth be told, i would love to spend a summer in a musty old castle with a bunch of cool people, like Ally, Christine, Fini, Ivan, Monica, and everyone and just dance on Midsummer's Night's Eve and talk about books."
That is such a lovely sweet idea! *hugs Brenda* Thank you for that!


message 50: by Monica (new)

Monica (imelda85) Me, too, Brenda! I would love to spend a Midsummer's Eve with a bunch of my goodreads friends!

Cassandra's coming of age was touching and made me think of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Cassandra has such an imagination and grows so much through her three journals even though it's a short period of time. I like that although Cassandra falls in love (and falls hard!) she still manages to keep a level head and realizes what is really important to her and refuses to jump head first into anything. She was a romantic, but still had a backbone! I liked that!


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