Books, Review

Review: I capture the Castle – Dodie Smith

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.


Through six turbulent months of 1934, 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain keeps a journal, filling three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries about her home, a ruined Suffolk castle, and her eccentric and penniless family. By the time the last diary shuts, there have been great changes in the Mortmain household, not the least of which is that Cassandra is deeply, hopelessly, in love.

I going to be completely honest with you. I did not like this book. In fact, by the end of the book, I just didn’t care about any of the characters at all.

But let’s start with what I did like..
I liked most of the writing. I marked several passages that I found to be really well written. There was atmosphere and there were details, there were snarky remarks and sarcasm. The best lines I found in the first half of the book, but I just really didn’t like the second half.

I liked the story of the writer who can’t write. Cassandra’s father has published a novel that was very popular but he hasn’t written anything since then. I understand this part, to have something in your head and building it up so much, researching it so much that it becomes impossible to write it down.

I liked Thomas, the younger brother. He’s smart, focused and likeable.

I liked the animals. Heloïse, the dog and Abelard, the cat. There’s a line that goes something like: “He was stroking Ab into a coma.” That made me smile. I have two cats and it’s just very relatable. 🙂

But that’s as far as the positive things go.

I liked Cassandra at first. She seemed smart enough (something the others keep commenting on) but halfway through the book, she changes into a whiney, bitter and jealous child. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’m careful with what I’m actually putting here. Everyone always referred to her as a child, which made it very difficult to read her as an 17 year old. It felt like she was much younger.

I didn’t like the father as a father. Come on, if you’re having such trouble writing, find yourself another job to pay the bills. His family had to sell everything they owned, furniture, clothes, everything. They were starving. And still everyone tiptoed around him, trying not to hurt his feelings. If he had tried to find a job and nobody would have him, I would have understood but this was unbelievable.

I didn’t like Rose. I understand that if you live in poverty, you’re always looking for a way out but she acts like a privileged brat. She’s always saying that she does everything for the benefit of her family but her actions don’t reflect her words. (This also goes for Cassandra. She says she would do anything for her sister but she’s selfish and it shows in the choices she makes.)

I did not like the Americans, Simon and Neil. They annoyed me the whole time. I mostly disliked Simon, who is sooooooo in love but then Midsummer happens and you can’t help but question his devotion. Neil, he’s an asshole. I couldn’t believe they were grown-ups, they both acted like teenagers.

The story didn’t lead anywhere. That’s to say, there were so many separate storylines: the struggling author, the would-be movie star, the Americans, the cheating princess and the jealous child. When the book ends, so many things are left unfinished.

This is such a well-loved book, but I didn’t fall in love with it the way I thought I would. Also, people talk about this book like it’s a love story but I think it’s anything but.

I enjoyed the first few chapters very much but after that it just dragged on.

If you’ve read this and you liked it, can you tell me what made you like it?
If you regard this book as a love story, can you explain to me why, maybe I’m just missing the point..

I’m curious.




3 thoughts on “Review: I capture the Castle – Dodie Smith”

  1. I like this post 🙂 I really love this book, but while I was reading it the first time I did have a love-hate relationship with it, and I nearly stopped reading it a couple of times. I didn’t like the Fox-Cottons, or Rose, but I don’t think you are meant to like them, so it’s good. I also didn’t like the trip to London, I found it hard to visualise.

    I loved Cassandra’s perspective on everything, I think she is a realistic seventeen year old, because you still are a child in a lot of ways, especially if you are living with your parents and your elder sister, surrounded by people who see you as a child, even though you are practically a woman.

    I like the way the story unravels, and the moments of understanding are really interesting and brilliantly written.

    My favourite parts are when she is writing with the animals, and I also really liked the part when she brings the towels after they swim in the moat (I can’t say more, without risk of spoiling it, but that is a brilliant part, electric, I think). I really like the end of the book, when the characters show their true colours. And I like when she and Stephen and Heloise go to the diner in the middle of the night. Those are my favourite parts.

    I think it is a love story, it’s a really original love story, and it does things and goes about it in ways you wouldn’t expect, but it has a lot of romance in it. It’s a love story from a realist point of view, I think. It doesn’t have the kind of resolution that some novels have, because nothing is finished or resolved, she’s just run out of paper. 😉

    I really love this book, I think it is one of my favourite novels. I like your post about it, it’s interesting to see how you felt about the book.

    1. Thanks for the comment, it made me think 😊
      Yes, she ran out of paper but I still didn’t like the fact that nothing was wrapped up.
      I understand what you said about the romance but it just didn’t feel that way to me. Maybe I’m just bitter 😉.
      Most of all it makes me a bit sad that I didn’t enjoy this book the way you and many others did. I wish I could have loved it.
      But thank you for sharing your thoughts!! I appreciate it 😄

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