January 4, 2011 Review


I spend a lot of time on the computer. Mostly looking for books, reading about books, reviewing books and talking with others about books! SOMEWHERE along the line, I read a post (if it was YOU, please let me know!) listing 5 favorite books. One of them was I capture the Castle, written in 1948 by Dodie Smith. So… library copy in hand, I settled down for a long winter’s-night read. OMG!

An English post-WWII story of the best kind, I Capture the Castle is told through the journalling of 17-year-old Cassie. On the cusp of womanhood, middle child in a bizarrely dysfunctional yet charming family, and determined to be a writer, the novel is beautifully written, even in reading it 50+ years after its first publication.

Each character is finely tuned with a multidimensional  personality that makes them as real to the reader as possible. Cassie’s hapless father, with only one book under his belt (a famous one, albeit 12 years in the past!), her stepmother, a 29-year-old woman with a propensity for dancing in the nude, the older sister, longing for love, marriage and wealth, not necessarily in that order, and the younger brother, bright, funny and determined to make his own mark on the world. Add to the mix two very attractive new neighbors, one of whom is also the family’s landlord, and you have a tale that will keep you enthralled to the last page.

A bit about the author – – – I was stunned to find out that one of her books is up there in the pantheon of best-loved children’s books – the timeless One Hundred and One Dalmatians! Born in 1896, I Capture the Castle was her first adult novel, written in the USA where she and her husband had fled in the 1940’s due to Beesley’s (husband) conscientious objector beliefs. Smith continued to write novels and plays during this American interlude, and became a part of a coterie of friends which included Christopher Isherwood, Charles Brackett, and John Van Druten. Smith died in 1990. Thanks to Wiki I have included below a list of her works. For myself, I have put two more of her books on reserve at the library, and intend to actually buy a copy of I Capture the Castle for my own ever-growing book collection. If you are inspired to read this book, because of this review, please let me know how you liked it!

List of Works

Plays

  • Autumn Crocus (1931)
  • Service (1932)
  • Touch Wood (1934)
  • Call It A Day (1935)
  • Bonnet Over the Windmill (1937)
  • Dear Octopus (1938)
  • Lovers and Friends (1943)
  • Letter from Paris (1952)
  • I Capture the Castle (1954)

Novels

  • I Capture the Castle (1948)
  • The Hundred and One Dalmatians, or The Great Dog Robbery (1956)
  • The New Moon with the Old (1963)
  • The Town in Bloom (1965)
  • It Ends with Revelations (1967)
  • The Starlight Barking (1967)
  • A Tale of Two Families (1970)
  • The Girl from the Candle-lit Bath (1978)
  • The Midnight Kittens (1978)

Autobiography

  • Look Back with Love: a Manchester Childhood (1974)
  • Look Back with Mixed Feelings (1978)
  • Look Back with Astonishment (1979)
  • Look Back with Gratitude (1985)
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About ReaderWoman

Professional reader and researcher for writers - Reviewer and Editor for online book review sites - AVID reader (well, duh!) writer, crafter (sewing, jewelry, fiber art) photographer, herb gardener, love to learn new things - Married 3842 years, 2 "kids" (now 34 and 36) and two grands (13 and 15) Born and raised California Girl, with stints in Tennessee, learning to speak Southern, and Arizona, learning that living in a trailer is NOT fun! Enjoy conversations with wine and chocolate, long walks and being with hubby and family. Life is good!
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