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I Capture the Castle Paperback – April 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews Review

Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain wants to become a writer. Trouble is, she's the daughter of a once-famous author with a severe case of writer's block. Her family--beautiful sister Rose, brooding father James, ethereal stepmother Topaz--is barely scraping by in a crumbling English castle they leased when times were good. Now there's very little furniture, hardly any food, and just a few pages of notebook paper left to write on. Bravely making the best of things, Cassandra gets hold of a journal and begins her literary apprenticeship by refusing to face the facts. She writes, "I have just remarked to Rose that our situation is really rather romantic, two girls in this strange and lonely house. She replied that she saw nothing romantic about being shut up in a crumbling ruin surrounded by a sea of mud."

Rose longs for suitors and new tea dresses while Cassandra scorns romance: "I know all about the facts of life. And I don't think much of them." But romantic isolation comes to an end both for the family and for Cassandra's heart when the wealthy, adventurous Cotton family takes over the nearby estate. Cassandra is a witty, pensive, observant heroine, just the right voice for chronicling the perilous cusp of adulthood. Some people have compared I Capture the Castle to the novels of Jane Austen, and it's just as well-plotted and witty. But the Mortmains are more bohemian--as much like the Addams Family as like any of Austen's characters. Dodie Smith, author of 101 Dalmations, wrote this novel in 1948. And though the story is set in the 1930s, it still feels fresh, and well deserves its reputation as a modern classic. --Maria Dolan --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


“This book has one of the most charismatic narrators I've ever met.” ―J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series

“Dreamy and funny . . . an odd, shimmering timelessness clings to its pages. A thousand and one cheers for its reissue. A+” ―Entertainment Weekly

I Capture the Castle is finally back in print. It should be welcomed with a bouquet of roses and a brass band. Ever since I was handed a tattered copy years ago with the recommendation 'You'll love it,' it has been one of my favorite novels.” ―Susan Isaacs

“It is an occasion worth celebrating when a sparkling novel, a work of wit, irony, and feeling is brought back into print after an absence of many years. So uncork the champagne for I Capture the Castle.” ―Los Angeles Times

“A delicious, compulsively readable novel about young love and its vicissitudes. What fun!” ―Erica Jong


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 343 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reissue edition (April 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031231616X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312316167
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (467 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

342 of 346 people found the following review helpful By Linda Hudson on November 5, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I have long adored this book! I am so pleased to see so many discovering and rediscovering it. I would like to share a letter I received from Dodie Smith in 1985, when she so kindly responded to a letter I wrote to her. She replied:
Dear Lynn Hudson, Very many thanks for a particularily kind letter. "I Capture the Castle" was first published in 1948, 37 years ago and yet I still get letters about it, from old friends like you and also, occasionaly, from new friends. I'm astonished and proud that it has lasted so long. I've written other novels and two of my childrens' books continue to be succesful, (paticularily The Hundred and one Dalmatians), but nothing (for me anyway) means as much as ICTC> Where did those characters come from? They are not drawn from life. The Castle partly is but I changed it a great deal and I much prefer my own castle! I've been asked again and again to write a sequel to ICTC but I'm sure I never could. I don't even like to think of the future of the characters because I don't want them to grow older. I've been asked again and again to say whom Cassandra marries but I've no idea. I like to think of her just hopeful for the future and I shall let myself think you and I share this idea. I am now 89 and sometimes (but only sometimes) almost feel it, but not when I think about Cassandra. Thank You again for your letter which has given me great pleasure. And I like to think that in some mysterious realm of the imagination, the characters in my book are pleased to and send you their love-with mine. Dodie Smith Dodie Smith and I wrote back and forth a few more times, until she was unable to write again. She died in 1990. Thank-You, Dodie, for the wonderful gift of "I Capture the Castle"!
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61 of 62 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
I hate when books are hyped out of proportion but, in this case, believe the hype. I rarely react to a book so strongly that it leaves me with a pleasant glow days after I have read it. Magically, this book manages to be the warmest, most positive, least cloying story I have ever read (even the end is satisfying without being a cop-out). It is beautifully written with an amazing sense of place, atmosphere and character. Who couldn't fall in love with Cassandra with her quick wit, intelligence and unconventional outlook? I have rarely read such an unpatronising, accurate and positive account of a girl on the brink of adulthood. Read ICTC for the cleverly constructed plot. Read it for the descriptive passages and the evocation of time and place. Read it for the distinctive and endearingly eccentric characters, especially the narrator, Cassandra. Just read it. And don't think you have to be a woman to love this book. I am a guy in his late twenties who intends to pass on my copy of the book to most of my friends - male and female - under the strict condition that it is returned in mint condition!
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100 of 108 people found the following review helpful By bensmomma on March 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
The plot of "I Capture the Castle" sounds, on its surface, a little Cinderella-y: two genteely impoverished sisters of between-the-wars Britain live in a ruined castle with their eccentric novelist father and his bohemian wife Topaz. (If you want a taste of author Dodie Smith's ability to write funny characters, bear in mind she is also the author of "101 Dalmations").

Two wealthy American brothers move in next door; although they are initially blinded by sister Rose's classic beauty, eventually one of them (I won't say which) sees the depth of character behind the narrator, the more sincere and thoughtful Cassandra.

Cassandra is an enchanting narrator (the book is a series of first-person entries into her journal) - she is witty, self-effacing, and completely authentic. The reader will absolutely believe she is a real, irreplacable person.

I was so enamored of Cassandra that at first I worried for her when she fell in love - I was worried about a too-convenient fairy-tale ending. But happily the "happily ever after" is replaced by a more intriguing end; Cassandra's final decision is perfectly consistent with her chracter.

I only wish I had read this when I was, like her, a teenager - it would have meant a lot to me to meet a character so ambitious, energetic, lively, funny, who still clearly has romance in her future.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. R. H. A. Wenner on January 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
A couple momths ago, an old friend crippled many years by poor health and physical pain called me up and said, "I've run out of things to read--do you have anything I'd enjoy?" I lent her "I Capture the Castle". A while later she phoned to say: "It was SO perfect, I don't want to read anything else for a long while--I want to savor it." We chatted about the multifaceted charm of this novel, and compared it favorably with the film based on it, which we both had seen on DVD.

"On the 5th day of Christmas", 2006, I visited and found my friend dead in her bed--she seems to have died peacefully in her sleep. My book was on the table in her living room. In the days following I thoughtfully re-read the volume, thinking at every page how my late friend would have delighted at the offbeat wit and each nimble turn of phrase.

--And for the first time, I was struck by the small but important role of the Vicar (who "looked like an elderly baby"), and noticed the "stealth comfort" he administers to the non-practising, nominally Christian protagonist, when late in the story she is confused and depressed by situations beyond her control. It may well have been the last reference to the comfort of religion which my friend read, which is felicitious; for she reminded me much of the main character in her views on God and religion.

I am grateful to be granted the grace of giving my friend the pleasure of such an enchanting "last novel". I will savour that gentle and whimsical Providence (not unlike something which could have happened in the book) for the rest of my life.
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