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I Capture the Castle Paperback – March 15, 1999
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"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Pre-order today
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 book has one of the most charismatic narrators I've ever met. Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain captures the castle in her insightful, witty journal entries.” ―Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling
“What a lovely book is I Capture the Castle. It's as fresh as if it were written this morning, and as classic as Jane Austen. I'm very happy to have met it.” ―Donald E. Westlake
“A delicious, compulsively readable novel about young love and its vicissitudes. What fun!” ―Erica Jong
“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
Top customer reviews
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Her father's mysteriousness kept me as interested in him as she was; just as all of the characters wondered, I found myself constantly wondering "Is he genius? Is he crazy? Is he good? Bad?"
Every character, for that matter, was complex and multidimensional. There were no stereotypes, no cliches - just complicated, real people who I loved getting to know.
I really enjoyed the diary format - there were moments I felt like she stole my own thoughts. She's probably my all-time favorite character actually - so much depth, charisma, and joy.
As for the romance, I loved all of it - I enjoyed the interaction between Cassandra & Stephen, how tense & confusing it was. It was so interesting to see how everything played out ... the way, at first, to Cassandra, Simon was just an awkward-looking man in a beard and then, he quickly becomes so much more to the entire family, changing their lives - in a way they had literally sat around hoping for just moments before.
Smith's writing is flawless & beautiful. It flows so well. I could envision everything so vividly. It played like a movie in my mind.
Be sure to read it! I wish I'd read it years ago
I thought this was a beautifully written book. Dodie Smith does a fantastic job of letting Cassandra’s thoughts and feelings flow onto the paper. We see Cassandra’s growth throughout the book as she progresses through the six-penny journal to the shilling journal and finally to the two-guinea journal as she records her thoughts. We share her hopes and dreams, and happy and sad memories as she tries to navigate growing up in a family struggling to survive, yet endeavoring to live a normal life. Cassandra seems to be the practical one of the family as she tries to help her father write again, schemes with Rose to find a husband, and struggles with Stephen’s feelings for her, as well as her growing feelings for another. It is both a humorous and poignant portrayal of a young girl finding her way in the world, as she also helps and cares for those around her. The novel also examines the English class system and compares English versus American traditions.
The story is entirely set in England but it's also got a few American characters. That adds an additional element of interest for American readers with English ties, or vice versa. There is one stretch that's a bit melodramatic (meloromatic?) for my taste, but it's an important element that ultimately works well. If you find yourself struggling to maintain interest through that section just push through and know that it's not interminable.
I find myself reading many more novels by male authors than female, but I found this female voice, both the author's and the protagonist's, to be a refreshing change of pace. I'm not saying this is a 5-star read, but I do think it is very good.