I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith

I Capture the CastleSoooooo I may have made a mistake in reading this book. It seemed like a good idea; I had been hearing about it all over the place on various blogs and podcasts and everyone was like, that was one of my favorite books as a kid! Everyone should read it!, and so I was like, hey, maybe I should read that. And then Amazon sent me one of their terrible emails offering me I Capture the Castle for two dollars or whatever and it was fate.

Except the problem is, my favorite books as a kid were The Baby-Sitter’s Club. Okay, and also awesome classics like A Wrinkle in Time and Nancy Drew and Matilda and Harriet the Spy. What do these books have in common? They’re not quasi-Regency romances.

What is I Capture the Castle? A quasi-Regency romance. This threw me completely off my reading game as I searched for the action or adventure or plot of any sort and slowly realized that it was never ever coming. Crap. By the time I knew I had made a mistake, I was far enough in that I was darn well going to finish, if only so I’d never be tempted to read it again.

Guys, Regency is not for me. I am Harry’s father jeering at Mortmain’s “enigmatic” books here, but I just don’t get it. I don’t understand the time period, I don’t understand the comedy of manners that is probably at play, I can’t fathom any of the class structure that is central to the stories. This book was written in 1948 and set in the 1930s, but it references Austen and the Brontës right off and is as inscrutable to me as Pride and Prejudice.

But I bet if you’re into those things you are going to love this book. It’s the diary of Cassandra, a seventeen-year-old living in a dilapidated old castle with her older sister, younger brother, hired hand, and eccentric father and stepmother. The father is a famous author who hasn’t written a thing since his debut and so the family is destitute, neglecting the rent on the castle and barely scraping together one decent meal a day. The eldest child, Rose, makes a deal with the devil (kind of literally) to marry up, and her wish is seemingly granted when two brothers show up to take over as their landlords and boys next door. Things don’t start off terribly well, but soon enough there is dinner and dancing and good luck coming to our castle-dwellers, at least until the romantic bits end up going just a little bit south.

I was certainly intrigued by the story and I wanted to know what would happen to Cassandra and Rose and all the crazy people in their family. And I appreciate the ending of the book, which I was sure was going to go one way and then went a better way. But I so very didn’t care about the parties and the trips to London and the surprise fur inheritance (except as regards the hilarious bear adventure, omg) and the awfulness of writer’s block and all the things that give the novel its backbone. Maybe if I had actually read all those boring classics as a child, like Pride and Prejudice or Little Women or Anne of Green Gables or whatever, I might be in a better position to like this book today. As it stands, I’ll stick with my sci-fi/fantasy/mystery/childcare kids’ books.

Recommendation: For probably everyone who is not me.

Rating: 6/10

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