Original date of publication: 1949
My edition: 1996 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: discovered this browsing in a bookstore many years ago
How I acquired my copy: Ebay, May 2010
I’ll be honest. When I first came across this book in Barnes and Noble a number of years ago, I dismissed it as something I wouldn’t like (literally, I judged a book by its cover, shame on me). I re-discovered this book a few months ago, and now I’m wondering why, oh why, didn’t I read this book earlier.
I Capture the Castle is the diary, kept over a six-month period, of seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain, who lives with her unconventional family in a decrepit, crumbling castle. She keeps the diary in order to strengthen her skills as an author. The novel is written not so much as a diary; rather Cassandra writes it very much as a story is written (aside from mentioning the month, she doesn’t date her entries).
Cassandra’s strength lies in her recreation of her family members and the people in the small country village in which they live; even the dog has a personality. All of the characters have depth; take, for example, Cassandra’s stepmother Topaz, a former model who is more complicated than she appears at first. Cassandra narrates this story with a great amount of humor; especially funny is the story about the bear. Cassandra and her whole family are charming, and I absolutely fell in love with all of them. I think if I’d read this book when I was seventeen, I would have loved it; but it’s no less funny and poignant ten years later. It’s a great coming-of-age story, especially since Cassandra’s coming of age happens so imperceptibly over the course of the novel.