I Capture the Castle

by Dodie Smith

Paperback, 2003

Call number

FIC SMI

Collection

Publication

St. Martin's Griffin (2003), Edition: Reissue, 343 pages

Description

The novel relates the adventures of an eccentric family, the Mortmains, struggling to live in genteel poverty in a decaying English castle during the 1930s. The first person narrator is Cassandra Mortmain, an intelligent teenager who tells the story via her personal journal.

Media reviews

This book was such a wonderful, enchanting and unpredictable read that by the end of it I felt like I almost was Cassandra, since her confessions, recordings and thoughts in her journals gave me a thorough insight into her. I also loved how the sections of the book were arranged in differently
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priced notebooks, which really demonstrated the progression of the story
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2 more
It feels, reading it now, as if this is the story that every romantic comedy Hollywood has ever made has been trying to tell. And when we come towards the end of the book and a marriage proposal and happily-ever-after storyline seems to be in the offing, I was worried we were going to stray into
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that territory. But Smith is too good a writer, Cassandra too interesting a person to settle for this.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member the_awesome_opossum
“How I wish I lived in a Jane Austen novel!”
“I would rather be in a Charlotte Bronte.”
“Which would be better – Jane with a touch of Charlotte, or Charlotte with a touch of Jane?”

This is a terribly self-aware novel from this early exchange onward. Cassandra and Rose are two sisters who
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live in a castle in the English countryside, with an author for a father. But unlike the romance and ease of either Austen or Bronte, the Mortmain family is terribly impoverished – they live in the castle because they essentially pay no rent on it – and their father’s writing has been stalled for years after only one critically-received novel. The prose and whimsy are indeed Austen-Bronte, but the realities of their situation are full of poverty and grit. But they are resilient and imaginative.

The girls’ lives are changed when two American brothers move in nearby with their mother. The Mortmains rarely get visitors in their dilapidated castle, so for them the visitors are almost a sign of fate that these two will be their suitors – again, shades of Austen, but the brothers’ approach of the castle and family as a curiosity or oddity only undermines the romantic anticipation that the girls have. Cassandra, who has never been in a relationship before, is particularly taken aback by how their relationships do work out in contrast to how she’s learned out of books that they work. The literary-ness of this book is particularly delightful, as Cassandra works out the relationship of her literature and her writing to the less neat, badly plotted realities of life.
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LibraryThing member TadAD
The back blurb of my copy has, "Everyone is cheering the return of I Capture the Castle." I'm rather surprised. This book is enjoyable enough that I'd have assumed it was continuously in print.

If you took a plot conceived by Jane Austen, slapped it down in the middle of the 20th century, you'd have
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the basic structure of the book—although, no promises that things will turn out as rosy as Ms. Austen would contrive. It worked well for me. The main character, Cassandra, was warm and engaging and I enjoyed her voice (the novel is in the form of her journal). The other characters fulfilled their roles reasonably well: her sister, Rose, a bit off-putting; her father, the eccentric; the object of her affection, Simon, somewhat affection-worthy; etc.

What kept the book from a higher rating was that I found the last third...until the last few pages...did not live up to the book's beginning. The first part was full of her 17-year-old observations on her family's condition of abject poverty and the colorful characters around her, sometimes witty, sometimes insightful, sometimes naïve. The story eventually turned into a somewhat commonplace tale of unrequited loves and infatuations. It was still very readable but it didn't have that amusing sense of freshness of before. I could see a teenage girl writing those things but I'm not sure they are so enthralling for the reader. The ending rescued it, however, avoiding the trite for the intriguing.

All-in-all, it was an enjoyable book and I'd recommend it if you like this sort of story.
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LibraryThing member Kasthu
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
I loved everything about this one. The style, the characters. JK Rowling said the character of seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain is "one of the most charismatic narrators" she'd ever met--and I concur.

It's the 1930s, and Cassandra, living with her family in a decrepit English castle, is
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keeping a journal. Her father may be going mad, her stepmother sometimes roams the country nude to commune with nature, the servant who has been raised with her shows all the signs of being infatuated, and her sister Rose swears to sell her soul to the devil if it means breaking out of their mortifying poverty. Temptation arrives in the person of two American heirs to lands that include the castle.

If all that makes this sound like one of those madcap romantic comedies filled with eccentrics--well, while it's quite funny in places, it's a lot more than that. Each of those characters is real and endearing, Cassandra is a credible teenager who relates her growing pains with insight and poignancy in a lovely, lyrical style with plenty of quotable lines. First published in 1948, despite period details, this doesn't feel the least bit dated. Among the novel's pleasures are depictions of Americans and Englishmen and their differences without falling into stereotypes, and as you might expect from the author of Hundred and One Dalmations, there is a cat and dog in the picture (Heloise and Abelard) as winning as any human character. There are also allusions to Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte that are far from incidental. This is more bittersweet than Austen's novels, but I think this is one book Austen fans might appreciate. It has that ability to make someone grin madly on one page and feel a lump in the throat on the next.
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LibraryThing member silenceiseverything
I'm a person who finds classics a bit intimidating because sometimes I find the language a bit rough to get through. So, I was a little apprehensive when I first picked up I Capture the Castle. Still, I figured a good introduction to the classics genre (I've only read a few) would be a classic
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young adult novel and I was right. I Capture the Castle is one of the most beautiful books I've ever had the pleasure of reading.

I noticed that in other reviews, people stated that I Capture the Castle was really slow to get into at first. I didn't find it that way at all. From page one I was enchanted with Cassandra and her life at the castle. Cassandra is just so sweet and funny that you can't help but love her. Due to her flaws, she's also extremely real. I got annoyed at her when I read who she was in love with and at some of the things she did and then I remembered that most teenagers act illogical sometimes when they are in love. Cassandra wasn't really a heroine that was glorified. Because I Capture the Castle is written in the form of Cassandra's journal entries, we see her at her absolutely best, yet we also see her at her absolute worst.

Cassandra wasn't the only charming character in I Capture the Castle. I found myself falling in love with not only Simon, but with Neil, and especially Stephen (poor, poor Stephen. I just wanted to hug him throughout the whole novel). I also absolutely loved Topaz and the way she was prone to dramatizing certain situations that she felt needed a bit of "drama" to be romantic. As for Rose, it was heartbreaking what she was willing to do in order to save, not only herself but her family, from poverty. I found my feelings varying from dislike to pity for her.

The thing that I loved most about I Capture the Castle was the progression between how Cassandra was at the beginning of the novel up until the end. You truly see Cassandra grow up and become more of an adult. However, the feelings you get in regards to that are mixed because while you know she could use some growing up, you really don't want her to change from the enchanting person you met when you first started the novel. But I guess it really was necessary.

I definitely recommend I Capture the Castle to everyone. It was an amazing classic novel that is still surprisingly relevant today despite that it was written so long ago. You can still relate to Cassandra and her problems and feel for her. You are charmed by her through every step of the way as she captures the castle and our hearts. Tremendous novel that I no doubt will read again and again.
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LibraryThing member thorold
This is a book that has become one of the classic British comic novels, and it’s one that I loved at once when I first read it, many years ago. I was a bit nervous about re-reading it: would the eccentric charm have worn off? - I needn't have worried. It stands up to the passage of time very
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well. In fact, I'm probably more susceptible to Cassandra’s carefully calibrated naivety now than I was thirty-five years ago.

What is apparent when you re-read it is that it is a very technically-sophisticated piece of writing. Smith has to work very hard behind the scenes to keep up the illusion of seventeen-year-old Cassandra scribbling away in her notebooks as events unfold around her. (And to borrow plot ideas shamelessly from Jane Austen.) It's all very cunningly arranged, so that you scarcely catch a glimpse of the stage machinery whirring away behind the scenes, but when you look closely you see that you are in a theatre and watching a well-made play, in which every actor has a part proportioned exactly to his or her importance, every prop and feature of the scenery is used for something at the relevant moment. And every bit of charm and nostalgia has a suitably deflating joke attached to it in the proper place. Brilliantly done, not a line wasted!

Of course, the other thing when you re-read a book is that you’re usually more aware of context than you were the first time round. I knew from the start that I was not reading an autobiographical first novel by a young writer, but a mature work by an established playwright whose own background had little in common with her characters. Moreover, I knew she was writing it in exile in the US during the war, and that the Englishness was contrived at least as much to suit the tastes of American readers as for the “home” market. (Compare Wodehouse’s wonderfully nostalgic books written during and after the war and also set mostly in an idyllic thirties England.) That knowledge doesn't take away your enjoyment of the book, but it does help you see what the author is up to.
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LibraryThing member 2chances
Dodie Smith wrote "One Hundred and One Dalmatians" - my very favorite Disney movie, by the way, and also the best argument I've ever seen for the nuclear family. But that was a bit of a one-off - she was actually a rather well-known playwright, and had minor success as a novelist as well. I've read
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one of her other novels and it was sort of lame. But "I Capture the Castle" is delightful.

The castle in question is a ruined one, currently inhabited by the Mortmain family, headed by Mr. Mortmain, a vaguely Joycean novelist who has not published a word in fifteen years or paid rent in four.I wou Consequent to his failure to earn, his family - 21-year-old Rose (beautiful and hungry), 17 year old Cassandra (curious and philosophical), 15-year-old Thomas (cheerful and oblivious) and the beautiful Topaz, stepmother to the children - are all trying to subsist on a non-existent income. Cassandra, a budding writer (hate that phrase) is trying to "capture" this strange and rather dream-like existence in the pages of her journal. Cassandra reminds me a bit of Joan Wyndham's "Love Letters"; she writes with that same mixture of naivite and pragmatism, laced with understated wit - I was on her side from the word Go.

This would never be a desert-island book for me, but sometimes it is exactly the atmosphere I want. I would read it just for the descriptions of Topaz and her pseudo-intellectual commentaries on Art. "Oh, what worlds words weave!" says Cassandra, and I'm right there with her. It's lovely to visit the castle.
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LibraryThing member LizzieD
I think that this is a small classic. Cassandra is completely charming, and her family and friends form a nearly perfect setting for her, the lovely jewel at the center. Other people have written about the plot, so I'll just add my couple of thoughts on completing the book.
First, I had the most
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trouble believing Mr. Mortmaine. I think that genius must always be hard to portray. Even more difficult for the writer of traditional fiction must be the description of experimental, avant-garde fiction. I almost think that if one can conceive of it, one writes it. I'll accept that the seven cats on the seven mats are wonderfully meaningful for Cassandra's sake, but I really don't believe it.
On the other hand, I'm blown away by Cassandra's ability at 18 to manage the man she loves as she does in the last scene. There can't be many girls who would be able to let go or who have such a strong sense of their own value. I'm sure, as she is, that he will be back! At any rate, I rejoice to have found this; it's one for rereading.
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LibraryThing member Dorritt
What I enjoyed about the story was mostly how it evoked other favorites of mine - this tale of a girl coping with poverty, an eccentric family, and her own budding sexuality is a little Wuthering Heights (without the melodrama) meets Pride and Prejudice (without the social satire) meets Judy Bloom
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(without the happy ending).

I found the story to be sweet, entertaining, and well-told. Like a slow walk through the English countryside on a summer day, the narrator is in no great rush to tell the story, taking time to wander down lanes that don't ultimately contribute much to the story (Cassandra's flirtation with religion, the history of castles, psychoanalysis, etc.) but that are satisfyingly scenic.

In summary, found the characters to be believable and complex, the plots engaging ... and if the ending of the story isn't really a resolution, suspect that, like me, you won't find yourself minding, because the journey to get there is so entertaining and satisfying.
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LibraryThing member fromthecomfychair
I have finally read this very old young adult classic, and glad that I did. A wonderfully different coming-of-age story for one impoverished English girl and her very interesting family. Cassandra Mortmain lives in the castle with her family, sister Rose, brother Thomas, father, who after
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publishing one successful novel, has a bad case of writer's block, stepmother, Topaz, an artist's model, and Stephen, the orphan child of their former maid, along with Abelard the cat, and Heloise the dog.

Into their impoverished lives in their drafty old castle come Simon and Neil Cotton, from America. Simon has inherited an estate and is now a wealthy man.

So many plot lines here: Rose determined to marry Simon so they can stop being so poor, the father who is negligent and depressed and even abusive, Stephen, who loves Cassandra, and seems like a wonderful choice, except she doesn't return his feelings, Neil who just wants to return to America and buy a ranch out west, and who seems to loathe Rose. And Cassandra, who falls unfortunately in love with Simon, who is pledged to her sister.

In first person, Cassandra paints a vivid portrait of their lives in the castle, with her sharp eye for everything around her. It is not a fast-paced novel; you have to enjoy descriptive writing. The real action doesn't happen til Rose and Simon become engaged. There is one hilarious scene involving a bear and a train station earlier on, that had me laughing out loud.

What I am curious about now is the author, Dodie Smith, who also wrote One Hundred and One Dalmatians! She has written other novels, which don't seem to have made much of an impression.

I think teens who like reading and who are Anglophiles would love this novel.
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LibraryThing member Smiler69
Seventeen year-old Cassandra Mortmaine keeps a journal in which she introduces us to her family, which has the privilege of living in a beautiful, albeit crumbling English castle. Her family are so poor none of them ever get enough to eat, they all wear tattered clothes and most of the furniture
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has long ago been sold off. Things haven't always been so dire, because once upon a time her father published a successful novel and they lived very comfortably, but many years have gone by since then and instead of working on a new project, he sits in his study obsessively reading mystery novels, insisting that he'll never write again. Their young stepmother Topaz makes a very meagre income as an artist's model, but that won't keep any of them fed and warm. Sister Rose is a rare beauty, and might have hopes of making a good marriage and pulling them all out of their misery, but of course there aren't any eligible men around, nor are there likely to be any in this small country town where nothing ever happens. Nothing happens that is, until one day two men show up at the door unannounced, wanting to take a tour of the castle. We know things are going to change drastically with this new arrival, and they do. But while Cassandra struggles with new feelings—the novel threatened at that point, to my great annoyance, to become a teenage angst-ridden paean to unrequited love—there were plenty of surprises in store so that by the end I was very sorry to lose such a likeable narrator. Though it was written in the 1940s, this is a very modern romance that doesn't fall into clichés. I absolutely loved Jenny Agutter's narration on the audiobook version, so much so that I'll be seeking out other books read by her.
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LibraryThing member Staramber
The main thing that struck me about this book is the truth of the native. Maybe that's not the right word but it's the best I can do. There's no single point when you become aware that there is a writer. The story you are reading is plainly Cassandra's. It's youthful, it's optimistic and there is a
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sense of self-consciousness in the story that makes it seem so realistic.

The bittersweet portrayal of romantic English life is comical in parts without being mocking. It's sad without being depressing. It's sentimental without being overwrought. It's a story of a year in the life of a family. Their ups and downs and, most importantly, their togetherness. And when you read it you'll think that it is the life of a real family. It's so rich and so beautiful.
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LibraryThing member delphica
I think this might be the most perfect novel of the 20th century.

Every time I read this, I am delighted and amazed by things I haven't noticed or focused upon in my countless earlier readings. Even the smallest aspects of the book, the scenes that seem brief or insignificant, are carefully crafted
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to move the story in the right directions.

The plot is straightforward enough on the surface. An English family, living in a converted castle, is sinking deeper into poverty without much hope of a reversal of fortune when a family of wealthy Americans arrives at the neighboring manor. Elder sister Rose makes a desperate play to marry in for their money. The book is narrated by younger sister Cassandra, who is herself caught up in the strangeness and kindness of the Americans, and also worried about their father, a famed writer who is utterly unable to write or support the family. Other characters include Topaz, the quirky stepmother, and Stephen, the "hired" boy who pines for Cassandra's attention.

It's interesting to me that over the years as I have reread this novel, I have had different responses to the characters at various times of my own life. At this point, I'm decidedly attached to all of them. Their motivations are not always pure but they are unfailingly understandable.

By all rights, several aspects of I Capture the Castle should be hopelessly dated, even shockingly dated ... but I find myself overlooking them with hardly any effort because the overall emotional quality of the story is so easy to get caught up in.
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LibraryThing member mlwl
This novel has all of the trappings of a traditional fairy tale, and could easily sound like one in a flippant summary. Cassandra lives with her mentally absent father, stunning stepmother and sister (although neither is evil, and their fairy-tale like names show you that... Topaz and Rose,
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respectively), and younger brother in an isolated and crumbling castle. For the most part the family makes the best of it. Handsome young men move in on a nearby property, complete with dramatic meetings, and a love story of some fashion ensues. That being said, I wouldn't actually categorize Castle as a fairy tale. It is much more a coming-of-age story, and despite the dreamy setting and situation, it is very much a realistic look at a strong and optimistic family living in relative poverty.

The standout quality of the novel is easily in the characterization of Cassandra. While you witness her first love(s?), she is much too level headed to let that alone dictate her course in life. If most romances show the head-over-heels-ness of a first love, Castle is the realization that first love has merits, but it is not all there is in life. Cassandra has a unique perspective, taking in life as an observer more than a participant. It's insightful and funny and awkward and even a little sad at turns, but always enjoyable.

I highly recommend this book as a light read, but one that doesn't require you check your brain at the door when you open the covers. I'm not sure that it would keep the attention of even some high school students, but I think that anyone college age or older would enjoy it. And of course, some high school students who are already avid readers of a variety of books will love it - I've already passed it around to a few students. There are laugh out loud moments that still stand out to me, but the action is, overall, pretty slow. Who especially would love it? Anyone who is attempting or has attempted a creative venture that didn't work out as they planned, or for whom life got in the way of that process.... and of course all fans of J.K. Rowling should want to check it out. I'll definitely be picking this one up again in the near future.
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LibraryThing member kristenn
Somehow I never heard of this one when young, even though I had other books by Dodie Smith. And now in the last few years, people seem to mention it all the time. It started out quite slow. The grinding poverty and so many additional forms of misery was a little dull after a while. I don't think
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she found her voice right away. And then when the Cottons first came on the scene, the Pride and Prejudice parallels were a little strong. But about 1/4 of the way in, it suddenly became un-put-downable. I finished it in two nights, staying up well past my bedtime twice. It didn't help that when I'd reach the end of a chapter, I'd be unable to resist glancing at the first sentence of the next and it was always full of excitement and news, so I'd have to keep reading. The actual writing was very lovely. Especially Cassandra's observations, like on love and happiness and wealth. They were an excellent balance of sounding like a genuine teenage girl and being thought-provoking. And because she was 17, it was simply realistic rather than irritating when she made poor choices. I actually liked the ambiguity of the ending, particularly since the odds only seemed about 50/50 that things would work out happily for most of them.
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LibraryThing member Voracious_Reader
Stellar!. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith was so much better than I thought it was going to be. I thought it would be a fun Austen knock-off, but it was so much more than that. It's the coming of age story of a young woman born into a once wealthy, or at least comfortable, family that has hit a
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rather long financial and emotional rough patch. Smith deftly captures all of the characters of the castle and then some. The narrator is remarkably likeable and witty.

I can't wait to talk about this book with my Austen and Bronte loving friends even if it means buying them their own copies and bribing them to read it. Two of the book's main characters start a conversation about Jane Austen and Emily Bronte, asking who was the better writer. The question is never answered by the characters. I don't want to put any spoilers in the review, but frankly this book is a blend of Austen and Bronte--particularly in its ending. Also, I find it difficult to believe that it's a coincidence that the narrator's name is Cassandra, which is the name of Jane Austen's sister. I could definitely write an essay comparing the works of Austen and Bronte, especially Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Jane Eyre, but will refrain from doing so here.

The story was both really fun and really funny. Who wouldn't love a book with phrases like: I was really busy and tired out "...as Topaz developed a mania for washing, mending and cleaning at night, which stopped me from encouraging Rose to talk much--not that she had shown signs of wanting to, having taken to going for long walks by herself. This desire for solitude often overcomes her at house-cleaning times." p. 158.

Consciously naive, indeed!
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LibraryThing member soliloquies
Strangely modern coming of age novel. The narrator, Cassandra, is engaging and you really want things to turn out well for her. From the family's impoverishment she learns that money is not necessary everything and begins to develop as a personality in her own right. Very easy to read.
LibraryThing member chewbecca
I'm not really sure how I felt about the book. There were a lot of quotes and random snippets on the cover of the copy I read about how wonderful it is, so, of course, I was expecting one of the greatest reads of my life. While the book was pretty good, I don't think I liked the storyline. Of
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course, I'm always one to expect that the main subject of the book will, in the end, of course end up with the person that they're infatuated with, thus making a truly happy ending (except with authors who I've come to expect never to deliver results like that). But, still, I think it was definitely a coming of age story for Cassandra, filled with a good twist that I definitely didn't expect. I would recommend it, but I don't think it lived up to all the pomp littered on the outside of it.
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LibraryThing member jazzberry
Very romantic idealism of poverty. Women are just waiting for the men in their lives to make decisions for them. They have no control over their own destinies. Yuck on all levels.
LibraryThing member Abi78
A classic and one of my all-time favourites. Cassandra Mortmain is probably my favourite literary heroine. Every thirteen year old girl should read this!
LibraryThing member Dora_Yvonne
A wonderful book that captured me from the begining. Think Anne of Green Gables meets Jane Austen.
LibraryThing member ffortsa
Although I usually find books about transition to adulthood annoying, this one captured me. A family is living on the last remnants of the value of their possessions in an old house adjacent to a much older castle. Father is a once-famous writer who has gotten a serious case of writer's block; the
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nearby gracious house belonging to the landlord is inherited by young American man and so presents a Jane Austen-style escape from poverty, if only it would work that way.

The story is told as journal entries written by the second daughter, Cassandra, and the portrayal of the family, the house, the Americans, all delight. Cassandra herself is not the only one to grow up during the course of the narrative, but she is the only voice we hear. Not that she seems an unreliable narrator. The Austen thread will be pretty obvious to those who know that kind of romantic story, but it's most satisfying.

It did take a little time for me to adjust to the setting - 1948 England - and the idea that even with that, the family is more than stuck in an earlier age. But taking that on faith proved easy. 4 stars, maybe a little more.
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LibraryThing member mybookshelf
Cassandra Mortmain is seventeen and wants to be a writer. She lives in a crumbling castle with her grumpy father, her eccentric stepmother, and her wistful older sister, among others. They are very poor, but Cassandra manages to keep a journal in which she records –captures– their characters
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and experiences over eight eventful months. In particular she writes about the Cottons –two eligible American brothers who become their neighbours– and everything their two families learn and desire from each other.

There are two main plots in this story: the potential of romance for the Mortmain sisters, and the mystery of their father’s work habits. Cassandra is sometimes active and sometimes merely the observer when it comes to the advancement of each plot. The reader experiences everything through Cassandra’s eyes, sometimes understanding her completely, while at other times feeling uncomfortable about the way she has helped things to turn out.

The story includes a number of funny episodes, some which make you laugh out loud, while others make you smile indulgently at Cassandra’s adolescent perspective. A few examples to whet the appetite include: the stepmother “communing with nature” and being mistaken for a ghost; the Cottons tracking a bear supposedly escaped from the circus; the girls uncovering some green dye and dyeing everything they can find, including ultimately the bath and its water; and the mad plan Cassandra cooks up with her younger brother to persuade their father to start writing again.

This story is decidedly English, it has numerous references to the English countryside where the Mortmain’s castle is situated, as well as occasional trips to London and other such reminders that this story could come from nowhere else. However, in contrast to many English books, this story compares England and America, finding the good and bad points of each, as interpreted or imagined through the eyes of the English Mortmain sisters and the American Cotton brothers. A good example of the subtle ways this contrast is worked into the narrative is this observation of Cassandra’s, when the men have just taken her and her sister Rose to the pub for lunch: “Neil ate his sausage with honey, which simply fascinated me—but by then almost everything was fascinating me. Cherry brandy is wonderful.”

Because Cassandra is training herself to be a writer, she has a wonderful way of expressing herself, and uses language in endearing and original ways. She makes an effort to describe things thoroughly to the reader, so that they might have a clear idea of what a person or place looks and feels like. And it works: as a citation on the cover says, “It is a book that will be very much lived in by many people.” The characters become so realistic and familiar, reading this book is like becoming a part of the Mortmain family.

I would strongly recommend this book to any teenager who has experienced difficulty with writing to the standard they have set themselves, or who has ever experienced unrequited love, or who is curious to know what either of these experiences would feel like.
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LibraryThing member Xeyra
This is a charming story, with some echoes of Jane Austen, most noticeably "Pride and Prejudice", with the family with few means suddenly meeting upstanding gentlemen when they move into a neighbouring house. The similarity is not a bad thing, because the story turns out to be quite beautifully
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told in the words of the main character and narrator. In fact, the story is quite simple, with humour, romance and interesting relationships, but what makes it such a pleasure to read is the narrator's point of view.

Cassandra's words are beautiful, sometimes sad, sometimes sarcastic and often logical. As the narrator, we only learn of the events through her eyes, but she describes them in such a detailed way we hardly need to know what is going on outside of her understanding. She's a delightful character because she is real to us, with both moments of extreme generosity and selfishness, with passions and emotional breakdowns, who makes mistakes and solves problems. She is not a flawless heroine, but that is perhaps why she gets under our skins. She makes us identify with her. And through her eyes we learn of her family, her life, her dreams, her passions and her feelings.

I was hooked to this book from the first sentences, started reading religiously when the family gathered across the table to make a listing of those who could earn money to support them all, and was irremediably lost to it not too long after. The excentricities of some of the family members contrasted with the simplicity of other members of the household, and the wisps of romantic and brotherly love, of jealousy and forgiveness, made for a very entertaining reading.
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LibraryThing member witchyrichy
A young strong woman narrates this story of mixed up love, family love, tragedy and comedy. I loved the romantic setting of the castle and the tower and have vowed to have my own midsummer rites next year. I am glad this is back in print.

Pages

343

ISBN

031231616X / 9780312316167
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