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on 2 November 2004
One of my favourite books of all time, 'I Capture The Castle' is a poignant, warm novel about an impovrished 1930's family living in a crumbling old castle. The narrator, 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain, is one of the most engaging, charismatic heroines I have ever read, chronichling her eccentirc families ups and downs with honesty and wit. A tale of love, heart-break, family and growing up, 'I Capture The Castle' is supposed to have been written for a teenage audience but can, and should, be enjoyed by anyone of any age.
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on 11 September 1999
It was one of the only books available to me in a kind of 'teenage' category when I was growing up in the early 60's. How I still remember the delight of discovering this wonderful book, and it's opening sentence of Cassandra sitting with her feet in the kitchen sink. Recently on a long drive through France I treated myself to the audio version of this book, exquisitely read by Janet Maw, and my two young daughters were totally transfixed. How can begin to explain the appeal of this book, to both the quite young (both my girls are under 11) and to men (my husband enjoyed it too). The secret must lie in the endearing character of Cassandra, the narrator, and the amusing and bohemian characters with which her world is peopled, her quixotic family and the love interest from the neighbouring stately home!
I recommend it to both young and old, and I am spurred to write this review, on going to Amazon to buy get a copy for the house and for my young teenage babysitter who has the joy of reading it for the first time to come!!
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VINE VOICEon 28 July 2006
I loved this book but I'm having difficulty capturing in words why I liked it as much as I did. It's gloriously written in vivid, engaging style; it's utterly believable with a range of eccentric, warm characters; and simple but very effective story to tell. But that could be said of numerous novels which are nowhere near as good as this. There is something absolutely complete and very satisfying about I Capture The Castle. It won't challenge your beliefs, it wont stimulate deep thoughts, it probably won't even extend your knowledge about anything in particular, but it doesn't need to. It has a quality all of its own which somehow infuses the book in a way that makes it both a purely pleasurable read and very rewarding at the same time. Think Josephine Tey does literary fiction. It is very English, very specific and very, very good. Highly recommended.
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on 4 September 2010
`I Capture The Castle' is at its heart both a coming of age tale (and you know how I feel about those) and also a family drama. Set in a crumbling old castle we hear the tale of the Mortmains, a family who are living on pretty much nothing, through the eyes of the youngest daughter Cassandra. Ever since their father stopped writing (after his one big surprising and rather cult hit Jacob Wrestling) and the death of their mother Rose and Cassandra, along with their step mother Topaz and lodger Stephen, have resorted to selling their furniture in order to be able to eat.

As well as shedding light on her families past, in the journals we the reader are privy to, she also writes of the arrival of the Cotton brothers Simon and Neil who become the Mortmains landlords through inheritance. It is from this point that you feel and begin to learn that the Mortmains lives could be about to change but could it be for the worse or for the better. If Rose and her family have their way it will be for the better as she decides she must marry the eldest brother Simon, however things don't always run according to plan do they? I shall say no more of the plot for fear I would give anything away.

What I will say is expect the unexpected and keep going. Why do I say that? Well, to be honest, after a flying start with the Mortmains and the wonderful narrative of Cassandra, who is one of the most original characters and voices I have read in some time. At some point after part one had ended and part two began I started to become a little bored. I am not sure why either. It wasn't that the book is very descriptive or that the subtle plot went a little slowly, because I love both those things when done well as this is. If anyone says it's because I am male I will come and find you and really tell you off.

It wasn't Dodie's fault because her writing is utterly superb proof of that is the fact that Cassandra could have easily become a precious little madam who needed a slap instead she was a funny, wry and intelligently observant young woman who you wanted to spend time with. I think it might have been that I was finding it a little contrived and slightly obvious in the way the story was going. Now it will not plot spoil if I say carry on because Dodie gives us the ending you probably wouldn't think at all and I am very glad she did. In fact it was the twists and turns from the end of the second part onwards that saved the book for me and almost gave it a complete turnaround and left me very glad I had read it.
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on 1 May 2002
Cassandra,Rose, Stephen et al stay in your mind for weeks. The book is lovely, which is rare today but is also very funny. Despite being written in the 1940's it is still fresh and exciting. Despite my reservations about the ending, it is, and probably always will be, my favourite novel.
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on 8 July 1999
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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on 25 February 2012
'I Capture the Castle' was a classic that I had never read. Seeing a reference to it recently I bought it and was not disappointed. The romantic tale is as fresh as a summer's day despite having appeared more than sixty years ago. It is timeless and ageless. The writing is elegant and accurate, the descriptions evocative and beautifully drawn and the characters - even the dressmaker's dummy becomes a character - memorable. I would recommend it unhesitatingly to anyone with a sense of literature, romance, adventure.
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on 29 May 2003
Have you ever felt you didn't fit in?
Have you ever thought the world had got its values mixed up?
Have you ever watched the world go by and fretted at its inadequacies?
And do you prefer to wallow in the bath first or wash first?
One of the most exciting books of my childhood is back in print, and I almost don't dare go & see the film in case they don't do it justice. This book struck a chord the way few books ever have; The Lion, the Witch & The Wardrobe was uplifting, The Swish of the Curtain was marvellous makebelieve, but the parallels between a romantic misfit in a ruined castle and a romantic misfit in middle England made me feel that life could really be fantastic after all - in the literal sense.
Read this book.
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VINE VOICEon 4 February 2003
A great opening line, an imaginative structure and an artless narrator all make this novel a really enjoyable read.
The settings and characters are well drawn and memorable. Mortmain and Topaz in particular are lightly but clearly sketched to good effect.
The author, through the character of Cassandra, compares her story on several occassions to Jane Austen's and the Bronte's works. Although surely tongue in cheek, this comparison is not unwarranted. The unhurried descriptions of people and place are similar in many ways to Eighteenth Century novels with their slow, dense plots rather light on action and with solidly constucted background worlds.
Unlike these classic works, "I Capture The Castle" is supposedly a children's book, but the protagonists are about the same age as the Bennett sisters and the total of graphically described "adult" material is the same in this work as in an Austen novel...i.e. there is none.
So, this novel is a "Pride and Prejudice" for the Twentieth Century: of its time but timeless, serious but funny, involving and beautifully written. There can surely be no higher praise.
Now, if I can just get this tap to stop dripping on my keyboard.
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on 29 May 2002
I have just finished reading the story of Cassandra and her eccentric family and, despite the enigmatic ending, still have a warm glow. The story is a delightful tale of a bohemian 1930's family as seen through the eyes of the wistful 17 year old, Cassandra. The dialogue is sharp and witty and the characters fully fleshed, believable and more than a little odd. Don't be put off by the 'teen' category of the book; it's a rewarding read for any age group. Enjoy.
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