‘I Capture the Castle’ will also capture your heart

Lindsay Adams

“I Capture the Castle” is a charming coming-of-age tale set in the early ‘30s in rural England.

It was written in the ‘40s by Dodie Smith, who is better known for writing “The Hundred and One Dalmatians.” “I Capture the Castle” is still a fresh and applicable portrayal of the long, tedious journey away from childhood.

The novel consists of different entries written in the youngest daughter Cassandra’s journal.

Cassandra is the writer of the family, practicing to become a famous author. She lives with her family in an abandoned castle that is on a rich family’s property. Her father, Mortmain, is a talented and eccentric novelist, who wrote one cutting-edge novel and was unable to write anything since, or even work at all. His second wife Topaz is an occasional nudist and heartbroken that she fails to inspire her husband even though she inspires other artists.

They live on the brink of poverty. Rose, Cassandra’s elder sister, is dissatisfied with her life and yearns for a rich, sophisticated lifestyle.

She believes marrying a rich man who gives her the things she cannot currently have will cure her misery. Thomas, the youngest child, is unable to work since he is studying to attend college. The family has a servant, Stephen, whom they have not paid for years, but his loyalty to the family and undying affection for Cassandra keeps him working for them.

Everything changes for the family when the Cottons, a wealthy American  family, inherit the property and become their landlords. The two rich Cotton sons, Simon and Neil, are introduced.

Simon quickly becomes smitten with Rose, and everything seems perfect. Rose and Simon prepare to marry with a perfect fairy-tale ending that will solve all of their problems. But, as with most hasty resolutions, the problems were only shoved out of sight and mutated into new, difficult choices.

The ending comes crashing down when Cassandra realizes her own conflicted feelings toward the Cotton brothers. Rose seems to be lying to herself and Simon as she attempts to shove together the fragmented pieces of a Cinderella story for herself.

The adult world of love and romance doesn’t interest Cassandra at the beginning of the novel.

It is not until the end of the novel that she realizes the pain and heartbreak that she has experienced and caused because of her inexperience and naïvete. Finally Cassandra recognizes the time has come for her to do more than just write about what is taking place around her, and to take charge and control her own wishes and future. While she makes mistakes and successes, when forced to mature she is able to recognize all of the bad with the good and the necessity of experiencing both.

“I Capture the Castle” beautifully expresses the painful and confusing path toward adulthood through Cassandra’s voice. It is a frank, witty representation of emotional growing pains everyone experiences, the bittersweet loss of innocence and the embarrassing mistakes along the way. While life doesn’t promise happy endings, it does offer unlimited possibilities. This novel has only aged better with time, making now the perfect time to read it.

[email protected]