Thursday, August 22, 2013

Literary PSA: I Capture the Castle

  It's been a while since I did one of these, but long ago I decided to start a NEW THING: Literary Public Service Announcements. Essentially, I'm going to pimp a book that I read before I started blogging, but that I want to foist upon the world due to it's high levels of sheer awesomeness, for the good of the public and all that jazz. Instead of me just telling people over and over that they should read something "JUST BECAUSE!!!1!", I've decided to actually explain in a more eloquent fashion just why my favorite books are my favorites.

Last time on Literary Public Service Announcements: The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty.

And now this week's PSA:


 'I write this sitting in the kitchen sink'. Cassandra Mortmain, seventeen years old and poised 'between childhood and adultery', is already a deadly observer of human behaviour. She lives with her family in the remnants of a moated medieval castle. Money is so short that her beautiful older sister declares she would marry the devil himself to get it; their father, an experimental novelist once briefly imprisoned for attacking his first wife with a cakeknife, now suffers from writers' block and sulks in the gatehouse. His second wife, Topaz, is an artist's model who wafts about communing with nature, naked under her macintosh. But when the American heirs to the castle turn up - an energetic mother and her two eligible sons - Cassandra is quick to sense that their lives will change ...

Best known as the author of The One Hundred and One Dalmations, Dodie Smith wrote this charming and funny novel in the forties. Exiled in America with her pacifist husband, and desperately nostalgic for English eccentricity, she created her own. The result was an immediate bestseller, admired by writers as diverse as Lady Antonia Fraser and Armistead Maupin, and has been made into a film. As the Punch reviewer wrote, it is an excellent novel: 'fascinating, well written, vividly imagined, and crammed with interesting and living characters'



I briefly considered writing this in the kitchen sink, but that would be colossally uncomfortable, and also computers shouldn't really get wet, and I am, sadly, not that eccentric.

 I Capture the Castle tell the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, living in not-so-genteel poverty in a vast and crumbling castle. She wants to be a writer like her father (only much less weird and experimental), so she starts a diary, and ends up chronicling the most significant six months in her family's lives.

 This is the sort of book that seems to have been made for me. It's extremely British, and I love the British. It's funny, heartfelt, and full of wit. It's It tells the story of an eccentric family with a pair of sisters who fall in love with a pair of brothers... and everything gets messed up. It has a glorious movie adaptation with some of the most handsome--

Oops. Sorry. Got distracted there. But the movie adaptation perfectly captures the wit, charm, and longing of the original, and of course the casting of Stephen is utterly--

FOCUS. I mean, young, tank-top-wearing Henry Cavill is not, sadly, in this book, but there are SO MANY ROMANTICAL ENTANGLEMENTS. Hot heirs to local estates, ruggedly handsome local gardeners, American boys with wicked senses of humor. This book, it overflows.

"I regret to say that there were moments when my deep and loving pity for her merged into a desire to kick her fairly hard."

Cassandra is my literary sister. Her voice is so engaging and delightful and lovely. She's funny, she's quaint, and she's observant. She's the plain younger sister who thinks she's logical and writerly, but she learns fast that love can change a lot of things. Her elder sister, Rose, lives  like someone in a Jane Austen novel, desperately waiting for a rich heir to rescue her from her really dire financial situation (the book is set in the 1930's, for the record). Oh, wait, look-y there. The two young, rich, eligible heirs to nearby Scoatney Hall have just returned from America. Rose sets her sight on the eldest, but of course, things aren't that simple.


I read this book for the first time when I was about thirteen or fourteen. It was one of my mom's favorite books from her childhood, and soon it became one of my own. It's a classic that reads more modern, that feels accessible and will make you giggle and swoon. There's a bittersweet strain through his book as they fade further into poverty, and her formerly successful author father gets more and more stuck in writer's block. He hadn't written a word in ten years, and the whole town thinks he's a drunk, even though he really just sits up in his tower reading detective novels. For a long time, Cassandra and her stepmother coddle him, believing him to be a genius, but finally they snap and... well, things start changing.

There's also a scene where the hot guys arrive for the first time at the castle while Cassandra is in the bath. 


It's hard to summarize this book, honestly. When boiled down, it could sound trite or predictable. When summarized a different way, it can sound melodramatic and soap-operatic. And, well, it is, in a way. But it's also eccentric, hilarious, strange, wonderful, and perfect for Janeites and/or those with a raging case of Anglophilia.

Other covers:




And one more for the road:


  1. Sounds good. I actually want to read this now, which is a big surprise to me because I haven't been very interested in Austen type work for a while. Awesome PSA.

    -P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex

  2. Oh my gosh I want to read this book now! <3 I've obviously heard about it but I never really gave it mind, but what! This sounds awesome!

  3. Oh crap. I'm going to have to read this now. And possibly watch the movie. Because... hot hotness? Sign me up.

  4. I've been reading a lot of book to film novels lately so that I can watch the movie right after... it's been a ton of fun. I have never read this and apparently have to now because I need to watch that movie because OH MY GOD IS THAT HENRY CAVILL??? Sold. Adding to my wishlist now.

  5. I love this book--but only the first two parts. That last part makes me want to rip my hair out! I keep trying it again, telling myself that there is NO POSSIBLE WAY it can be as bad as I remember--and every time it's worse.

  6. This book is a favorite of both mine and my mom's. I read her copy when I was about 12ish I think. We actually still have it in our bookshelf. I happen to adore the cover of the original book. I really don't like the other covers.

    But yeah,everyone needs to read this book.

  7. I am officially disappointed in myself. How have I not read this one yet? Or seen that movie? It looks delici- I mean fantastic... yeah, that. But really, I MUST READ! Your PSAs, unlike the terrible ones they play on tv, are actually helping my life.
    *scampers off to the library website*

  8. I remember loving the movie. I thought it was kinda weird, but I liked it a lot! I've been wanting to read this book for ages, but I just haven't gotten around to it. The saddest thing is that it is sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read. It's screaming at me now... "Read me..."

  9. This is one of my all time favourite reads!!! I remember discovering this in the school library when I was 14, and the seeing the movie and thinking that Henry Cavill was such a babe. Definitely one of those books I'd force on people to read.

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  11. I've never even heard of this! I'll be reading it asap and watching the movie. Because it sounds fantastic. And I don't mind hilarious scenes such as the bathtub, literary wonderfulness, and guys who will make me swoon. He definitely looks hot. Like those sensitive hot types, but who aren't pathetic sensitive. More like strong sensitive. Ok, I'll stop rambling.

  12. Hahaha, it's been so long that I don't think I knew you existed when you did this before. BUT cool idea and hilarious name.

    I have read this book twice. What do I win? Also, I have an awesome old edition from the 1940s.


    Stephen. I will never understand her life choices. I mean, sure, he's kinda dumb, a certain level of hot, that doesn't matter. The Henry Cavill level of hot. The kiss gif is the best ever.

    This is totally one of my top favorite movies.

  13. I am seriously dying to read this book after your PSA (and perhaps those GIFs helped too). There are just a lot of things about it that sound fantastic, but it's the British part that stands out. I love all things Brit, so this is definitely a story that I want to read! I need to snag a copy of the book AND the movie, just so I can consume both one after another!


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