Book Club, Classics, Fiction, Historical

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

A few weeks ago my coworker Charlie asked me to run his book club, 1,000 Books Before You Die Book Club, named after the book of the same title, and with selections therein. It’s an expansive list covering all time periods and genres and it’s been fun to see what books they’ve picked over the months. As I’d read I Capture the Castle in college, I said I would be happy to run the meeting this past Thursday.


From the Back Cover:
I Capture the Castle tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the castle’s walls, and her own first descent into love. By the time she pens her final entry, she has “captured the castle” – and the heart of the reader – in one of literature’s most enchanting entertainments.


When I first read I Capture the Castle I was a college freshman, eager to read a book that talked about a girl my age in my favorite place, the English countryside (The Secret Garden is an all-time favorite of mine), and even better – the main character is a writer, as I have always wanted to be. And then I had to dive into studying, anything from bio-engineering to film-making, and finally history and political science. I would have rather been an English major. I think. Either way, reading and writing, and reading about writing, has always been a passion and I remember being thoroughly enchanted by Cassandra and I Capture the Castle.

Re-reading on the other hand, eh, I was a bit less enamored. I still enjoyed it, but as my reading tastes have changed considerably from my college days (reading almost exclusively nonfiction is pretty different), I wasn’t as surprised to find myself far less into the story 13 years after the initial read. I still looked forward to the book club and discussion though, hoping the group would have some lively discussion as Charlie, ever the teacher, had provided a full lesson plan and extensive, themed, questions.

I realized that a lot of the book club members hadn’t realized that the book was written in 1948, and so we had a very interesting conversation about whether or not a book about 1935 written in 1948 but read today is historical fiction (please chime in if you have an opinion, we couldn’t decide!), and if Cassandra’s willingness to let her sister find love before her was unrealistic (we disagreed), and if the poverty was self-inflicted (well, yes), and how women’s roles in the workforce have changed in the years since (a lot, thank goodness!).

While I really don’t need another book club to join, on top of reading for my own book club, and for work, and the books I actually really want to read, they’ve picked some good books for the rest of 2019 so I might drop in and join them again before the holidays if I have time. They’re reading All Quiet on the Western Front in October and From Russia with Love in November.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

I Capture the Castle is the perfect gift for…
Austenites and lovers of 20th century classics, as well as those who love a sweeping tale of castles and the English countryside.

Where to buy
In the USA, I recommend purchasing through IndieBound or your local independent (most of us received signed copies from the publisher!), in the UK, and many other parts of the world, I recommend Blackwell’s, and if neither of those cover where you live, I recommend checking out your local booksellers! Independent bookstores are vital parts of every local community and I wholly endorse supporting your local stores versus Amazon.

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