I Capture the Castle

Posted: July 20, 2010 in books, musings

I’m still challenging myself in terms of populating this blog’s content—sometimes, it just really is much easier to be random, flailing, and totally all over the place, as with what I do with my LiveJournal. I apologize, my current reading material has left me struggling. It would have been easier to pick up another title, but I think every book I pick up deserves to be finished (the only exception I’ve made to that rule is Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life,” don’t ask me why).

So yeah, in the spirit of populating this space with content, I’m re-blogging some nuggets I originally posted on my main blog. Here’s one of them, which happens to be one of my recent favorites, “I Capture the Castle” by Dodie Smith.

Originally posted here.


I first heard of “I Capture the Castle” (written by Dodie Smith, the same lady behind The Hundred and One Dalmatians) when my best friend posted a blog entry about it earlier this year (Mika’s note: Sometime early 2009). She’s been gracious enough to get me a copy for free (oh yes, the wonders of Bookmooch—alas, I’m too lazy for it). That means I only heard about the book relatively recently, which is quite surprising for such a treasure first published in 1948.

“I Capture the Castle” is a glimpse into the life of 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain, whose impoverished family lives in a grand old castle in the English countryside, thanks to the one-book success of her father. Just when everything seemed to go down the drain for the Mortmains, their fates change with the coming of their American landlords—two eligible bachelors at that, and so begins a young girl’s brush into the mad world of love.

The narrative is in the style of a journal—intimate, quirky, delighting in details, as Cassandra vividly “captures” not just the decrepit castle, but the people in it as well. Having the book as my bedtime reading for the past couple of weeks feels like those sleepovers with the girls back in high school, where storytelling ran into the wee hours of the morning.

What sets it apart from any other journal is that it unwittingly offers nuggets of wisdom and insight from a young girl’s cornucopia of emotions. Here’s the passage that struck me the most:

“As we drove past, I remembered how I had told myself I would make Simon happy. I didn’t feel the same person. For I now knew that I had been stuffing myself up with a silly fairy tale, that I could never mean to him what Rose had meant. I think I knew it first as I watched his face while he listened to her singing, and then more and more, as he talked about the whole wretched business—not angrily or bitterly, but quietly and without ever saying a word against Rose. But most of all I knew it because of a change in myself. Perhaps watching someone you love suffer can teach you even more than suffering yourself can.”

The book may be over 60 years old, but it is easy to relate to even now. Any girl who has ever felt love or has loved someone she can’t have may find a gem in “I Capture the Castle.”

“Only half a page left now. Shall I fill it with ‘I love you, I love you’—like father’s page of cats on the mat? No. Even a broken heart doesn’t warrant a waste of good paper.”


Sometimes I think, the books that I like best are the ones with characters that I can genuinely identify with. Sometimes I think, this book ought to have been part of our High School reading list.

  1. blooey says:

    Heart heart heart I Capture the Castle.

    • Mika says:

      Haha, thanks for introducing me to it. That should have been part of our HS reading list. (Then again, maybe there’s really a reason why even Pride & Prejudice wasn’t included. Haha.)

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