One of the best things about book blogs, aside from getting to know like-minded people, are the book blogger recommendations. I have read numerous books that I wouldn't have picked up otherwise. For example, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (352 pgs, St. Martin's Press, 1948) is a book that I had not only never heard of, but I'm pretty sure I would never had even considered reading if it hadn't been for a review I read from Nymeth. Aside from the whole Tender Morsels ordeal (LOL), she has never disappointed. And I have to say, I fell in love with this book from the opening chapter! I'm using this as a selection for the What's in a Name II Challenge.
I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining-board, which I have padded with our dog's blanket and the tea-cozy. I can't say that I am really comfortable, and there is the depressing smell of carbolic soap, but this is the only part of the kitchen where there is any daylight left. And I have found that sitting in a place where you have never sat before can be inspiring -- I wrote my very best poem while sitting on the hen-house.
This is the story of the Mortmain family, in all their wonderful eccentricity. It is told by Cassandra Mortmain, youngest girl of the family, and aspiring writer, as she tries to "capture the castle". She lives with her family in an old English castle. The father, known only as Mortmain, was a famous writer. His one novel, was very successful, especially in the United States. But he has been suffering from writer's block every since....and is a tad bit on the crazy side. With no income for years, the family is basically dirt poor, having sold off all their valuable possessions just to have enough food to live on. They live with Mortain's second wife, Topaz, an artist's model and extremely free-spirit who exists only to be her husband's muse. And hasn't been able to accomplish it. The eldest sister, Rose, is self-centered at best. She hates being poor. Hates it with a passion, and would do just about anything to marry someone with money. Youngest child, Thomas, is just a schoolboy, but remarkable insightful. And rounding out the motley bunch, is Stephen. Stephen is the son of their former housekeeper. When she passed away, Stephen stayed on with the family. He's exceptionally handsome, though Cassandra finds him a bit "daft" (of course, he thinks the sun rises and sets on her!)
Things change very little in the Mortmain castle until the day the Cotton's move into Scoatney. The Cotton's are Americans who have inherited the estate, and with that become the new landlords to the Mortmains. Simon, as the eldest brother, is the actual heir to the land and in essence, the "wealthy" one. Neil, the younger more carefree brother wants to return to America to become a cattle rancher. Rose, in her desperation to get out of the poverty that has struck her family, decides that she is hopelessly in love with Simon and will do just about anything to get him to propose to her. And since Simon is rather scholarly, he and his mother are taken with Mortmain. Fans of his writing, they try to get him over his writer's block.
The story is told in journal format by Cassandra, who is sweet and gentle and kind. She's also smart as a whip and devoted to her family. Cassandra, in a word, is delightful! I usually tend to root for the more brash characters. But there is just something so endearing about Cassandra. "And that was all she ever did talk about it -- that was almost the worst part of the gloom, our not talking naturally. Never have I felt so separate from her. And 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. For she is a girl who cannot walk her troubles off, or work them off; she is a girl to sit around and glare." "That evening of the row was our lowest depths; miserable people cannot afford to dislike each other. Cruel blows of fate call for extreme kindness in the family circle." Cassandra is level-headed and wise beyond her years. She is charming and refreshingly honest in all her writings.
Rose drove me crazy though. She is vain and self-centered and annoying. And even though she tried to justify that her marrying Simon would help the family as a whole, she really was in it only for herself. She was obnoxious and the type of woman that sat back waiting for someone to give her something. The Cinderella waiting to be rescued by the Prince, instead of the Belle, who was out there doing the rescuing. And that just drove me crazy! But, in truth, it's how the character is written and Smith definitely did a great job in making me dislike her immensely!
Each character was so thoroughly fleshed out. It's like you actually knew the people that were being written about. And you cared what happened to them. I can't remember the last time I was so taken with the characters in a book. And I can't even begin to pick a favorite. Aside from Rose, each character has some strange but endearing qualities. And I loved them all!! A timeless story that will last forever, this is one book that I'm truly a better person for having read! Thank you, Nymeth!! A 100% definite 5-Star Rating!!! Will surely land on my list of favorite novels! 5/5