Review: I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith – Mother-Daughter Edition
March 16, 2015 § Leave a comment
A few weeks ago, my mother casually mentioned that she had requested a book at the library, and asked if I would bring it home. I was surprised and excited to discover that she had ordered I Capture the Castle – I had been thinking about it lately and wanting to re-read it. I read it once several years ago, and couldn’t remember it at all. So we read it “together:” she finished much earlier than I did, because I was so busy. Then we sat down to talk it over, which was lovely, and I asked her if we could talk about it again and post a transcript of the second conversation here. Here is our joint review of I Capture the Castle… Rachael: So, what did you think overall?
Frances: Overall, I liked it a lot – a good part of the way; the ending kind of left me a little disappointed.
R: (nodding in agreement) What did you like about it?
F: I liked the narrator, I liked her style, I liked the way she put things. It was interesting to imagine them living there, in that castle.
R: Yeah, I thought the setting was a lot of fun, because it was so unusual. And I thought Cassandra was really witty. She’s a very good writer.
F: Yeah, she was. It was a book that you really wanted to keep on reading.
R: I thought the characters seemed really real, too. Not all of them – Topaz was a little bit much, and the father was not always believable.
F: Oh, you don’t think so?
R: Well, I guess I don’t mean he wasn’t always believable, he’s just not a very round character. You know what I mean?
F: Okay. (nodding agreement) Topaz, in the beginning, to me seemed less believable, but I think as time went on and you got to know her better, she seemed more believable. She seemed a more sympathetic character.
R: Yeah, I think you’re right. I think in the beginning she just seemed very kooky, but then you started to see that despite all the stuff that she said, she was living differently.
F: Right. She really seemed to care about her husband and the girls. Although she wasn’t around much in the later part. And the American brothers were interesting, right?
R: Yeah. I think it’s really funny that she thought they spoke really beautifully and it was a Boston accent! She couldn’t tell first whether they were British or American. That’s not how I think of a Boston accent at all.
F: Right. The ending was disappointing. It left you maybe wanting a sequel or something to know what happens in the future.
R: I think if I had liked the book as much in the end as I did in the beginning then I would want a sequel but I don’t think I really want a sequel, I just want that book to have ended better.
F: Yeah, okay, I can agree with that.
(Pause while we both laugh at my sister’s cat yowling in the background.)
WARNING: THE REST OF THIS CONVERSATION CONTAINS SPOILERS.
R: I think my biggest disappointment with the book was that I couldn’t really love Cassandra because of the way she treated Stephen, the way she just didn’t think about him. She had this one part of her that was just very callous, and she got kind of more self-absorbed as the book went on.
F: Yeah, but when he bought her that radio, she did appreciate that, and she did take his feelings into account when she received the other one, the phonograph.
R: That’s true. I forgot about that.
F: You can see that she just didn’t love him the way he wanted her to love him, you know?
R: Yeah, I guess the part at the end where she called him in the middle of the night to come rescue her kind of left a sour taste in my mouth.
F: Well, she was desperate, what was she going to do? She was there with no money, and she’d just eaten some food, and she needed help. She was desperate and he had always said [he would help her], you know?
R: Still, I just feel so bad for him.
F: Well who knows, maybe in the future it worked out!
R: Oh! Oh, if there was a sequel like that then I would read it. Because I thought Simon was interesting, but I didn’t love him.
F: Simon? Yeah.
R: He was just kind of there. Anyway, thank you for discussing this with me, Mummy!
For a “mature”/explicit/etc. content advisory, please see my review of I Capture the Castle on Goodreads.
Have you read this book? If so, what did you think? And have you ever done any “buddy reading” with your parent(s) since you were a child? (If not, I’d really recommend it.)