My rating: 5 of 5 stars
There are certain books which form the bedrock of British children’s literature. Tom’s Midnight Garden is one, Carrie’s War is another and I Capture The Castle is a third. Written by the great Dodie Smith (perhaps more well known for her books featuring dashing spotty dogs and evil ladies with amazing hair), I Capture The Castle is an oddly beautiful thing.
And oh, how it aches. The diary of Cassandra Mortmain (was this the beginnings of my obsession with this name? I think so, yes, maybe), is split into three different notebooks, and it is the story of her eccentric existence ( her richly English existence, too, living the very embodiment of ‘his home is his castle’) and her glorious life in the ruined castle she calls home.
It is, as I mentioned, a book which aches, for this is the time in Cassandra’s life where everything changes. She learns of a woman’s ‘power’; of what she and her sister can be, and how love is on the edge of their horizon. There are not many people that can write love so elegantly and eloquently as this. Adele Geras is one, KM Peyton is another, and Dodie Smith is a third.
I am suddenly intrigued about how I keep thinking of this book as a corner, as a bedrock of literature, of how I keep thinking of it as the brick in the wall of story. It is one of those stories which just is, so beautifully, it is. It is slow, rich, and far too swift in points, shifting from moments that I long to dwell on through to others that I’d rather pass. And it is confusing, and brave, and challenging and inconclusive; which is everything life is, it always is and will be.
I love this book. I love the fat, fat Sunday Lunch richness of it and the way it makes me long for a moat and a kitchen sink big enough to sit in. And I love how it proves that writing, that scratching words out onto a page (‘the squat pen rests / I’ll dig with it’) can find who and what you are so beautifully that there’s no point in ignoring it. We are, we are, we are.
We are living our story and whatever shape it takes, this is the way it has to be. Cassandra’s last, beautiful words sum that up so perfectly.
It is a sort of magic, this book.