My mum bought me this book years ago and I always thought I wasn’t grown up enough to read it, but I finally got round to it last month, having heard rave reviews on both the book and film. It’s not usually the kind of book I’d go for and the blurb wasn’t really that inviting, but I thought I’d give it a go anyway.
Narrated by 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain, I Capture the Castle is the story of an impoverished family living in a dilapidated castle in the middle of nowhere. Cassandra lives with her father: a writer suffering a mental block since publishing his first novel, her step-mother Topaz, brother Thomas and sister Rose: often found moping about the castle and yearning for a rich man to sweep her off her feet.
Struggling to live in 1930s poverty, the arrival of American family the Cottons soon shakes things up. A rich family that own the nearby property Scoatney Hall, the Cottons become the Mortmain’s landlords. Simon and Neil are the two sons, unmarried, and both characters intrigue the Mortmain daughters greatly.
The narrative is written in the form of Cassandra’s journal and she writes every day, marking every event from family life in the castle, relationships and more.
It’s a really well-written story and you are instantly met with Cassandra’s unusual character – the opening line begins: “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink” – and, in fact, the entire family is eccentric. Although throughout you’re made to use your imagination, by the time I’d read the first couple of chapters, I found the storyline a little on the dull side and it didn’t exactly have me gripped; there was no real sense of excitement or tension.
I’d describe it as one of those books were I have no relation with the central character and at no stage could I empathise with her. It also wasn’t a ‘can’t put down’ book, because I could, and when it came to continuing with the storyline, I was confused and struggled to get back into it.
Written in the 1940s, the language is a little old-fashioned, especially compared with modern-day lexis, but I think that is adds to the quirkiness of the Mortmain family. It’s not your typical love story either, but because it’s not your run-of-the-mill modern romance, I quite enjoyed it. I think the problem with it was, I was waiting for something to happen – and it never did. The ending was pretty weak as well and was abrupt.
That said, I found I Capture the Castle a moderately easy read and the descriptions of characters and scenery alike are sure to draw you in – it just wasn’t to my personal taste.
I do want to see the film now to see how it compares and to judge how they’ve managed to adapt it into a small time-frame. Maybe I’ll give it another go in a couple of years?
Next book... Cocktails for Three by Sophie Kinsella (writing as Madeleine Wickham)