One of my favorite books, and one I discovered only a few years ago, is I Capture the Castle. The author, Dodie Smith, is best known for her children’s novel, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, later made into a delightful animated feature by Disney (the live-action version? Skip it).
Set in 1930’s England, the book is narrated by 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain, who is growing up with her eccentric bohemian family in a crumbling castle. Her father, once expected to be a literary luminary, has had a prolonged and severe case of writer’s block, putting the family’s finances into peril as the royalty checks become smaller and smaller.
Cassandra is a writer herself, filling notebook after notebook with her observations about life in the castle, observations that are funny, pithy and sometimes quite poignant. Cassandra, unlike her beautiful older sister Rose, scorns romance. Yet, she finds herself falling in love for the first time, and experiencing the euphoria and the pain that goes with it.
I Capture the Castle is charming and witty and very touching. Cassandra is a marvelous storyteller as she “captures the castle” and its occupants, and Smith crafted a classic to be enjoyed not just by young adults but adults of every age.
In 2003, it was made into a film starring Romala Garai as Cassandra, Bill Nighy, Rose Byrne and Henry Cavill. I also enjoyed and can recommend the film (although, as with many film adaptations of books, it makes some departures from the source material). The film is good but the book is even better. (art courtesy of filmsourcecode and wikipedia)