I Capture the Castle

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink… 

This immediately takes pride of place as my new favourite book. I absolutely adore this book. I wish I had read it when I was a teenager, I wish I had read it hundreds of times… I will read this book hundreds of times. The Mortmain family clinches it for me – I love them all. And I love the castle! And the writing! The journals! The eccentricities!

I am too excited to write about this book properly, or coherently, other than to say it is brilliant and if you haven’t read it then consider picking it up. I’d be stunned if you could be disappointed by this book. Here is a quick list of reasons why I rate this so highly:

  • Cassandra tells the story through her diary and comes up with great lines like Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression.
  • It is a coming of age story, completely timeless, that takes you back to the summers of your adolescence.
  • The family lives in a crumbling old castle, complete with towers, turrets, drawing rooms and midsummer rituals.
  • A completely eccentric cast of characters, all of whom are witty and excellently drawn.
  • When their hearts break, your heart breaks.
  • It is a book about writing.
  • It’s a cross between Stella Gibbons and Enid Blyton, but with an indescribably extra quality that only Dodie Smith can provide.
  • When you’ve finished reading it, you want to tell everyone about it, and suddenly start enthusiastically declaring that you HAVE to read this.

The edition I have been reading is a really beautiful paperback Vintage collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum. (And is made from really nice quality paper, if you’re interested in that kind of thing.)

The cover is designed by Celia Birtwell. The idea behind the series is to follow an exhibition at the V&A ‘British Design 1948-2012’, they have picked seven designers to design the covers for British novels from the last seven decades. The other books in the series are:

  • Money, Martin Amis
  • The French Lieutenant’s Woman, John Fowles
  • The End of the Affair, Graham Greene
  • A Spot of Bother, Mark Haddon
  • Enduring Love, Ian McEwan
  • The Sea, The Sea, Iris Murdoch

I’m continuing on a castle theme with reading Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle – She has a tough act to follow.