15 Jul 2021

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

17 year old diarist Cassandra records life living in genteel poverty in a rundown castle sometime in the 1930s. Her Father, who once wrote a seminal book hasn't published a word since and spends his days in seclusion in the gatehouse doing crossword puzzles. His wife, Cassandra's stepmother Topaz, once the muse of the London art scene also has no income so Cassandra, her sister Rose and brother Thomas live happily but well below the breadline and have resorted to selling furniture to the vicar for food. The only person in the household who seems capable of earning an income is Stephen the gardener, whose affection Cassandra does not return.

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The family's peaceful if threadbare life is thrown upside down when their landlords, American brothers Neil and Simon and their Mother come to live in the hall across the fields. Cassandra and Rose can't help thinking their life would be a lot easier if they married money, and does love really even need to come into it?

Sharply funny, evocative of Jane Austen (Cassandra and Rose are very Lizzy and Jane) and more than a little farcical in places, I Capture the Castle is a quick and enjoyable read.