I Capture the Castle Captured Me

Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression.
― Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle

I had heard about this novel for years but had never gotten around to actually reading it. I saw a movie adaptation many years ago that did not impress me. Truly it left no impression at all. I couldn’t recall any of the plot points! About a month ago, my mother ventured forth to the library and then visited us for lunch and a chat. She pulled the book out of her bag, and I was instantly drawn to it.


I Capture the Castle. The title alone is refreshing and captivating. As unusual and whimsical as the narrative itself. It evokes images of knights charging across draw bridges and catapults trying to wreak havoc upon the impregnable. And of course the author meant to hearken back to that time. But what it truly refers to is the protagonist’s efforts to capture her life with her eccentric family while residing in a medieval castle in rural 1930s England. Cassandra’s journal immediately draws you into her life, the pastoral landscape, and the summer she leaves girlhood behind.

How I wish I lived in a Jane Austen novel!
― Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle

Some of it is absurd. But it’s supposed to be. Utter whimsy. Things that would have driven me crazy in other books caused nary a roll of the eye with this one. I believed it all. It didn’t feel put on. Even when it was over the top, it felt enjoyable and natural. Perhaps best of all—I was remembering our honeymoon in Ireland, explorations of castle ruins, the stones of old monasteries, crumbling abbeys.


I read it like a starving woman devouring a feast. As someone who deals with non-fiction throughout the day, namely slavery and plantations, honestly some pretty heavy stuff, this read felt like a lark. The descriptions were so vivid that I felt like I was sitting with my feet in the kitchen sink with Cassandra as she began her journal.

Perhaps watching someone you love suffer can teach you even more than suffering yourself can.
― Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle

I can’t keep track of how many books I read. I’m always reading, and I’ve read a vast quantity of books in my life. It takes a lot now for something to stand out. I Capture the Castle captured me.

It was one of those books that came along at just the right time. I needed this book. When it fell open in my hands, it was perfect timing, just the right place in my life for it.

At 1 am, unable to sleep, I felt for the book on my nightstand and tripped out of our bedroom and into the living room, seeing my way around by the lightning bursting across the sky. A giant storm was upon us, the first we had had in all of October, much needed and somewhat strange. It was late October; we had not had rain since the very beginning of September. Highly unusual for south Louisiana, and just long enough to get me unaccustomed to rain, for a storm to seem an extraordinary thing.

Just to be in love seemed the most blissful luxury I had ever known. The thought came to me that perhaps it is the loving that counts, not the being loved in return — that perhaps true loving can never know anything but happiness. For a moment I felt that I had discovered a great truth.
― Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle

But aren’t massive thunderstorms generally extraordinary things? Aren’t we all riveted by them? Don’t they transform our moods? And so I finished reading I Capture the Castle in the midst of a full own Gothic dark and stormy night, atmospheric and evocative and so very enjoyable in every way.


As I shut the book, before I lumbered back to sleep, I realized I was incredibly thankful that I read this now and not when I was younger. Timing again. Not only did I need this book now out of a deep desire for whimsy and description and absurdity and a strong and unique narrative voice. I needed it now because had I read it as a teenager, I would have romanticized things. I would have lamented the ending, just as I did when Jo March doesn’t wind up with Laurie in Little Women. I would have wanted Cassandra to go off with the gentleman, even though he asked her for the wrong reasons. I would have felt sad for her.

Now I feel something entirely different. Cassandra, you are so young. You have your whole life before you. So much has been gained in this experience. Use all of this and use it well. Let it guide you. There will be chances for love, other men, time for all of that later. Right now, just live. And when it’s time, the right man will find you. Or you will find him. Honestly, you will find each other.

Timing. It always comes back to that.

One thought on “I Capture the Castle Captured Me

  1. Pingback: Good Reads | Crown of Roses

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