I Capture The Castle

Bookshelf , 15 May 2014

I Capture The Castle / Dodie Smith

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The weather of late has been dismal and uninspiring. Very British. To temper my boredom at being stuck indoors, I picked up a very British classic and enjoyed it so much I felt it only fair to tip you off. I’ve returned to this book time and time again and am in good company – this book is often cited as a favourite and apparently J. K. Rowling is a huge fan.

The capturing of the castle is done by Cassandra Mortmain. She writes about its crumbling grandeur and her impoverished, but nonetheless creative and enchanting, existence within its walls. She captures all the life and glorious quirkiness within.

Her stepmother, Topaz, is a real treat who enjoys communing with nature nude and wafting around in old silks. She makes the book for me, but there are plenty of other juicy characters and, when the American Cottons come on the scene, a fair bit of action/romance to sink your teeth into, too.

If you like the countryside, crumpets and tea, and have a taste for eccentricity, you will not be able to put this book down. It’s time I got back to it for the denouement, strawberry tea in hand.

‘I had a queer sort of feeling, watching them all and listening… It suddenly seemed astonishing that people should meet especially to eat together – because food goes into the mouth and talk comes out. If you watch people eating and talking – really watch them – it is a very peculiar sight: hands so busy, forks going up and down, swallowings, words coming out between mouthfuls, jaws working like mad. The more you look at a dinner party, the odder it seems.’

‘It struck me that this was the first time I had ever been on my own in London… and the feel of the park itself was most strange and interesting… it seemed to be smiling and amiable, but somehow aloof from the miles and miles of London all around. At first I thought this was because it belonged to an older London – Victorian, eighteenth century, earlier than that. And then, as I watched the sheep peacefully nibbling the grass, it came to me that Hyde Park has never belonged to any London – that it has always been, in spirit, a stretch of the countryside; and that it thus links the Londons of all periods together most magically – by remaining forever unchanged at the heart of an ever-changing town.’

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, £5.59 at Foyles.co.uk

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