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A Reader of Fictions: The Sound of Settling - Death Cab for Cutie

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Sound of Settling - Death Cab for Cutie

I Capture the Castle

Author: Dodie Smith
Pages: 343
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Brief Summary:
Cassandra Mortmain lives in a castle. Sounds romantic, right? Well, it is...and it isn't. Cassandra loves the castle, but her sister Rose just wants money. The Mortmains rented the castle for fifty years back when Father had money from his famous book, Jacob Wrestling. Now the money is all dried up and the family only survives because of the help of the unpaid help. None of them know what Mortmain has stopped writing. In the 1930s, things are getting desperate for the Mortmains; Rose is the most desperate of all. She cannot marry well if she never meets any eligible men. The family's slump ends and life gets a whole lot more exciting when two young Americans inherit nearby Scoatney.

This is my second time through I Capture the Castle. Although I did not get sucked in like I did the last time I read the book, I still very much appreciated the writing. The story is told in a diary format. Cassandra is an aspiring author, who is practicing writing naturally by relating the events of her life. Telling stories through diary entries is rather a classic trope for coming of age stories, but there is a reason for that: it works well (when done right).

I Capture the Castle is a romance. But it's not a romance in the sense that we tend to think of today, the kind with an open-shirted man on the cover and corsets. In fact, this is exactly the kind of love story that I hated when I was younger. In that way, it reminds me of A Room with a View. The main character (or characters in this instance) make terrible decisions with regards to romance. They choose the wrong men knowingly and are loath to change their minds, even though they are empowered enough to make their own decisions.

When I was younger, I thought these characters such fools for making such obvious errors with regards to their personal lives. How could you think yourself in love with someone for whom you clearly have no feelings? How could you lead on that poor soul who had the misfortune to fall in love with you, even though you know you will never fall for him? Why would you settle for the one you don't want when the other is within your reach? Stupid girls, I thought. So unrealistic. Then, I grew up and realized that emotions are really complicated and that situations that seem obvious from an impartial viewer are exceedingly difficult to deal with when you're embroiled within them. Once I realized that, I came to find these love stories so much more meaningful than the garden variety romances one reads nowadays.

The novel moves a bit slowly at times, as there are a number of mundane details included to make the setting and characters feel real. That certainly does work and it does really feel as though you are reading Cassandra Mortmain's journal and not Dodie Smith's novel. This slower pace may lose some readers, but I think it is worth the effort.

P.S. I couldn't locate the cover image for my edition (which is the one from 1948), but this cover is lovely, more attractive than the one on mine anyway. Also, apparently J. K. Rowling is a fan, if that strikes you as an inducement to read the book.

"I've got a hunger
Twisting my stomach into knots
That my tongue was tied off

My brain's repeating,
'If you've got an impulse, let it out'
But they never make it past my mouth."

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