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2015 Bookshelf: I Capture the Castle

Meg Chaney


This book, originally published in 1948, was a book that came highly recommended to me by other readers. I've seen it often in bookstores, and often wondered what it was like. I Capture the Castle was a book I loved in the beginning, hated in the middle, and then loved again by the end. How does one write a review of that?

The narrator, Cassandra, was compelling. I loved her descriptions of life lived in a dilapidated castle with her eccentric family. Those descriptions were probably my favorite part of the story. 

How strange and beautiful it looked in the late afternoon light! I can still recapture that first glimpse—see the sheer grey stone walls and towers against the pale yellow sky, the reflected castle stretching towards us on the brimming moat, the floating patches of emerald-green water weed.... How well I remember that run through the stillness, the smell of wet stone and wet weeds as we crossed the bridge, the moment of excitement before we stepped in at the little door! Once through, we were in the cool dimness of the gatehouse passage. That was where I first felt the castle—it is the place where one is most conscious of the great weight of stone above and around one.
— p.28, 29

I felt the excitement, the air of mystery, of intrigue, of romance, in Cassandra living in such an old castle, filled with memories and stories inside the walls. The images, the smells, the sensations were so real, that I felt like I was experiencing it along with her. The castle was truly a main character in this story. The name of the book makes sense, for the character of Cassandra truly does "Capture the Castle" with her journaling skills. 

I was also quite impressed with the first person narrative. Sometimes first person narrative can come off as choppy, distracting, hard to follow. I never had this issue with this book though. It was believable. Much of the story was told through Cassandra's journal keeping, so you saw each moment through her eyes, as she would have experienced it. The writing style was easy to read and comfortable. I was actually sad to see her story end. 

For as much as I liked this story, there were some pretty major things that bothered me as well. Things I'd be lax not to mention to all of you.  Some of these were: references to sex, her step-mother posing nude, and the promotion of atheism throughout the novel. (She does question the existence of God, but nothing really comes from that mystic moment of revelation). Also, there's a pretty clear moment, early in the novel, when one of the characters prays to the demon gargoyle on the side of the castle. They joke about it being a demon or angel, and then later discuss that, maybe, this prayer to the devil worked in their favor. 

I could see this book being a great book for a college writing class. There are so many great examples of characterization, first person narrative, and scene descriptions. The author does an excellent job at all of these things. But, as I stated about, there are also some pretty big drawbacks, things I would definitely be cautionary of when recommending this book. If you're willing to take this book as a lesson, sifting through what you agree with and possibly disagree with, I say, go for it, and enjoy this book for what it is, a beautiful look at a bygone time in England. 

Interested in what I'm reading this year? Check out my Pinterest Board here. This was book 2 on my 2015 Bookshelf. Here's what I'm reading next.