And our January Book of the Month is...I CAPTURE THE CASTLE by Dodie Smith (discussion Tuesday 27 January)

(94 Posts)

We'll be chatting about our Book of the Month, Dodie Smith's much-loved classic I CAPTURE THE CASTLE, on Tuesday 27 January from 8-10pm.

Don't forget you can order your copy here

Keen to know how the votes turned out? Have a snoop at the results here

And, for anyone who missed them first time round, here were January's book choices

reindeersnake Wed 17-Dec-08 22:50:58

I love this book. I shall be watching!

weblette Thu 18-Dec-08 16:21:33

Marvellous book - excellent choice!

AliBean Thu 18-Dec-08 17:30:38

Oooh this is one of my favourites. What a great excuse to re-read (for the 100th time!)
Thank you!

moondog Thu 18-Dec-08 18:23:04's complete shite.

ravenAK Thu 18-Dec-08 19:04:32

Excellent, I'm in. grin

kaz33 Thu 18-Dec-08 19:37:50

I loved in when I was 9 grin

elsiepiddock Thu 18-Dec-08 21:39:49

I too loved it at age 9. Would any adults read it??

christmasteafortwo Thu 18-Dec-08 22:22:19

ooooh - Interesting - I didn't read it when I was 9. Kaz33 and elsiepiddock - I am impressed by your childhood reading ability! However, I did read it when I was young. Is "I capture the castle" one of those books that if you read it as a teenage girl you keep it in your heart for life, but, if you read it with the experience and knowledge of a woman or man - you find it rather lacking(The Wuthering Heights factor)?

<<Goes to find old copy to read again... although I must admit to knowing the first paragraph almost by heart!>>

LightShinesInTheDarkness Thu 18-Dec-08 23:31:46

Hated this book the first time, but keen to try again. As I am always telling the kids, your tastebuds change!

itcameuponamidnightexpress Fri 19-Dec-08 13:38:00

ah christmasteafortwo, so true of Wuthering Heights. Loved it at 17, loathed it by 25. Haven't read this one, so will be interesting to find out.

GrimmaTheNome Fri 19-Dec-08 16:49:26

I've not read it, but have been meaning to get it since reading 101 Dalmatians grin.

Sounds like I should; DD is 9 and still likes me to read to her (just finished Little Women and straight into Good Wives on her request!) so it sounds like it might suit us both. Or is it something a girl should read and sigh over in private rather than with mum?

AdventCandleQueen Fri 19-Dec-08 17:02:55

Love it!
Film's not bad for those too lazy to read it!!

christmasteafortwo Fri 19-Dec-08 18:23:18


No no no no no no!!!!

Adventcandlequeen - I respect your christmas name and jolly mn style but - NO!!!!!

PLEASE - No-one watch the film. Ever, ever, ever!


sad It broke my heart!!! sad (sob!!!)

This is because it is set in a sort of American's vision of what En-gerrlaaand is instead of actually being set, where it should be, in Suffolk!

This is just awful if you are living abroad and watch it because you are feeling a little homesick for Suffolk and want to curl up and pretend you are there!!!!!! (Like Dodie Smith who was curling up and pretending she was there when she wrote it from abroad.)

<<T42 Panics a bit because she can't find her book to re-read - where might she have put it??? She tiptoes away to phone her Mum nervous she will say - "Yes - it was here but it was collecting dust dear - so I put it in the bin, love!"!!!>>

AdventCandleQueen Fri 19-Dec-08 21:31:53

I only said it's "not bad". I'll admit it's not terrible good, and the book is far superior, but is not as bad as some book adaptations.
Tara WhatsHerFace is completely wrong for the role...

christmasteafortwo Fri 19-Dec-08 21:36:28

Still can't find my book - considers getting film out instead!!!! Ha ha ha ha ha!!!!

Adventcandlequeen - we are chatting about Rebecca on another thread - do you like Rebecca????

I will find the link for you so you can - come and join us if you want to!!!!

christmasteafortwo Fri 19-Dec-08 21:37:43
reindeersnake Fri 19-Dec-08 21:41:12

Please find the link - I'd like to come too!

christmasteafortwo Sat 20-Dec-08 23:10:12

I thought you lovely ladies might like this secret cave I found....

I read it aged 20ish, I think, and loved it. Will be interesting to read it again and see how it compares.

Film was DREADFUL. Even Bill Nighy couldn't rescue it, and he can usually charm me into anything. Please don't watch it - it'll ruin the story for you forever.

littlerach Sat 27-Dec-08 14:55:52

Ooh, I ma reading this at the moment.
Is the film really that rubbish?

Anna8888 Sat 27-Dec-08 20:52:09

Agree the film was appalling and Bill Nighy was very badly cast indeed - the father was far more intellectual-bohemian than Nighy could ever play...

blackrock Fri 16-Jan-09 19:37:44

Really liked this story as a coming of age type novel. I usually hate films of books, but I think the film was a good interpretation.

Its an ace story for credit crunch times - one bath a week, taking hot bricks to bed, home-dying ones clothes green.

Looking forward to next Tuesday, hope everyone can make it.

And if you haven't voted for February's book, today's your last chance - poll closes at midnight tonight. The Enchanted April is in the lead so far...

Looking forward to tomorrow, hope everyone can make it. See you at 8pm...

tunacan Tue 27-Jan-09 11:54:21

I read it for the first time aged 43 and couldn't put it down! The perfect gift for my 13 year-old niece.

kingprawnjalfrezi Tue 27-Jan-09 18:03:05

Aaaahhh! About 3/4 way through it and don't know whether I'll get to the end by tomorrow. I might put kids to bed now and get reading. Hopefully see you tomorrow. hmm

kingprawnjalfrezi Tue 27-Jan-09 18:05:36

Oh no - just realised its tonight - well that's that then. My baby brain is getting worse. I'll start reading Feb's choice now and I might be in with a chance. Have a nice evening!! sad

kingprawn, join us anyway, we don't mind if you haven't finished (but we might give away the ending...)

Just getting the wine out, back at 8..

kingprawnjalfrezi Tue 27-Jan-09 19:54:54

Thanks, but I don't think I will. I'm enjoying it and I hate knowing the ending before I get there. I'll look forward to reading your discussion in a day or two, and will definitely try and make Feb's - just ordered my copy. I used to whizz through books before I had children, now it seems to take weeks.

Well, speaking of the ending, here is the big question: will Simon come back and marry Cassandra? Or was this just Cassandra's first crush?

Its rather good not to have a classic happy ending but it does leave you longing for a sequel...

Psychobabble Tue 27-Jan-09 20:10:41

doesn't Cassandra say somewhere in the book that she likes a novel that doesn't have a neat ending that leaves you wondering?

I rather hope she is getting on with her life, not just sitting around waiting for a useless man to turn up grin

marimba Tue 27-Jan-09 20:12:38

My first thought was no, Cassandra turns his offer of going to America with him down, knowing she'd always be the second choice. I think this is the "coming of age" bit & finally shows she may have acquired some emotional maturity to go with her intellectual. But, he's always going to be around, so maybe, many years later when they've both had lots more life experiences & found other options wanting

I loved the surprise ending as I was certain Cassandra and Simon would get together. Although it's nice to think they would, I'm glad they didn't because throughout the book I felt the women were very dependent on the men to change their lives for them. For Cassandra to decide she wasn't going to be with Simon signified her taking control of her life. I loved this book BTW and it def needs a sequel!

CarrieMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 27-Jan-09 20:13:44

Sorry Tilly was getting worried you'd got locked in the wine cellar grin? Just to say I absolutely loved this. It's a long time since I've devoured a book with such an appetite, I really enjoyed the style and wanted to know what happened in the end - rather a simple observation I know, but it reminded me what I liked about a book. Thought it was fantastically atmospheric - and now want to see the movie to see what they made of the castle.

On Simon /cassandra I of course believe that he will come back and marry her and they'll love happily ever after (because they do seem to be a better match, but perhaps that's because you see the relationship through her eyes) but I always want a happy ending so if there's a remote chance I take it smile

hello everyone!
Although I liked the book, I have to say I hope Simon and Cassandra don't get married, cos I didn't like Simon at all!

CarrieMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 27-Jan-09 20:18:22

Oh dear just read comments about film and think might give it a miss.

CarrieMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 27-Jan-09 20:19:21

Actually I'd probably be happier if she could fall in love with Stephen and go to Hollywood and become a script writer for the movies... well that'd be my sequel anyway

Psychobabble Tue 27-Jan-09 20:19:44

agree, loved the book, but didn't really like Simon. I loved the poverty aspect of it, the fact that simple items such as a notebook were really treasured, that they had to use the end of candles or couldn't write because there was no paper. And the green linen dress that was so special. Reminded me of Ballet Shoes.

marimba Tue 27-Jan-09 20:21:07

The more I think about it, I definitely don't want Cassandra to marry Simon, but to leave Suffolk, have many more experiences and maybe when she's much older, find her soul mate.

tunacan Tue 27-Jan-09 20:23:17

What I loved about this book was the fact that I could picture all the characters and I felt quite emotionally attached to them. I loved Topaz. She reminded me of my art teacher at school. grin

I agree, the atmosphere is the best part of the book. I think I read somewhere that Dodie wrote it when she was in America and desperately homesick - it has that sort of passionate attention to detail and a melancholic beauty ( I think Simon says that the best bits of England are melancholic, like castles, mist and twilight.)

I don't think the film managed to capture that - and not sure they captured Cassandra's voice either. Her tone is so observant, thrilled and excited yet very sharp. Just when it sounds like she might go OTT she puts in a very funny comment (like when her pity for Rose turns into a desire to kick her very hard).

I think Simon is a bit straight for her. Not sure I can think of the type of man who could match her.

marimba Tue 27-Jan-09 20:31:49

What do people think about Rose? Gold digger? silly romantic girl? victim of circumstance? I find it hard to decide, perhaps that's as Cassandra knows so little about her thoughts.

Psychobabble Tue 27-Jan-09 20:34:41

I didn't think she was a gold digger. I think mostly it was silliness, and they fact that they seemed to have been very isolated and so she just didn't know how to relate to people, or how it should feel when you were in love with somebody, hence her mistake with Simon. She definitely is not as intelligent as Cassandra!

tunacan Tue 27-Jan-09 20:35:03

I haven't seen the film so can't really comment. I think Simon is probably on the rebound and Cassandra deserves someone alot better.

marimba Tue 27-Jan-09 20:36:16

How do you think she'll fare with married life?

Whistlejacket, interesting about needing men to change their lives - but then Stephen needs a powerful woman to change his. There is that moment where Cassandra says to Topaz that she could stay and inspire her, but its obvious that Topaz sees herself only as an inspirer of men. I wondered then if Dodie felt a bit fed up being a talented writer in the 50s surrounded by male writers.

scampadoodle Tue 27-Jan-09 20:37:15

Rose: romantic but no fool.

I first read this when I was 14,15 (nearly 30 years ago blush ) Fell in love with it completely (I was obsessed with it, along with Flambards!) It is so intensely romantic & melancholic, exactly how I was as a teenager (Joy Division fan, natch). I have read it so many times now...

Didn't mind the film, but it wasn't 'right'

I agree about the atmosphere and my favourite atmospheric part in this respect was Cassandra carrying out her midsummer rites on the mount. And Dodie manages to describe her rites in a comic way too which is very clever as it doesn't detract from the feel of it.

Agree also about the men, I don't know who would be right for Cassandra. I didn't really warm to either of the brothers and have to admit that early on in the book I got them mixed up a few times(apart from Simon having the beard).

tunacan Tue 27-Jan-09 20:39:26

I picture Rose as this unfortunate 21 (?) year old desperate to find a man, let alone love and then she finds Simon and he's rich so she thinks she's on to a winner. Not a gold digger.

Threadworm Tue 27-Jan-09 20:39:43

I'm scared to read thread, as am halfway through the book and wary of spoilers. I'm amazed that I had never heard of this book until my sister gave it to me a few months ago. It is lovely. Pure pleasure.

I don't feel very analytical about it, so haven't much to say, but it is truly a joy to read. If only I had a daughter I would badger her to read it.

marimba Tue 27-Jan-09 20:40:03

Glad I'm not alone in getting the brothers mixed up

Psycho said earlier that teh poverty reminded her of Ballet Shoes. i think i liked Ballet Shoes more (though I haven't read it in many a year!) as the women in it actually got off their backsides and did something to earn some money. What annoyed me most intently about this was the way they just seemed content to sit around, sell things off and wait for the rich men to appear - especially Rose. i didn't like her at all either!
(sounds a bit harsh, sorry)

marimba Tue 27-Jan-09 20:43:03

I think I mostly feel desperately sorry for Rose in that she's programmed to marry a rich man & has no choice, given her sheltered upbringing & slight knowledge of the outside world

I think Rose is desperate to get out of what she sees as the wrong life - perhaps when she's off and married she will calm down and mature a bit. I found her far less mature than Cassandra. I don't see her as a calculating gold-digger, because the whole family were behind her, encouraging it, and she says to Rose that she wants the money to help them and put food on the table.

i think when she's married she'll be fairly lazy, maybe a bit stroppy and possibly spend too much money. Cant' see her having kids..

It's quite hard to like any of the characters as much as you like Cassandra. Perhaps that's a by-product of it being her diary.

What did everyone think about the diary style? I love the way it hops about, and you can feel her trying to understand herself, and to stop being bogus or false to her true feelings. It makes the book incredibly honest.

scampadoodle Tue 27-Jan-09 20:44:39

I can't remember, how old were Neil & Simon supposed to be?

When you think about it, Simon is a bit pompous really.

Oh, when Stephen gives C the radio - heartbreaking.

He (Stephen) wouldn't have been right for her though... or would he?

Psychobabble Tue 27-Jan-09 20:45:14

agree Strawberry, surely they could have done something for themselves? At least Cassandra wrote; Rose didn't appear to do anything.

Didn't Cassandra say something about going to University at one point?

Yes I think the reliance on men is reflective of the times they book was set in (and when Dodie's career was at its peak). I hadn't thought about Stephen being the exception to this (maybe that's because he's considered a lower class? shock). I also like the theme of people settling for someone because they can't have the person they really love, eg Simon loves Rose but tries things with Cassandra, Cassandra loves Simon but then kisses Stephen, Stephen loves Cassandra but does something with the Cotton Fox woman.

Psychobabble Tue 27-Jan-09 20:46:51

I loved the diary style. I loved how she would start a section 'oh I'm so excited about what just happened...' then make you wait to find out what it was. It really kept me hooked

scampadoodle Tue 27-Jan-09 20:48:24

I don't see Rose having kids either, Tilly.

Strawberry, I see what you mean, but the girls have been brought up to see the world in a very old-fashioned way by Topaz - it's referred to when they make Rose modify her behaviour so that she doesn't "...tap them on the shoulders and say 'Fie, fie!'"

Psychobabble Tue 27-Jan-09 20:49:21

'I don't see Rose having kids either, Tilly'
I don't think she would have a lot of choice sad

scampadoodle Tue 27-Jan-09 20:50:35

Oh I don't know, Psychobabble, in the 1930s/40s? Especially if she were living in the US? Have you not read The Group?!

Psychobabble Tue 27-Jan-09 20:52:51

lol, no I haven't! I just think it will be expected of her, both by Neil and his mother. There would be a lot of pressure on her I think, and I am not sure she would be a strong enough character to resist that and do what she wanted in life.

I agree with Psycho - the diary style was great - not a diary like the Bridget Jones one, but something that gave you more to anticipate. A journal rather than a diary??
Scamp - I understand the by-product of the times & up-bringing for the reasons for their behaviour, but I found it frustrating. because Topaz seemed so liberated in one sense - the artists model - but then terribly 'don't do anything to put off the men' in the next breath. I think i expected more of her, showing the girls how they could be more 'modern'

I think Rose would've had kids, but I'm not sure that she would've made a great mum.... I also don't see Rose as having a life plan and wanting to do anything really...

lemurtamer Tue 27-Jan-09 20:56:35

I loved the division of the book into the types of notebook, I share Cassandra's love of new books and her delight at the special one Simon had sent her.

Oooh, and while I think of it, am I alone in thinking 'Tilly, please don't suggest we read a Mortmain book for bookclub' grin

lemurtamer Tue 27-Jan-09 20:59:14

I also got the brothers confused, and the pets. I felt the ending was still a bit too pat, in that both sisters (almost) ended up with the brother they were meant for. I think I imagined that Cassandra grew up a bit and realised that Simon wasn't for her and life moves on.

I'm sure Rose would have had kids but also a nurse and at least one nanny looking after them for her while she didn't do much else with her life! She def didn't have a life plan and agree it was her upbringing and background that sort of bred it out of her. The girls' father wasn't much of a role model was he?

CarrieMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 27-Jan-09 20:59:26

I loved the description of how Rose had learnt to act around men from novels -all that herione nonsense - thought that was really well observed/funny as well as poignant/sad

What did we think of the dad and the whole locking him up thing?

No, Rose was definitely not going to get off her arse and do anything, but Topaz did her own thing (and suggested she carry on doing it, when they all try and find ways to make money). I think their opportunities were just a bit scarce, stuck in the middle of nowhere in that era.

The comedy is brilliant in this book. The timing is perfect - it always offsets a sad or insightful or dramatic moment.

They girls don't really have a choice other than sitting around waiting for something (i.e. a man) to turn up to get them out of their poverty - as they discuss when they have their "board meeting" with the school mistress, they have no means of earning any money. They can't afford to leave the village to get a job (even if they could overcome the problem of not actually being qualified to do anything) - they would need tickets to get there, clothes, money to live on while they found a job, etc etc - even Topaz, who at least has a means of earning money, can't really save anything while she's away from home. I think the book gives an amazing sense of really being trapped by poverty - while there are some romantic aspects to it in the book, like the appreciation of a new journal, there really is no escape (like when people become homeless and so can't get a job becuase they have nothing to wear to an interview and no address to put on the application form). It is very romantic, and I love the castle, but what would have happened to them if Simon and Neil hadn't turned up?

CarrieMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 27-Jan-09 21:00:43

great minds whistlejacket - wouldn't have wanted him for my dad (or subject for English O level) that's for sure.

scampadoodle Tue 27-Jan-09 21:01:01

Had she had them she would have had enough money to not have to bring them up herself.

Topaz wasn't modern though really. She was Bohemian but sort of lost in time too. Anyway, Bohemian women had a bugger of a time - always had to give up their 'art' in order to look after the man & children. Look at Augustus John's wife, she died in childbirth after having about 7 children...

Carriemumsnet, I thought locking dad up was one of the funniest parts of the book! Throughout the story I was hoping his behaviour could be challenged by someone and he got what he deserved. I also liked the way Thomas emerged from the shadows to help Cassandra with it.

God, no Jacob Wrestling for bookclub I promise. Just the sort of book I'm not willing to tackle these days.

I thought the dad was too indulged by everyone, and locking him up was probably a good antidote to that. But then who knows what happened in prison? Perhaps he did have a terrible time there and ended up permenently damaged. I wondered again whether it mgiht be slightly autobiographical - when he says that if the desire to write goes away completely then he might go insane, I thought Dodie may have had those feelings.

Thanks for the reassurance re: Jacob Wrestling Tilly grin

CarrieMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 27-Jan-09 21:12:01

Did she write much else? I know she did 101 Dalmations (which I didn't know before this) just wondering about the autobiographical comment re the dad

According to my copy of the book it was plays she was famous for. And that she was unsure of how the story should end - it hadn't in the way she expected. Which I tend to agree with - I didn't see Rose and Neil together (but i may just be slow on the up-take....)

She was famous as a playwright, this book was her first novel and she wrote five more. This one is considered her best novel. I sound like a know-it-all but that's because I have the intro to the book in front of me! grin

She did lots of plays I think. And wrote for Hollywood. No idea if she got writers block but it just seemed that the scene where he and CAssandra talk about it was very poignant and well-understood.

She wrote a notebook about the writing of this novel - i would love to read that. She imagined everything so carefully that she drew pictures of the bedrooms.

i think that's the purest pleasure for me in reading this, that it all seems so effortless and exactly right.

Psychobabble Tue 27-Jan-09 21:22:24

the edition I read had some little illustrations that were based on her drawings I think.

scampadoodle Tue 27-Jan-09 21:25:02

There's a very good biography which I read last year. Before she had a successful play she worked at Heals, where she met her husband whom she was with for years & years. They didn't have children, just dogs. (The husband came across as a bit gay TBH but he wasn't apparently)
But she was massively successful as a playwright before the war.

I just saw a reading guide on the web that asked: What do you think the title I Capture the Castle is intended to mean?

I have no idea.

Is it that she's understood where her heart lies? Is it that she feels in control?

All suggestions welcome, I am lost on this one.

Psychobabble Tue 27-Jan-09 21:38:14

I noticed the word 'capture' came up a few times in the book, actually in relation to her father IIRC but no the castle

i think Cassandra did seem the one who was the most in control of things - life, desires, surroundings. but perhaps that was because she was the narrator.
Or perhaps it's a clue to the fact that she does marry Simon, and therefore the castle becomes hers for ever...

lemurtamer Tue 27-Jan-09 21:47:58

I thought it meant she was trying to capture the spirit of the castle, as at the beginning she talks about capturing her feelings and other people's thoughts (I think).

Psychobabble Tue 27-Jan-09 21:48:17

she has secured their future - if only because her father is writing again, regardless of whether or not she marries Simon, she has captured the castle.

SoMuchToBits Tue 27-Jan-09 21:49:20

Sorry I'm gatecrashing this thread, as I read the book a couple of years ago, and haven't read it recently, but...

IIRC, near the beginning of the book, Cassandra uses the word capture, as in describing a scene, capturing in words what is happening. So I think I capture the castle may be to represent that the castle is the setting for the book, and Cassandra is trying to capture in words what was happening, and her feelings about it. But I may have that totally wrong!

I suppose the capturing is her writing skills describing the place? I think there's more to it, but I am too dim-witted to get it.

It seems to have gone a little quiet, so I might climb into the bath with February's THE ENCHANTED APRIL and get ready for the next chat on Feb 24. Hope its as wonderful as this book has been.

Thanks everyone, as always...

CarrieMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 27-Jan-09 21:52:42

Thanks Tilly and all - really enjoyed this one and enjoyed all your insights.

Off to bed with the new book and see you in Feb!

looking forward to reading the enchanted april - have it on order from the library, so just time to finish my current read before it arrives
see you all next month

ooh, not quiet after all. I've turned off the taps and come back,

Psychobabble, I think you've got it. Its all economics really isn't it, despite the romance. They are all struggling against poverty and trying to keep up appearances.

SoMuchToBits, I think we're right too. There are many parts of the book where C is struggling to put her feelings/the beauty of something into words, and that pleasure you get when you do articulate clearly..

Back to bath. See you next time.

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