Erin's Latest Pick

"I Capture the Castle" by Dodie Smith

When I first read I Capture the Castle several years ago, I fell in love with it from the very first paragraph, which I'll share with you here:

"I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining board, which I have padded with our dog's blanket and the tea-cosy. I can't say that I am really comfortable, and there is a depressing smell of carbolic soap, but this is the only part of the kitchen where there is any daylight left. And I have found that sitting in a place where you have never sat before can be inspiring--I wrote my best poem while sitting on the henhouse. Though even that isn't a very good poem. I've decided that my poetry is so bad that I mustn't write any more of it."

The writer is 17-year-old Casssandra Mortmain, aspiring novelist and middle child of a quirky British family living in genteel poverty in an ancient castle in the English countryside.  The household whose adventures she chronicles contains her older sister Rose ("Although I am rather used to her I know she is a beauty. She is nearly twenty-one and very bitter with life."), her younger brother Thomas, her stepmother ("She is a famous artists' model who claims to have been christened Topaz--even if this is true there is no law to make a woman stick to a name like that."), family retainer Stephen Colly ("He is eighteen now, very fair and noble-looking but his expression is just a fraction daft.") and her father, a formerly famous novelist with a crippling case of writer's block.  

When two American brothers inherit the title to the estate, life changes rapidly for the Mortmain family, and Cassandra is there to chronicle it all.  Part romance, part comedy of manners, part bittersweet coming-of-age-story, the book is carried along by her witty, exuberant voice.  You'll find this one in the general adult fiction, but teens who like Jane Austen and other historical fiction or romance will enjoy it as much as adults.