Dodie Smith is probably best known for writing One Hundred and One Dalmatians. I didn’t even know her for that, until seeing an author’s online bio that listed I Capture the Castle as a favorite. Out of curiosity, I looked it up on Amazon and saw that the book was recommended by JK Rowling, so to the library I went.
First published in 1949, the novel was written as the journal entries of a seventeen-year-old girl living in post-WWII England. It is a fascinating reflection of the times, as well as a good coming-of-age story.
Eeking out a life of poverty in a once grand castle with a one-book-wonder of a father, an eccentric young stepmother, a younger brother, the orphaned teenage son of their former housekeeper and assorted dogs and cats, two sisters wonder if things will ever be different. Then the wealthy Cotton boys move in just down the road, and things are never the same again.
Aside from enjoying the writing style, I was intrigued by the subplot of the main character’s spiritual journey. It was so subtle that I didn’t even realize it was a subplot until practically the middle of the book, but I found myself watching for it, and was not displeased. The big question that kept me hooked though, was, “What the heck is the deal with Father?”
Some parts of the story made me laugh out loud, others seemed a little melodramatic, but all was from a very “seventeen” way of seeing the world. I came away from the novel wondering if it would be more enjoyed by a teen reader or by an older one who can look back at that age and smile. I think probably both. A very enjoyable book!