Dodie Smith I Capture the Castle (1949)
As we walked back to the house he asked if I thought La Belle Dame sans Merci would have lived in a tower like Belmotte. I said it seemed likely; though I never really thought of her having a home life.
I had hugely, greatly, wildly overrated expectations of I Capture the Castle, since it seemed to be so beloved of so many people. I rather imagined, I think, that would be a combination of Cold Comfort Farm, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day and the best bits of Jane Austen. Sadly, I didn't like it much. The writing is very polished, and often witty, but I found the characters almost all unlikeable. I never warmed to the narrator Cassandra at all and the other characters left me cold (except Topaz; her characterisation was perfect):
Topaz was wonderfully patient - but I sometimes wonder if it is not only patience, but also a faint resemblance to cows.
This book lacked charm. The description applied to the narrator - "A bit consciously naïve, don't you think?" - summed it up for me. But then I also did not like another crowd favourite, Frank Baker's Mrs Hargreaves, so maybe it's me... There was one 'Aha!' moment though:
He looked at me, right into my eyes.... And they were so direct that it was more like being touched than being looked at.
There's no forgetting that moment, is there?
Favourite word: raven ("I raven food and sleep")
If you liked this... when Stephen was swept up and whisked off to film stardom, I thought that one really couldn't beat Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm for a similar theme.