Thursday, February 12, 2015

Blogger 2 Blogger Book Club... I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

January was the 2nd month that I participated in the #Blog2BlogBC hosted by Kelly over at Kelly's Kinda Crazy, but this is the first month that I am participating in the link up, albeit a tad late and by a tad late I mean like almost 2 weeks late... but hey, 2 weeks late is better than not posting at all like I did last month, right?! The Blogger 2 Blogger Book Club is just that... a book club in blog land for those of us bloggers who love to read just a little bit more than most.

For January, Kelly's co-host, Sarah over at Seriously, Sarah? picked the book I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.  Sarah first read this book in high school and said it has been one of her favorites and something that she re-reads often, so she wanted to be sure to share it with the rest of us gals.

I Capture the Castle tells the story of Cassandra Mortmain and her family though the words of Cassandra's journal.  Cassandra is an aspiring author who takes to journaling to perfect her skills at speed writing during the long days that she spends at home, a home which is a ruined English castle.  Cassandra takes us through what it is like to grow up as a daughter to an eccentric author, step-daughter to a what some might call model, as someone who grows up with everything and then is reduced to poverty, as someone who is "in love" with her sister's fiance, as someone who has strong views and will do what it takes to accomplish her goals.  Though Cassandra is but a teenager in this book, she seems to be wise beyond her years.

Cassandra is very close with her sister Rose and undertakes to help Rose find a husband in Simon, but as it turns out while Rose wanted to love Simon in order to change the Mortmain's financial situation, she really is in love with someone else.  Cassandra meanwhile has fallen for Simon and feels wickedly that she wanted for the relationship between Rose and Simon to fail.  The relationships in this book take a lot of twists and turns, but in the end it seems as though everyone ends up where and with who they are supposed to be with.

This book was really hard for me to get into reading, and even as I went along reading it I still had trouble getting into it.  Although at times it was interesting, there was never really a point while reading it where I thought to myself, "Omg, I just have to read one more chapter!" I had a really easy time putting the book down and a not so easy time picking it back up again.  While I feel as though the book was really well written and I loved the fact that it was written from the point of view of Cassandra's journal, overall it just really wasn't the book for me.  And that is ok... the whole point of book clubs is reading books that you would not normally read and discovering which types of books you do and don't like.  For me this is definitely not a book I would recommend to others, but that being said, I can see why people would like to read this book if that makes any sense.

Now... for the #Blog2BlogBC portion of this post.  This is where I answer a few (3-5 according to the book club rules) discussion questions from this list here.

one// I Capture the Castle is told through Cassandra's entries in her journals, an exercise she has undertaken in order to teach herself how to write.  Why do you think Dodie Smith chose the form of the diary to tell the story of Cassandra and the Mortmain Family?

In retrospect I don't think there was any other way that Dodie Smith could have written this novel in order for it to make sense but that may be just because I really enjoyed the style in which is was written.  In order to get the full picture of the Mortmain and Cotton families the story needed to be told from a singular perspective and what better perspective than that of a teenage girl who is learning what it is like to become a woman?  Cassandra was already going through so many changes in her life it was only natural that she would keep a diary and be able to document the happenings of her eccentric family.  I also felt like it gave the reader more to think about because through only getting Cassandra's perspective on things, it leaves you to wonder what was actually going on... if Cassandra's perception of reality was dead on or if perhaps there were more to the stories than she actually new...in fact in conversations at various points in the book you do learn that Cassandra's perception of things was not exactly what was going on, but in fact there was much more than she had realized. 

two// Cassandra is fascinated by the Cottons and their American mannerisms, traditions and expressions, just as the Cottons are fascinated by the Mortmains and their English mannerisms, traditions and expressions.  What does I Capture the Castle say about English preconceptions of Americans and America and vice versa?

Through the story it is evident that the English and Americans do not really know what life is truly like in each other's worlds.  Cassandra seems to feel like the American Cottons are crash, while the Cottons find the Mortmains for lack of a better word quaint or perhaps antiquated is the word I am looking for.  The Cottons are fascinated by Mr. Mortmain as he wrote the book Jacob Wrestling which made him famous in both England and the United States, and upon meeting him at the castle they don't seem to quite understand the life he leads and how his "genuis" had changed so much since writing his first and only book.  I feel as though the Cottons saw themselves as more intellectual than their English friends, even Mr. Mortmain, whom they considered to be a genius.  While Cassandra loves her home in England, it seems as though she is a tad jealous of the Cottons' worldliness and wants to learn as much as she can about America and what the Cottons did while there.  She also doesn't understand how the Cottons, Neil especially, could not love England as much as she does.  For Cassandra it is almost as though the world outside England, while most fascinating, does not exist.  The English and Americans seem to live mutually exclusive lives at this point in time and the novel while trying to bring them together and eventually succeeding in bringing some of them together only showcases many of their differences.   

three// How does I Capture the Castle reflect society's changing views toward women during the first half of the century?  How do the women in the novel view the roles and opportunities open to them both in the family and in the world at large differently.  Consider Cassandra, Rose, Topaz, Mrs. Cotton, and Mrs. Fox-Cotton.

The Mortmain women are all about marrying for stature or money, while the Cotton women seem to be more about themselves and their own lives without being overly dedicated to their husbands.   When looking for a husband, although Rose said that she wanted to marry for love, she ultimately denied her feelings for Neil and accepted a marriage proposal from Simon because marrying Simon meant that her family would no longer live in poverty.  While Rose was all about marrying to change her family's stature, Cassandra still had the idea that she would marry for love which is more of what I think the "modern" woman is all about.  Although in today's society some women do still marry for the money, most women marry for love.  When it comes to the Cotton women it seems as they represent more of the modern woman.  Although Mrs. Cotton has some traditional views, especially when it came to Rose's marriage to Simon, Mrs. Cotton comes across as a highly educated, intelligent and independent woman.  Mrs. Fox-Cotton is definitely the definition of what the modern woman was becoming at the time the novel was written.  Mrs. Fox-Cotton has her own photography thing going on and is a very "take-charge" sort of woman.  She doesn't like to accept no for an answer and strikes me as someone who will do whatever it takes to get what she wants.  Topaz is kind of the anomaly for me  within the novel because it seems as though she should be a strong, independent woman, yet she is constantly seeking the approval of her husband.  It is almost as though Topaz is stuck in limbo between what the modern woman was trying to become along with keeping traditional values.


Have you ever read I Capture the Castle? What did you think of it? 
Are you reading anything good right now?

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