©2000 Dodie Smith; (P)2003 BBC Audiobooks Ltd.
"A good story, flourishing characters, and the most persuasive narrative voice." (Guardian [London])
"This book has one of the most charismatic narrators I've ever met." (J.K. Rowling)
Moving further from work extended my daily commute... thank God for Audible.
Truth be told, I felt a little duped when I first started "I Capture The Castle". It had been recommended to me by one of those "You Might Like" algorithms, and I made the purchase impulsively (and uncharacteristically) with absolutely zero research. Almost instantly I realised “Capture” was unlike any other novel I'd read before, and I was baffled by the recommendation. I'm not drawn to novels in this genre, but all I can say is that I absolutely loved every moment inside Cassandra’s journal. I even feel a small sense of loss that I won't be spending any more time with the inhabitants of Scoatney Village, who feel so incredibly alive to me now.
I've subsequently done a little research on the book, and I can see it featuring on lists like "Classics All Young Girls Should Read" etc... This makes me a little embarrassed, as I'm a middle-aged man. I suppose I can understand some dismissing this as a “charming little girls book"—it is a tad heavy on young romance, first loves, stolen kisses, exciting marriage proposals (Dear God, I'm cringing as I write). But what a pity if they did pigeon-hole it that way; it has way more to offer. It is witty, thoughtful, clever and genuinely laugh-out-loud funny at times. And the characters are so deeply drawn, I guess I didn’t mind all the accompanying histrionics.
I should say that I did live in the UK for many years, so I know my nostalgia for the English countryside enhanced my enjoyment. My favourite quote: “It came to me that Hyde Park has never belonged to London - that it has always been , in spirit, a stretch of countryside; and that it links the Londons of all periods together most magically - by remaining forever unchanged at the heart of a ever-changing town.”
Loyal fans of the book have admired this audio version, and I totally support all praise for Jenny Agutter. This is a flawless narration and I can’t imagine a better way to enjoy this book.
Oh and—by the way—I think I’ve now realized why the algorithm recommended the book to me in the first place. I had “Cold Comfort Farm” listed as a favourite, and it’s only now that I’m starting to see the synchronicities between these two novels.
Audiobooks have literally changed my life. I now actually ENJOY doing mindless chores because they give me plenty of listening time!
Seventeen year-old Cassandra Mortmaine keeps a journal in which she introduces us to her family, which has the privilege of living in a beautiful, albeit crumbling English castle. Her family are so poor none of them ever get enough to eat, they all wear tattered clothes and most of the furniture has long ago been sold off. Things haven't always been so dire, because once upon a time her father published a successful novel and they lived very comfortably, but many years have gone by since then and instead of working on a new project, he sits in his study obsessively reading mystery novels, insisting that he'll never write again. Their young stepmother Topaz makes a very meagre income as an artist's model, but that won't keep any of them fed and warm. Sister Rose is a rare beauty, and might have hopes of making a good marriage and pulling them all out of their misery, but of course there aren't any eligible men around, nor are there likely to be any in this small country town where nothing ever happens. Nothing happens that is, until one day two men show up at the door unannounced, wanting to take a tour of the castle. We know things are going to change drastically with this new arrival, and they do. But while Cassandra struggles with new feelings—the novel threatened at that point, to my great annoyance, to become a teenage angst-ridden paean to unrequited love—there were plenty of surprises in store so that by the end I was very sorry to lose such a likeable narrator. Though it was written in the 1940s, this is a very modern romance that doesn't fall into clichés. I absolutely loved Jenny Agutter's narration and will seek out other books read by her.
Anglophiles around the world will be transported back to England in the 1930s in this delicious, bitter sweet story of an eccentric family living in a house built into an ancient castle. It is easy to forget that the diary entries of the main character, teenager Cassandra, are ficticious. Dodie Smith writes such achingly beautiful observations of the countryside in all seasons equally well as she describes the endearing faults of her main characters. The Mortmain's lives are suspended in time for a while until a pair of American brothers arrive to claim their inheritance and the hearts of Cassandra and her sister Rose. Change is also in the air for their author father and "son of the house" Stephen. The story is not wound up too tightly at the end and we are left room to imagine where war, fortune and love will lead the characters. Jenny Agutter's reading beautifully captures the passion and "wiser than her years" poise of Cassandra.
Favorites are histories and mysteries. Once avid reader trying to pick up the pace again later in life.
Cassandra, 17, writes in her journal of her oddball 20th century family living in an old English castle house that is connected to a remnant of a 600 year-old castle.
The family has no money, no jobs or income, not even towels or electricity, yet they sit around all day making Big Decisions such as whether or not to sip cocoa or tea that day. For excitement they argue as to whether men look better in beards or not.
The patriarch of the family wrote a book once, but now just reads mysteries and does crosswords 24x7 in candlelight in his gatehouse room. Topaz, 29, his second wife, is a former artist's model who likes to take nude walks in the moonlight (but modestly wearing her boots, of course), and for some reason seems worried about losing her prize of a husband. Older sister, Rose, 21, sits around all day doing absolutely nothing except looking beautiful/enchanting/ravishing. A yardhand, Stephen, seems to be the sole character with a heart and a working income, but he is looked down as inferior by the layabout sisters and is not considered to be a marriageable prospect. There is periodic excitement in the house like when the librarian stops by with new books (hooray!!!) or the vicar drops in for a chat. Occasionally there is tremendous drama as when Cassandra takes the wrong purse to a restaurant and can't pay for her dinner.
While sitting around doing nothing all day the sisters like to fantasize wondering what might happen if two rich eligible young bachelors might accidentally appear on their doorstep. And, then ..
You'll hear Great Thoughts like, "Getting a trousseau is such hard work," and you'll encounter activities all readers can relate to such as swimming in a moat. And, there's a ridiculously unbelievable comic scene involving a fur coat mistaken for a live bear. Added to the melange of ennui and inertia is the author's pretentiousness, with 17 year-old Cassandra making references throughout her journal to Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Leo Tolstoy, great poets, and other classic authors. The dogs in the book are Abelard and Heloise. Pretentious, moi?
I will say, though, that although the characters and plot are boring, and the story line (will the man I love love me?), the author does occasionally put together a nicely written passage describing scenery or moonlight. And, in terms of the reader, Jenny Agutter is outstanding -- too bad her talents are wasted on this tripe. The problem with audio books is that when you encounter a book as vapid as this, you can't skim along any faster than the book reads.
I recommend this book to a) people looking for Prince Charming, b) those who need a Jane Austen-lite fix, and c) men in solitary confinement with absolutely nothing else to do. 12 hours of listening to vacuous people doing absolutely nothing except trying to understand and catch the opposite sex is a bit too much excitement for this reader.
PS. If you think I might not enjoy this genre, I love the books by Jane Austen, and Charlotte and Emily Bronte.
And, now, please pour me my cup of chamomile..
My eyes are going bad, and without audible, my mind would certainly go next...
An unexpected treasure. It's reminds me a bit of a Kate Morton book, but with better prose and more original characters. Just a dash of erudition, in a good way - subtly employed. And some moments were brilliant - conjured up clever images and incidents I'll not forget. I'll definitely listen to this one again in a couple of years or so.
I really want to buy more books but too many US ones I love UK narrators. Can you get some more Eleanor Bron, Gwen Watford, Jenny Agutter?
when I saw this was by Dodie Smith I thought it might be a childrens' book. But no: it is an adult book and an absolute gem. I loved it. The story teller is Jenny Agutter with her soft, English, cultured tones and she is perfect for the narration. The story is of the two daughters of a family and written from the perspective of one of the daughters. Highly entertaining, touching and very very well written.
I loved the reader but was disappointed in the book. It started slow but then picked up and just when I was excited it fizzled out. Not happy with the ending as I am not a fan of open ended books.
Probably not, it got my hopes up and then didn't deliver.
Simon and Cassandra at his house listening to music.
It has been made into a movie.
Captivating story and narration. The essence of the period well captured. The characters well drawn and observed. While the first half was excellent , for me the second half got a bit mawkish but overall definitely recommmended
"funny and well written"
An excellent story, well-read. Sharp observations and wit.
Entertaining characters set in a fascinating period. Great-value audiobook.
"I capture the castle"
A delightful story, and Jenny Agutter's narration is absolutely perfect.
"A breath of fresh air."
Delightful story, charmingly told by Cassandra, young, inexperienced, introspective and as wonderfully candid about her own flaws and feelings as she is about those around her. The book is full of colourful characters, most of whom are extremely likeable. You find yourself willing the down-at-heel Mortmain family well, and yet you are constantly aware that their well-being hangs by the flimsiest thread. The story rewards virtue and as such was a great introduction to 'proper' literature to my 12 year old, who LOVES this, and has listened to it six times and read it as well. Highly recommended.
"Really great actress but wrong for this book"
I love the story but the voice is completely wrong for the book and although I wanted an unabridged reading, I have compromised and returned this for the Emilia Fox version which is very abridged but the voice - to me - is right for the book. The book is all in Cassandra's voice which in my head is light, sometimes flippant and has a young yet old teenage perspective. I have had other books read by Jenny Agutter and loved them as she personified those books brilliantly.
I love the precision of writing and the balance of the story that Dodie Smith worked so hard to achieve.
"Not just for teens!"
I read this about ten years ago having missed it as a child/teenager. I gave it to my own daughter to read and she loved it too. Listening to it now, it has lost none of it's charm and is beautifully read by Jenny Agutter - no-one else could have done it justice. Listening to this is like sitting on a deck chair on a sunny day in a lovely garden with the bees buzzing gently. Many worlds away from the lifestyles that most of us lead, but utterly charming and engaging.
"A truly life-enhancing experience"
I listened to this while I was walking, washing up, working. The voice of Cassandra got into me in unexpected ways, such that I felt more emotionally honest, more attuned to the detail of my surroundings, and utterly nostalgic for a period I've never known. This young girl is unwittingly a mindfulness practitioner - her experiencing of her inner and outer world is exquisitely attentive, as well as very funny. Jenny Agutter captures it so well. I can't recommend this book highly enough. I couldn't bear to leave it and began it again as soon as I had listened to the last, painful page; I missed Cassandra, I missed her vivid and unspoilt world! Her striking insights. It enriched my days.
"I love it!"
I love this book, and the audio version is a delight - I've just finished listening to it for the second time. It is often described as a coming-of-age story, and Jenny Agutter captures perfectly Cassandra's transition from 'consciously naive' childhood to young womanhood. It's funny, it's poignant, and it's deeply evocative of a largely lost English countryside: all crumbling castles and rusty iron bedsteads with weeds growing out of them, 'motoring' to the seaside for a picnic and a cherry brandy from a country pub. Dodie Smith apparently wrote it in America hankering after England, and I think the book is coloured with a loving nostalgia. I would highly recommend this to young and old readers alike: if you like Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons or any of the Persephone books like Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day, I think you would like this.
Beautifully read by jenny agutter. Really bought the era to life. A gentle story well worth a listen
"Interesting and insightful"
This is a very class conscious story that really gives insight into the necessity of keeping up appearances - and not minding whether you are successful at it! Social attitudes are illustrated but it is not a history lesson - it is a charming story of a family brought to poverty because the father has writers' block all described by the developing diary of one of the daughters. Jenny Agutter is the perfect choice as narrator.
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