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Publisher's Summary

Exclusively from Audible

In this coming of age story, Dodie Smith introduces the visionary and eccentric character of seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain. The youngest daughter in a family of impoverished artists, it is her imagination and writing that takes us away from the ramshackle old English castle where they live, and towards an intriguing tale of husband-hunting and light-hearted sibling rivalry.

With the arrival of their new landlords, the impossibly handsome and wealthy American brothers, Neil and Simon Cotton, the Mortmains are roused from their stupor and moved to action. Despite developing feelings for the younger of the two brothers, Cassandra's beautiful sister, Rose, plots to marry the eldest heir in a desperate attempt to escape the poverty which surrounds her.

When Cassandra finds herself falling in love for the very first time with the same man as her sister, she explores her mixed emotions through her writing, making this a story which revels in irony and ambiguity.

A deceptively complex and intelligent story, I Capture the Castle is Smith's first published work and one which will undoubtedly and simultaneously make listeners tut, laugh and reminisce.

Narrator Biography

Jenny Agutter is a celebrated English stage, film and TV actress who was first brought to the attention of British audiences as a child, starring in East of Sudan and The Railway Children. She made her Hollywood debut in the critically acclaimed film Walkabout, in 1971, followed by Logan's Run, An American Werewolf in London and Child's Play 2.

Her TV career includes appearances on Spooks, Call the Midwife and The Man in the Iron Mask. Alongside this, Jenny is also considered one of the best classical actors of her generation and has performed with both the Royal Shakespeare Company and The National Theatre. She is an Emmy and BAFTA award winner and was awarded an OBE on the 2012 Queen's Birthday Honours List for charitable services.

Jenny's other Audible audiobook narrations include Jane Austen's Emma, Anne Brontë's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and E. Nesbit's The Railway Children.

©2000 Dodie Smith; (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

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  • Matthew
  • Singapore, Singapore
  • 12-16-13

Well, that was a surprise

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.

153 of 154 people found this review helpful

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  • Ilana
  • Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • 08-12-12

A modern romance that doesn't fall into clichés

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.

33 of 33 people found this review helpful

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  • Rachel
  • Lawson, Australia
  • 08-11-11

An English Lost Domain

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.

24 of 24 people found this review helpful

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  • Kate
  • Houston, TX, United States
  • 03-26-14

Just lovely.

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.

21 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • Scott
  • Moss Beach, CA, United States
  • 11-21-14

Astonishingly Good

I didn't realize until I'd finished it that the book was written 60 years ago and that the author was famous for her children's book 101 Dalmatians. I had hoped that this was from a contemporary author and that there would be more books in the same vein. Though others have remarked on the similarity with jane Austin, I felt the tone and ability to set mood was far more reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier. The prose is beautifully restrained, the narrator is superb, the characters are full and delineated, and the world Dodie Smith recreates here (of English country life in the 1930s) is vividly drawn. Just my cup of tea.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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I capture the castle

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.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

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A Delight

This book is so wonderful, both in the writing and the performance. I was sad for it to end. Highly recommend.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Gothic romance set in the 20th century

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..

38 of 47 people found this review helpful

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  • Leila
  • DURHAM, NC, United States
  • 12-08-14

Very Masterpiece Theater

Charming little British story that reminds me of something you'd see on Masterpiece or BBC. Would be a great book to study in class in terms of narrative voice and whatnot. I enjoyed it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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At a little over half of the book, I am just very delighted with the story. The main character Cassandra who is leading us through the story in her perspective is smart and sweet. At one point she says that she is 17, looking younger and feeling older... I am paraphrasing here. This sentence just so completely describes her.

Of course the "heroine" had to fall... and actually didn't fall at all. She continued to be open to her journal, even when it was uncomfortable and stayed honest to herself and mostly with others.

In the end, we have a happy and and then a not so happy end... which was perfect.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story.

For the Audible version of this story: I really didn't like the narrator's try to do an American accent.

Throughout the language was beautiful, the main character seemed very pure through all of it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-05-06


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

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Patricia
  • 05-22-06

funny and well written

An excellent story, well-read. Sharp observations and wit.
Entertaining characters set in a fascinating period. Great-value audiobook.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr. Mm Hennessy
  • 05-15-06

I capture the castle

A delightful story, and Jenny Agutter's narration is absolutely perfect.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Clare
  • 09-09-09

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.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Christabel Bielenberg
  • 07-23-15

Far too narrowly celebrated masterpiece

What made the experience of listening to I Capture the Castle the most enjoyable?

Ostensibly the diary of 17 year old Cassandra Mortmain, it is the delightfully honest account of an eccentric family fallen on hard times, and their trials and tribulations living in a decrepit castle.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Cassandra is what the novel is about - her frustrations, desires and fears, and, beautifully read by Jenny Agutter, it is a gem.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

It definitely is one of those give yourself another task, just to keep listening, sort of book. It's a complex and moving piece of literature, and really, a joy!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Rachel G
  • 07-22-15


This book transported me back in time to when life was simpler. I loved the eccentricity of some of the characters and wanted to meet them!

The setting was original & romantic, I could really picture it.

Beautifully read from beginning to end.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Rattleby
  • 07-08-14

A truly life-enhancing experience

Where does I Capture the Castle rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Sharon Pickles
  • 03-02-11

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.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • H
  • 11-29-08


This was a quite marvellous audible book - beautifully read by Jenny Agiter - I felt I was actually in the castle throughout it. Be aware though it is incredibly sad and as I came to the end I was sitting in my car stopped by a pavement listening to it on my i-pod with tears streaming down. Superb - thank you for making this possible

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Andrea
  • 07-11-13

Really great actress but wrong for this book

What disappointed you about I Capture the Castle?

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.

What did you like best about this story?

I love the precision of writing and the balance of the story that Dodie Smith worked so hard to achieve.

Would you be willing to try another one of Jenny Agutter’s performances?

Yes definitely.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Karla
  • 10-05-16

when the tale and the teller are perfect

A dreamy tale. England is gloriously rendered as are the simmering emotions and the good humour of the characters.
The narrator is perfection too.
A wonderful story beautifully read.