I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

May 12, 2010 @ 7:51 pm | Filed under:

I Capture the Castle.

Read it. (You said I should.)

Loved it. (You knew I would!)

Shall we talk?

One afternoon when we were having tea in the garden, [Father] had the misfortune to lose his temper with Mother very noisily just as he was about to cut a piece of cake. He brandished the cake-knife at her so menacingly that an officious neighbour jumped the garden fence to intervene and got himself knocked down. Father explained in court that killing a woman with our silver cake-knife would be a long, weary business entailing sawing her to death, and he was completely exonerated of any intention of slaying Mother. The whole case seems to have been quite ludicrous, with everyone but the neighbor being very funny. But Father made the mistake of being funnier than the judge and, as there was no doubt whatever that he had seriously damaged the neighbour, he was sent to prison for three months….(I can remember the cake-knife incident perfectly—I hit the fallen neighbour with my little wooden spade. Father always said this got him an extra month.)

Dodie Smith (1896-1990) was an English novelist and playwright. I was quite surprised to discover that she was the author of The Hundred and One Dalmatians. Now I’m imagining that plot (I only know the Disney version) told in her irresistible prose, and I’m dying to read it. Are all her books as captivating as I Capture the Castle? Where has she been all my life?

    Related Posts


24 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Melissa H says:

    Ironically, I bought this book last year during a trip to Powells in Portland based (I thought) on your recommendation. Now I’m realizing that I think you mentioned this book on your blog which got it on my list of books to buy/borrow but I hadn’t realized you hadn’t read it! I read the first chapter a while ago and didn’t get immediately hooked so it’s languishing on my nightstand. I’ll have to go finish it now!

  2. Melissa Wiley says:

    Yes, I think I mentioned it as long ago as 2007 when I was compiling a list of books discussed in Noel Perrin’s A CHILD’S DELIGHT. It has been in my TBR pile ever since, and I even started it a time or two, but it wasn’t until recently that I committed to it. And am glad I did.

  3. Laurajean says:

    Melissa H – yes, the first chapter lagged a bit, and then, oh, just read it! Lissa – The Hundred and One Dalmatians is delightful as well – very different from the Disney version – there’s an extra mama, for one! Very good, and a good read aloud. Someone put me on to that one years ago. Fairly quick read, too, as it’s a children’s book. Go for it, before you start something else! I re-read that one last summer after I finished I Capture the Castle!

  4. Joanna says:

    The real 101 Dalmations is much, much more fun than the Disney version, and the prose is just as good as I Capture the Castle – which I also love.

    Your children would probably love the description of the dinner party at Cruella’s. It’s a very read aloud book, not done justice by Disney. I was always cross that the film didn’t have the two adult Dalmatian couples, and missed out Nanny Butler and Nanny Cook. Smith also wrote a sequel – The Starlight Barking.
    They’re quite easy to get hold of.I think you’d enjoy them.

  5. coffeemamma says:

    You haven’t read 101 Dalmations?? Read it aloud to the crew- you will all love it (and will probably have a ritual burning of the Disney DVD- they did to 101 Dalmations what they did to Mary Poppins).

    I can’t wait until my 14yod is finished reading Captured so that we can talk about it. How in the world did I raise such a slow reader??

  6. Farrar says:

    I love this book so much, I named my blog about homeschooling and children’s books after it: I Capture the Rowhouse.

  7. Love2learn Mom says:

    The original Hundred and One Dalmations is fabulous! I hadn’t heard of this book before, now I’m itching… 🙂

  8. Lynn B says:

    Thanks for all the great reads you recommend! I have been reading your blog a long time and recently posted about unschooling on my blog. I linked to your post on Tidal Homeschooling in my sidebar – your thoughts on education really resonate with me. Thanks Melissa!

  9. Meredith says:

    Looks like I’m putting 101 Dalmations on my holds list at the library 🙂 I’ll look for Capture too, thanks ladies!! Loved the excerpt Lissa, hysterical!

  10. Hannah says:

    I didn’t realize that Ms. Smith had written anything else — duh, as if someone that talented would confine herself to one masterpiece! Or that 101 Dalmations was anything but a Disney movie, which I haven’t seen. Have I been living in a hollow log?

    Does the excerpt you quoted remind you at all of something Flavia de Luce might say?

  11. TPC says:

    The movie version of I Capture the Castle (roughly 2003) is nicely done, capturing much of the essence of the book. I saw the movie first, before I even knew about the book. Somewhere out there exists an article by Dodie Smith’s literary executor about some of the issues he had with managing Dodie Smith’s estate. I also once saw an internet comment, similar to the one I am writing now, that the reason the movie was not paid until 50 years after the book was written was that Disney controlled the rights for all that time. Myself, I finally ended up reading I Capture the Castle last year (years after I saw the movie), when I saw an Amazon.com reviewer disparagingly call it the Twilight of its day. I think Alibris has copies of the stage adaptation of I Capture the Castle which, depending on your view of age appropriateness, could be fun for your brood.

    “Brandy is soooo wonderful.” Or something like that.

  12. Katya says:

    The real 101 Dalmations is one of our favorite read-alouds. It is charming and exciting and wonderfully written. Your crew will love it!

  13. Carlie says:

    Wow! 101 Dalmatians was a book? And there’s a sequel? And it was written by Dodie Smith? I love this blog.

  14. Rachael in Australia says:

    I cannot tell you how many times I immediately hop from your blog to my library website to place a hold. Thanks!

  15. Sherri K. Edman says:

    My husband and I both read and thoroughly enjoyed _I Captured the Castle_ right up to the ending, which we found utterly depressing. It was so disappointing to me that it cast a pall backward on the rest of the book.

  16. Toni R. says:

    And I have to chime in and say that the ending completely charmed me and was one of my favorite parts of the book.

  17. Fanny Harville says:

    I like the Jane Austen-y aspects of _I Capture_: questions about money and marriage, sisters who are close yet opposites… _Sense and Sensibility_ seems particularly to be hovering in the background…

  18. Anna says:

    On another note: I’m watching the movie version of _Girl of the Limberlost_ (read it!!) and it is RETCHED. Positively horrid. They removed several main characters and left out the essential part of the climax. Horrid.

  19. Josette says:

    I didn’t realise either that she was the author of The Hundred and One Dalmatians! I’ve been so ignorant all these years.

    I’m glad I picked up to read I Capture the Castle a week ago. The book has been on my shelf for three years…yeah, I bought it three years ago and only read it now! It was a pleasing read and I loved the way it’s written. Definitely creative writing at its best. 🙂

    Here is my review of it. Thanks!

    PS. You have a lovely blog.

  20. Georgie Smith says:

    I recently watched I Capture the Castle again and decided that I desperately needed to see if there is a sequel to the story. I will be combing the book store shelfs for the book and would like to search for the sequel, if there is one?

  21. coffeemamma says:

    Just a quick warning about the movie (I heartily wish that I’d been warned)- there is full-frontal nudity. We had only watched the first 10 min. or so before the stepmother stripped, so I can’t say whether the rest of the movie is any good or not.

  22. Merewyn says:

    I Capture the Castle is one of my favourite books. I first read it about sixteen years ago (when I was fifteen.) I re-read it every few years. I just finished for the fifth time. There are parts of the story that make me laugh no matter how many times I read it (Rose being mistaken for a bear, for instance.) The characters and places in ICTC are so familiar and so real to me that when I re-read the book, it feels like I am visiting old friends.