I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
I picked up this book at a Books ETC in London, so the cover picture up there is from Amazon UK, although the link is to Amazon.com. I bought it because the review on the top was from JK Rowling. It wasn’t until I was well into it that I realized that it was written in the forties. That matters not, of course, and I was struck by how timeless the story was.
It’s told in first perosn, by Cassandra. At first she is still childish, depsite having finished school and watches the events around her somewhat naively. As she wishes for something exciting to happen in a life that at first seems fantastic (living in a castle!) and turns out to be quite woeful (her family is broke, her writer father hasn’t written in years.).
When the unexpected happens, and two eligable gentlemen walk into their lives the true Austen-esque themes come into play. Cassandra, though, is well-read and notes how much see and her sister seem to be living the lives of one of Austen’s heroines, with some marked differences.
As Cassandra grows up through the year she writes about in her diary, the reader sees the change in her. The book is so richly detailed that every character’s story is well-told, from her father to the hired boy (who hasn’t been paid in years) who is absolutely devoted to Cassandra. Deeper themes of religion, selfishness, love and even a commentary on the difference between the US and England are woven into the narrative.
In the end, i can’t recommend this book enough. I won’t spoil the ending, but I have to say I didn’t even mind that Cassandra turned out more like Austen than one of Austen’s heroines.