Sunday 9 February 2014

Warm post on a chilly day...

It’s not necessarily so cold as it is damp on this Sunday morning, but I’m cozy and warm and surrounded by the tantalizing smells of chai tea, zucchini soup and homemade applesauce… mmm…

I wasn’t sure last weekend how long it would take me to reread I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, which we discussed yesterday for my book club, since it is over 400 pages and is trade paperback in size.  But it was such an easy read that I flew through it in just a few days.  I found it just as delightful as I had the first time I read it.  I may have even enjoyed it more, as I could really savour the wit of Cassandra’s writing, and appreciate the novel’s literary references.  This novel was published in 1949, and was written at a time when British author Smith was living in the US with her husband due to legal complications (he was a conscientious objector), a time when she was missing England and longing for happier days. It tells the story of an eccentric family, the Mortmains, living in a castle for which they have a 40-year lease.  The novel is narrated by seventeen-year-old Cassandra, the younger of two daughters, as she writes of events in her journal.  The family represents genteel poverty: the father, Mortmain, is the author of one very famous novel, and the stepmother, Topaz, is a former artist’s model, but there is no money coming in and no financial prospects, save for the possible marriage of Rose, the beautiful elder daughter, preferably to someone rich.  When two American brothers, Neil and Simon, appear on the scene as their new landlords, the plot becomes more complex as the sisters puzzle over these two very different characters.  A complicated love story ensues, which includes not only the sisters and the brothers, but also Stephen, the son of the Mortmains' late cook, who continues to live at the castle and is in love with Cassandra.  Most of my book club ladies also found this book to be delightful.  Everyone loved Cassandra, as well as the stepmother, Topaz.  Most had mixed feelings about Rose and both brothers, and we all found Stephen to be a bit of a mystery, a dark horse.  No one liked the father; in fact, one of my ladies felt so strongly about the father’s negligent behavior towards his family that she was unable to enjoy the novel because if this.  She said it reminded her of Jeanette Walls’ memoir, The Glass Castle (which I have never read, particularly because I’ve heard it was very disturbing).  I was less disturbed by the father’s actions than the others, but could appreciate their feelings about him – he really was very negligent, and perhaps more disturbing, he was emotionally volatile.  But, as we pointed out, creative people, geniuses even, are often afflicted by mental disturbances, perhaps because they see the world differently from the average person.  One of the characters that we all agreed was wonderful was Heloise, the Bull Terrier who seemed to be Cassandra’s constant friend and confidante.  All in all, it was an interesting and fun discussion, and I felt that it was a good choice for our group.

I have started a book that I received for review, The Part That Was True, by Deborah McKinlay, and so far it also seems delightful, but in a different was from I Capture the Castle.  I will write more about it when I finish.

That’s all for today!

Bye for now…

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