Born in 1896, Dodie Smith grew up in Manchester. She trained at RADA and began her playwriting career in 1931 with Autumn Crocus; Dear Octopus in 1938 was her abiding success. In 1939 she went to the USA with her manager, Alec Beesley, whom she married later that year. There she wrote for Hollywood, made a close friend of Christopher Isherwood and acquired the first of her beloved Dalmatian dogs. I Capture the Castle was published in 1949, selling over a million copies. The Beesleys returned to the UK in 1954 and in 1956 The Hundred and One Dalmatians was published. Dodie Smith died in November 1990. Valerie Grove, who introduces this novel, has written her biography, Dear Dodie, championed by Fiona McCarthy in the Observer as ‘a merry book… with a faultless sense of period… making a persuasive case for a long neglected talent’.
The book in one sentence: 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain begins a journal at the peak of the poverty of her eccentric family living in a run-down castle, never expecting the changes in her life which would follow soon.
Who would you recommend it to: People who like the romance genre. Very romantic and idealistic.
Best bits: The quirkiness of the characters and the romantic atmosphere set by their castle residence in a small English village.
Boring bits: Descriptions of the castle and the surrounding. You can tell I don’t take to that sort of writing. Give me action!
Randomly picked quote:
’I know of few novels – except Pride and Prejudice – that inspire as much fierce lifelong affection in their readers’ – Joanna Trollope
Verdict: A nice classic read, very girly and romantic. I’m quite bummed by the ending as it’s left somewhat hanging. I also wanted to know what happened to other characters, like Stephen, the son of the house servant, who left for London to be a model and actor after his love was unreciprocated by Cassandra.