I Capture the Castle



Captivating story of teen's eccentric English family.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Readers may pick up on narrator Cassie's frequent literary references, especially to Jane Austen and the Brontes. Cassie's father is a postmodern novelist, and Cassie's love and respect for all the arts is a prominent theme. Though there are no obvious references to the time period, terms such as "gramophone" and "moving pictures" may give readers a hint that this takes place between the two World Wars.

Positive messages

Cassie takes up writing in her journal to teach herself how to write a novel, an ambition respected by her family. Intellect and creativity are valued by just about all the characters and are seen as worthy pursuits, even when not profitable. However, her family is desperately poor, and money is an issue. Cassie mostly minds because of the effect on the people around her, notably her older sister Rose. There is talk of marrying for money, but Cassie thinks love and literature are more important.

Positive role models

Cassie is an appealing narrator who astutely analyzes the people around her on the pages of her journal. Although she occasionally embarrasses herself, she is highly aware of her errors, and she tries her best to be kind and considerate. Her sister Rose seems somewhat mercenary at times and her father callous and selfish, but ultimately the family members have strong attachments and loyalty to one another.


Cassie reminisces about the time her father was arrested for getting angry and brandishing a cake knife at her mother, but he didn't hurt her.


Cassie's stepmother loves to commune with nature in the nude, and Cassie tries it once. When a friend poses for an art photographer, Cassie fears that he may be compromised and "made love" to. There is some innocent kissing.

Not applicable
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Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Seventeen-year-old Cassie drinks cherry brandy at an inn and wine during her celebration of Midsummer Eve, but this is accepted (and legal) in England, where the novel takes place. Her broken heart inspires her to get tipsy in one scene, and she feels terrible afterward.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that I Capture the Castle, a lost classic by the author of The Hundred and One Dalmatians, was originally published for an adult audience but is appropriate for today's young teens and older. A bestseller in 1948, the book was out of print for many years and subsequently gained a reputation as a favorite to pass from generation to generation and as being one of the most requested books at used book stores. Trumpeted by authors such as Christopher Isherwood, Armistead Maupin, Joanna Trollope, and J.K. Rowling, it was finally reprinted in 1996 (and made into a movie in 2004). Though much of the focus of the story is on the marital prospects of Cassie's older sister, the dated concept makes sense for the time period, and Cassie's own concerns about life and love are still entirely relatable.

What's the story?

Cassie and her family moved to the castle and adjacent Belmotte Tower when her father was at the height of his writing success; since then their circumstances have been considerably reduced. With most of the furniture sold, the shabbiest of clothes, and barely enough to eat, Cassie wonders in the pages of her journal how anything will ever change. Enter Simon and Neil Cotton, the rich American young men who have recently taken up residency in nearby Scoatney Hall. Cassie herself notes the similarity to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and wonders if an advantageous match might be made for her older sister Rose. More important, however, the new neighbors give Cassie something to write about, and Cassie's journal is the platform that lets readers get to know the charming narrator and her eccentric family.

Is it any good?


Cassie's engaging voice in I CAPTURE THE CASTLE has a surprisingly contemporary feel for a novel written more than 60 years ago. Although Cassie will seem naive compared to a modern 17-year-old, her innocence is understandable given the time period and the isolation in which she was brought up (she states at one point that she knows no girls except her sister, her stepmother, and characters from books). Not what you'd call an action-packed novel, I Capture the Castle is nevertheless beautifully paced, with just the right mixture of introspection and action that moves the plot forward.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why I Capture the Castle is considered a lost classic. Why do some older books still resonate with today's young readers?

  • Cassie loved her home. What do you think best part about living in a castle be? What would the worst part be?

  • Not only did Cassie live in a time before computers and cell phones, the castle had no electricity! How would you pass the time if you lived in that situation?

  • When the Americans come to visit, it makes Cassie look at England differently, though she's always lived there. Has anything ever made you to look at your home in a new way?

Book details

Author:Dodie Smith
Genre:Literary Fiction
Topics:Brothers and sisters
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:St. Martin's Griffin
Publication date:April 1, 2003
Number of pages:352

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 13 years old Written byMoony718 July 25, 2014

One of My Favorite Books

One of my favorite books. I simply adore Cassandra, and her clever, humorous journal entries are wonderfully enticing. A book that has never left me since I have read it. Maybe just one little questionable thing, but chances are that little kids wouldn't understand it, and there is nothing graphic surrounding it. I prefer not give ages- some kids are more mature than others!- but I'll say the interest and reading level is for pre-teens and up.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Parent of a 3, 8, 11, and 13 year old Written byKathyJ September 6, 2012


I read this book when I was 13 and I loved it. I found an old copy of it in my mother's childhood bookshelf and I immediately fell in love with it. I still have the original copy that my mother read and I read and I hope to have my daughter read it when she turns 12. It is sweet, sincere and lovely but I don't know what today's teenagers would think of it. It is a first romance kind of a book. Give it a try - you might love it, too.
Kid, 12 years old March 6, 2013

Incredible book!

This book was amazing! I read it when I was twelve, but the reason that I would recommend it for older is because I don't think many others my age would enjoy it. This book was written for young adults, and 12 year-olds may not appreciate the writing style as much now as they would when they are older.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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