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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


Book 84/100: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith

This is my second reading of "I Capture the Castle." My first reading was around 2002. Although most of the people in my book club complained about it being "slow" and having "nothing happen," I found that it held up to a second reading for me. But being in the "minority opinion," I found myself having to delve a little deeper to discover why I fall on the side of those who love this book.

The writing is absolutely beautiful, and that's something even those who weren't fond of the book conceded. It's also written in a diary format -- the narrator is a seventeen-year-old girl who is recording her own life in an attempt to become a better writer. And therein lies one of the things that I love most about this book. As a writer and a journaler myself, I tend to really like books that incorporate the act of telling your story into the book itself -- a book that is "self-aware" about its being written, if you will. Although this gives a certain amount of distance to the events unfolding -- since by definition the narrator must write about them after the fact -- I find that the added layer of reflection makes this a more than acceptable trade-off. And although one must often suspend one's disbelief for the sake of such narration -- who really has time to write SO MUCH detail about their lives? -- this book does it more believably than most, recording the narrator's cramping hands and the long hours that pass as she writes. Add to that the quietness and general uneventfulness of her days, and it seems possible that she could spend six hours reflecting on her life in great detail.

And while the story unfolds in a quiet, ordinary way, this does not make it a book in which "nothing happens." Instead, it's a book in which the majority of the action is internal, not external. The plot revolves around the small upheavals in Cassandra and her sister's life when two "eligible bachelors" move in to the residence nearest their isolated home in a dilapidated castle. And with these new people come new perspectives, new feelings, and ultimately lives and hearts that will never quite be the same afterwards.

It has one of those ambivalent endings that so many people hate but that sit quite nicely with me. It's one of those books where the sum of its events may look unimportant to people on the outside, but that mean everything to the heart in which they occur.