This could be part of my Comforting Reads series, as it’s the literary equivalent of a giant hug. Although it doesn’t have a traditionally ‘happy ending’, it is hopeful and you end the novel feeling as if Cassandra is going to go onto have a wonderful life. I know that sounds twee, but that’s the one thing that this book is not. It’s witty, poignant, warm and features on of the most fantastic and loveable narrators in literature.
‘I Capture the Castle’, written in 1945, tells the story of Cassandra Mortmain and her family, living in a crumbling castle in the 1930s. Her father wrote one successful novel when Cassandra was younger but has had writer’s block ever since, meaning that the family have next to no money. Her older sister, Rose, dreams of meeting a rich young man to whisk her away, younger brother Thomas is endearingly odd, step-mother Topaz is an exotic ex-artist’s model, and Stephen, a young man who lives with the family, is in love with Cassandra, something she finds hard to deal with.
When the nearby manor is inherited by the Cotton family from America, the Mortmains’ world is turned upside down. Simon and Neil Cotton, the sons of the family, are soon at the centre of the girls’ lives, causing confusions, love-triangles and, ultimately, heartache for at least one of them. But, although not all of the characters get their happy endings, the book leaves you with a feeling of hope.
Cassandra is so empathetic as a narrative voice and she has stayed with me since I first met her, about 15 years ago. As far as I’m concerned, she had me at ‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink…’.