How can you not love a book that opens with the line, “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.”?
I have just completed I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. This is a gorgeous novel written in the 1940s. I absolutely adored the eccentric cast of characters and their bohemian life in a crumbling English castle.
Of particular interest to me was central character and narrator, Cassandra, who fancies herself as a writer. The novel is written in the form of her journal where not only does she recount the happenings of her life and the goings on within her family, but where she also intends to capture all their characters and “put in conversations” in order to improve her writing style, which she feels has been “stiff and self-conscious” up to date.
She is not always satisfied with her “captures” and vows to work harder at her craft.
“I am aware this is not a fair portrait of him. I must capture him again later.”
“How can one capture the pool of light in the courtyard, the golden windows, the strange long-ago look ...?”
What glorious fodder for a writer – and what excellent advice. I love the notion of “capturing”. Isn’t this exactly what we try to do as writers? To capture characters, moments, feelings and places and somehow translate them into words on the page. To capture them precisely or evocatively or eloquently. Or originally? Uniquely?
It is also interesting to note that Smith was so anxious about her novel that once she completed the manuscript, she worked on her revisions for a further two years, where she wrote and rewrote every line. It shows! The characters are so superbly drawn and deliciously quirky, the relationships between the characters complex, authentic and true, and the voice of the narrator doesn’t miss a beat.
For writers and aspiring writers this book is a must-read. There are so many lessons hidden within each page. I don’t know how I have managed to get through life without reading it before now.