->''"And I regret to say that there were moments when my deep and loving pity for her merged into a desire to kick her fairly hard.”''
-->-- '''Cassandra Mortmain''', ''"I Capture the Castle"''
->''"It's like some hideous party game. Everybody's dancing, and nobody's getting the prize they want because it's all third-hand and second-best."''
-->---'''Cassandra.''' roughly summing up the plot in TheFilmOfTheBook
Set in [[GenteelInterbellumSetting the 1930s]] in England, ''I Capture the Castle'' (1948) is Dodie Smith’s best-loved (though little-known) book, with the power to leave even 25-year-old guys with a mild case of the warm fuzzies.
Be that as it may, it’s the furthest thing from sentimental. What it is is funny, observant, quick-witted and touching. ''I Capture the Castle'' is the journal of Cassandra Mortmain, a 17-year-old girl who lives in a [[BigFancyHouse rented castle]] in the depths of Suffolk with her impoverished and decidedly unconventional family: her reclusive father, who was once a very famous and ground-breaking author [[CreatorBreakdown until he was sent to prison for three months for threatening his wife with a cake knife]]; her eccentric and glamorous stepmother, Topaz, who was once a nude model and still believes in “communing with nature”; her flawed but beautiful elder sister, Rose, who is desperately sick of being poor; her younger brother, Thomas, who is smart and doesn’t appear much in the book until the second half, and the hired hand, Stephen Colly, who is extremely handsome and desperately in love with Cassandra.
And that’s only the premise.
The plot begins when the young American heirs to the castle and its property, Simon and Neil Cotton, plus various sophisticated relations, come to England to look it over. In doing so, they run smack-bang into Cassandra having a bath. After the initial awkwardness is over, they get along swimmingly. Before long, Simon and Rose become engaged. Then Cassandra falls in love with Simon, which messes things up for her a bit. But even though she’s lovesick, she still manages to hatch a plot with her brother to get their father writing again —- possibly one of the funniest scenes in the whole book.
Even when she’s in the midst of lovesickness, family rows and a couple of embarrassing mishaps, Cassandra still manages to be level-headed and adventurous. She is sometimes naďve and sometimes astonishingly wise, but always intelligent, funny, optimistic and unexpectedly honest.
''I Capture the Castle'' is often billed as a romance, but it ain’t just another love story. For one thing, the ending isn’t a typical love-story ending. For another thing, it’s about so much more than that: society, sisterhood, family, growing up, being honest to yourself and even a little bit about God.
Also made into a movie by TheBBC in 2003 starring Romola Garai as Cassandra, Rose Byrne as Rose and Henry Cavill as Stephen.
!!This book provides examples of:
* AbuseMistake: Cassandra's father wasn't ''really'' threatening his wife with the cake knife.
* AbusiveParents: Still, some of Mr. Mortmain's behaviour toward his children, especially Cassandra is physically abusive and he is guilty of severely neglecting the.
* AllLoveIsUnrequited: Stephen loves Cassandra, who loves Simon, who loves Rose. [[spoiler:Who loves Neil.]]
* BeardOfEvil: Cassandra thinks Simon's goatee makes him look like a gargoyle.
* BelievingTheirOwnLies: Played with when Cassandra nearly believes Neil's lie about killing the bear -- which she knows didn't even exist:
-->'''Neil:''' I held the lantern high; I could see the bubbles coming up. And then I saw the dark bulk of it under the water, being carried along by the current.\\
'''Cassandra:''' But you didn't have a lantern.\\
'''Topaz:''' He didn't have a bear.
* BlondeBrunetteRedhead: The Mortmain females. Topaz is silver blonde, Cassandra is a light to medium brunette and Rose has ginger hair.
* ButtMonkey: Poor damn Stephen just can't win.
* ChildhoodFriendRomance: The unrequited variety; Stephen is in love with Cassandra.
* CreatorBreakdown: InUniverse. James Mortmain.
* DistractedByTheLuxury: Rose and her peach-coloured towels. And her little black suit.
* DistressedDamsel: Not really, but in the minds of the villagers the Cotton brothers saved Rose from an escaped circus bear.
* DoggedNiceGuy: Stephen to Cassandra.
* FanService: In the BBC movie, Topaz gets naked, although we only see her from the waist up. This could also rank as FanDisservice as there are far more female fans than male fans.
** Cassandra too, sunbathing naked on top of the tower.
* FirstKiss: Cassandra has hers with Simon. [[spoiler:Rose has hers with Neil.]]
* GiftedlyBad: Topaz should stick to modelling. Her painting of the Tower apparently looks like an upturned pudding basin and a rolling pin.
* GirlInTheTower: Cassandra likes this trope given her nude sunbathing on top of the Belmonte tower. She and Thomas later imprison their father there to inspire him to write.
* TheGloriousWarOfSisterlyRivalry: subverted as beautiful Rose and clever Cassandra are very fond of each other.
* GoldDigger: Rose.
* IWantMyBelovedToBeHappy: Cassandra. ''And'' [[spoiler:Simon]]. ''And'' [[spoiler:Stephen!]]
* HiddenDepths: Thomas, at first he is just a cheerful young boy but then he shows that he is fairly well versed in psychology and understands modern literature much better than Cassandra.
* KidSidekick: Thomas.
* LikesOlderWomen: [[spoiler:Stephen.]] And Leda Fox-Cotton definitely does ''not'' qualify for GrandmaWhatMassiveHotnessYouHave, in the book ''or'' the movie.
* LoveEpiphany: Cassandra for Simon
* LoveMakesYouDumb: Cassandra, for a while.
* MissingMom: in the book, Cassandra cannot even remember her face [[spoiler:until she suddenly pictures her giving her a piece of advice.]]
* NiceGuy: Stephen.
* NippleAndDimed: Topaz's topless shots got an 'R' rating from the MPAA. In Australia the film is rated 'PG 15'.
* NudeNatureDance: Cassandra's artsy stepmother, Topaz, loves doing this kind of thing to "commune" with nature.
* PostKissCatatonia: Cassandra.
* PrettyInMink: Rose gets mistaken for a bear while wearing a fur coat.
* ReclusiveArtist: Again in-universe. James Mortmain.
* SiblingTriangle: Cassandra, Rose and Simon.
** Another is [[spoiler:Rose, Simon and Neil]].
* SpiritedYoungLady: Cassandra references this trope in the third part of the book, when she refers to herself and Rose as "two Brontë-Jane Austen girls, poor but spirited, two girls of Godsend Castle."
* StarvingArtist: Cassandra's father, James Mortmain.
* SympatheticPOV: Cassandra doesn't find out till much later that [[spoiler:Rose and Neil kissed.]]
* TheIngenue: Cassandra gradually grows out of this.
* UnluckyChildhoodFriend: [[spoiler:Stephen]]
* WritersBlock: James Mortmain has long since given into his when the book begins. Cassandra and her younger brother Thomas take unorthodox steps to cure him of it.
* WrongSideOfTheTracks: They may not have started out this way, but the Mortmains have ended up here.