Books and Reviews at Greenberry House

Like most booksellers, reading is a large part of my life here at Greenberry House. I have a special old chair, so worn that it sags, where I love to curl up with a good book. Old favorites, exciting new writers, spiritual or challenging, fiction or fact; all pass through my hands and many are worthy of comment. I plan an occasional mention here of a recent book I've read, either to recommend or to warn!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, St. Martin's Griffin, 1998.

This book, a discovery by my aunt in Connecticut, is such a charming work that I can't understand why I never read it before. The story is quite simple with shades of Jane Austen; two poor girls with no prospects live with their eccentric parents in a rundown ruin of an English castle; then the rich neighbors move in and life is changed forever. But this little story, written from the point of view of the younger sister by way of her journal, captures more than just the castle as young Cassandra discovers life and love and the wide world beyond genteel poverty.

Although Smith's story is not meant to be challenging, I like a small section where Cassandra talks to the local vicar about religion. The vicar is more of a friend than pastor to the family; he is well-educated and one of the few people that the girls or their father know in the small village. Cassandra has realized that she is in love with her sister's fiance, and, although she doesn't know it, the vicar understands she is troubled. He tells her to "sit in an empty church. Sit, not kneel. And listen, not pray. Prayer's a very tricky business." Earlier he explained that God is "merely shorthand for where we come from, where we're going, and what it's all about."

Cassandra wrestles with a few hours of determining to "get religion" and do good works, but then she realizes that some people might use religion as a means of avoiding "life" and she knows she doesn't want to bypass the good and bad of living. The story goes on, often funny, with a gentle tragedy for young Cassandra that somehow seems it will work out right in the end. It's hard for a seventeen year old to give up on life, even with a broken heart, when she has so much interest in people and writing.

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