1. What did you like / dislike?
2. Where did you laugh? ("Topaz said she had never been on the streets and rather regretted it, "because one must sink to the depths in order to rise to the heights," which is the kind of Topazism it requires much affection to tolerate." (8) and "...there were some reflections about life I wanted to record. (I never did record them -- and have now forgotten what they were.)" (138) and "I will pause and search my innermost soul... / I have searched it for a solid five minutes." (196))
3. What do you make of Cassandra's experiment to write in different places? (In the kitchen sink, the hen house, the stairs, in bed, the attic, the barn, the drawing room, Belmotte Tower, the gatehouse desk...)
4. What do you make of the structure of the book -- as a journal; written in three different journals -- the 6 penny book from the Vicar, the shilling book from Stephen, the 2 guinea book from Simon; using the device of shorthand speed writing as a way to get the story onto paper in a timely manner?
5. Cassandra compares her story to Pride and Prejudice. Did you?
6. What does the title mean?
7. Is Cassandra "consciously naive"? (64) Is she "the insidious type -- Jane Eyre with a touch of Becky Sharp. A thoroughly dangerous girl"? (111) How does she change over the course of the story?
8. What do you make of Rose and Cassandra surmising Neil's take on England? ("He thinks England's a joke, a funny sort of toy." (93)) What purpose does the comparison of America to England serve, regarding the Cottons or Mr. Mortmain's American lecture tour, or regarding the description of talkative Mrs. Cotton? ("I got used to the vitality of American women..." / "Do they all talk as much as that?" / "Amazing, their energy...capable of having three or four children, running a home, keeping abreast of art, literature and music -- superficially of course but, good lord, that's something -- and holding down a job into the bargain. Some of them get through two or three husbands as well, just to avoid stagnation....Quite a number of American men are remarkably silent." (100))
9. What do you make of Topaz? ("Her letter is exactly like her -- three quarters practical kindness and one quarter spoof." (194))
10. Do you believe Cassandra when she begins to doubt that she wants money -- preferring the shilling book for the 2 guinea book; questioning the money Rose spends on clothes; wishing for a simple meal before they had meat...? (194)
11. How does the separation of family members (with Stephen, Mortmain, and then Rose and Topaz going off to London) help the characters learn more about each other? Could the novel have progressed if they hadn't left the castle at all?
12. What gives? Simon kisses Cassandra after seducing her and doesn't explain himself? (221-3)
13. How does Miss Blossom enable Cassandra to see herself more clearly? (244,246) Why does she have to be "gone for ever"? (246) How does imagination play a role in Cassandra's development? ("Imagination itself can be a kind of willingness -- a pretense hat things are real, due to one's longing for them." (245)) If hope = faith + imagination, where does that leave Cassandra?
14. What do you make of the Vicar and Miss Marcy and how they open Cassandra's eyes to "by-pass[ing] the suffering that comes to more people -- he by his religion, she by her kindness to others"? (246)
15. How do we really know we've fallen in love with someone? Is it as complicated as Cassandra makes it out to be?
16. What kind of father makes his daughters sell all of their belongings -- including precious necklaces -- before he's motivated to get a job? Is Cassandra -- or the reader -- convinced that he couldn't have written before now, that "it just hasn't been possible"? (303)
17. Did anyone foresee Cassandra's plan to imprison her father? How fitting is it, symbolically?
18. What do you make of Thomas's character? ("I felt dreadful, but Thomas seemed quite unconcerned." (314))
19. What role does Cassandra's mother play -- in memory, in supporting father's writing, as a voice in Cassandra's head, as the travel clock in the gatehouse?
20. "He said he would come back." (343) Will he? How will it end? Why end the book like this? ("When I imagine changing places with [Rose] I get the feeling I do on finishing a novel with a brick-wall happy ending -- I mean the kind of ending when you never think any more about the characters...." (197))
And now: a little puzzle game of our own...
True or False:
1. "I never felt happier in my life... Perhaps it is because I have satisfied my creative urge." (11)
2. "Contemplation seems to be about the only luxury that costs nothing." (25)
3. "Nobel deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression." (38)
4. "What I'd really hate would be the settled feeling, with nothing but happiness to look forward to." (196)
5. "I wonder if there isn't a catch about having plenty of money? Does it eventually take the pleasure out of things?" (197)
6. "And then I wondered if I was a little bit drunk." (240)
7. "Watching sleeping people makes one feel more separate than ever from them." (318)
8. "...the interest so many people take in puzzles and problems -- which often starts in earliest childhood -- represents more than a mere desire for recreation; that it may even derive from man's eternal curiosity about his origin." (337)
9. "I only want to write. And there's no college for that except life." (339)
10. "Perhaps it would really be rather dull to be married and settled for life. Liar! It would be heaven." (342)
11. "Even a broken heart doesn't warrant a waste of good paper." (343)
Great to see you guys the other night to discuss I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. We were happily engrossed in Cassandra's bubble and didn't even pay attention to the fact that the story was set almost 100 years ago. We loved this timeless tale, even though we wished Cassandra might have ended up with Stephen! We also appreciated the similarly timeless English tendency to relate scenarios back to Austen.
We decided we were in the mood for another beautiful book that could transport us to another time and place. So...join us next month as we discuss Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce.
Hope to see you there!
The Tipsy Mamas' Book Club is co-hosted by Corinne Foster and myself, though the spirit of our discussions is flavored by many readers.