Sunday, July 03, 2016

First Thoughts on "I Captured the Castle"

My friend Em., years ago in Ottawa, read this book out loud to us,
a chapter or so at a time of Dodie Smith's book... on warm beautiful sunny summer days,
she would read Topaz's voice so well,
deep and velvet....
we would listen on couches, with the sunlight streaming through green 
leaves by the big bay window, the house to ourselves,
with tea, the best softest banana bread and Em. to read to us,
another beautiful chapter...
Then the summer ended and the readings as well...
years later I found the book used and bought it
and finally I read it all the way through,
seeing how it went, 
the beautiful British sentences,
the descriptions of the perfect day in Spring of England,
the discovery of Bach, Debussy, 
the inward ponderings and descriptions of Cassandra,
more and more vivid and intense as the plots went this way,
then that and surprises after surprises begin happening,
many delightful, some tearing young Cassandra into 
great misery, sometimes into great tears.
It is understandable why so many love this book.
I did too...but now I must return to an early memory of myself,
in my teenage years, young and perhaps very naive of how people are in terms
of making choices in this world...
I had a friend, a neighbour, a young slip of a girl, pale with strawberry blond hair,
her family was troubled, I think this memory is from before the Mother died,
sadly, tragically, suddenly, one day...
I don't remember what we were talking about, but 
I must of mentioned God and the need of God and
what came down was that my friend was very kind in her refusal of God,
of that Who I was trying to love,
and I was so stricken and sad, that I cried big tears,
my friend tried to comfort me about it.
One must realize a few things here.
First, I lead a very solitary life, then,
I had very few neighbours and before we moved to that place,
I had no neighbours at all.  
Second, almost everyone I knew was a Christian;
I was born in a secure place in this insecure world; 
Christian family, Christian Church, Christian School.
I think the number of non-Christians I knew back then was,
well, this one family, only.
Third, I was not only solitary but introverted and, like Cassandra in this novel,
I was very involved in my own inner world; I lived in my head
really to unhealthy degrees back then and did not know
how to articulate my reality or experiences very well to others.
This also meant that I did not have a lot of experience 
with understanding and accepting difference.
I think conversely, because I was (still am) very much
'my own person' who 'marched to a beat of a different drummer',
I lived a lot of my life in a solitary way already - but did 
not understand the loneliness of it. 
I say this because I think my grief in knowing that a friend who I loved
did not really want to know the God, the Lord Jesus Christ, who I loved,
was painful not only as I wanted my friend to have what I did, 
but because it meant that I would not be able to share 
this important part of my life with her; 
it was painful, accepting this difference.
It did not stop me from being friends with them,
or being the only one who went to their Mother's funeral 
from my family.
Oh, that was the hardest funeral I think I have been to, 
but nearly as hard was the one before that of our neighbour one house from us.
Anyway. That is another story.
This book!
I Captured the Castle, 
I was finding it so increasingly pagan, I noticed it intensifying, 
was surprised by it, and all of a sudden
Cassandra asks the Vicar for help and I think he said some worthwhile,
even profound, things about God and Cassandra thinks about them, even tries them out,
and then thinks of another woman and realizes she found peace
by serving others and loving God, it was all so starting, given the tone of this book,
and yet Cassandra in the end finds God wanting; but yet she did not seem to take 
the Vicar's advice about not treating God as a 'slot-machine' that one wants 
something from Him but is not (in my words) willing to treat God as a Person 
instead of a more nebulous Something that can help the world be more kindly to us
when we get in jams.
I found it so heartbreaking to see Cassandra not going higher spiritually,
she was such an introvert, such a deep and alive inner life,
one that I understood so well, the author is very smart in how she
wrote this book, capturing the narration in such a great manner,
and to see Cassandra not gain the dimension of the adventure and romance of
life with Christ; if anything can appeal to both introvert and extrovert,
it is Christ and the Holy Trinity;
God always being in Community, never apart but 3-in-1.
Of Christ being willing to be in such a personal relationship with us,
that we even ingest Him into our own bodies; the intimacy of the Eucharist.
The Romance that many of found in Christianity fills many books;
I knew an old man who often prayed to God as the
Lover of his soul;
when one looks at the prayers of the Church, the Psalms,
they speak of one's soul, of an individual with God;
what could of Cassandra gained in terms of the not only 
the stability she did not yet have (in terms of future) and the deepening,
the romance of God that would of indeed, as the Vicar said, been part of Art,
she would not of lost any of the good things she loved,
but she would of gained a vision and way
and relationship to the world that she instead found wanting.
If anything, this book's greatest gift to me,
was reminding me of all of this,
even if it was done by passing it by....
I have more thoughts on this book, 
but this is the first I wanted to put down,
before it is lost in the time of my family visiting, my cousin H.
she and W. come soon!


Pom Pom said...

Thanks, Elizabeth! Thanks for sharing so deeply, so personally.

Lisa said...

I read this book years ago and didn't like it. But I don't remember why.