I Capture the Dalek

These traps are very effective. I once caught a flock of chatterjacks in one. There is absolutely nothing useful one can do with a flock of chatterjacks, so I let them go (they were not particularly fazed by the experience), but I felt I had proved my hunting credentials.

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Dodie Smith’s novel I Capture the Castle (Dodie Smith also wrote 101 Dalmations, but I refuse to draw 101 Daleks in one sitting).

The first half of the book is utterly enchanting – part Jane Austen, part Eva Ibbotson, with the mad blocked writer of a father, the model nudist stepmother (“not wicked”), the crumbling farmhouse/castle and the world of books and hunger, ideas and green fabric dye, bluebell perfume, fur coat inheritances and the arrival of the American neighbours.

The second half, however – oh, it hurt when I first read it. The fragile disconnected fairytale 1930s childhood breaks down into a modern, adult, anguished story, and felt both true and hurtful. I still loved the book, because it is so beautiful – Rose all romantic with a practicality two hundred years out of date, Cassandra wistfully pragmatic and wishing they could afford to send Rose to the movies to learn how to live in the modern world. But I wished it could have ended otherwise.

Perhaps I have learned a little more since then. When I last read the book, I realised that it ended just as it should and – more – that the ending was not bittersweet at all but a mix of happiness and hope. A tentative, contingent hope, but better by far than the ending I would have forced upon it.

The movie is very lovely too – gentle and charming, with Bill Nighy perfectly twitchy and neurotic, Tara Fitzgerald silvery and raincoat-clad, Rose Byrne gorgeously pre-Raphaelite, Romola Garai mousy and bright-eyed, David Bamber perfectly charming as a vicar (almost overwriting my image of him as Mr Collins), and Henry Thomas… well, he does have the perfect look for the era, but I only worked out why he was so familiar halfway through the movie and spent the rest of it trying not to hold out my finger towards the screen while saying “El-i-ot!”

I’ve previously illustrated the opening line of the novel, “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink” (it’s also been embroidered!):

Illustration Friday: Diary

In other news: I’m still on track for NaNoWriMo, and last night I finished a commissioned caricature of an author who may hurt me (it was commissioned by another author and I will link to it when it appears) and a fantasy-and-science-fiction themed wedding invitation illustration. And at my day job, I won today’s bakeoff with a Snickers rocky road adorned with marshmallow flowers. It was the first chocolate and sugar I’d had for about two months and I nearly defied gravity.