Book Review: Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl
How Excited Was I To Read Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl? I love Jane Austen and I loved I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. I’ve even seen the movie! (Romola Garai, I love you. Even in ill-conceived Dirty Dancing reboots!)
So do I really have to answer this one?
Book Rating: I was going to give it a 3/5 but I’m bumping it up to a healthy 4 verging on 5. Because here’s the thing… I’ve already gone back and reread it. And I enjoyed it even more the second time!
Book Jacket: Seventeen-year-old Althea is the sole support of her entire family, and she must marry well. But there are few wealthy suitors–or suitors of any kind–in their small Yorkshire town of Lesser Hoo. Then, the young and attractive (and very rich) Lord Boring arrives, and Althea sets her plans in motion. There’s only one problem; his friend and business manager Mr. Fredericks keeps getting in the way. And, as it turns out, Fredericks has his own set of plans . . . This witty take on the classic Regency–Patrice Kindl’s first novel in a decade–is like literary champagne!
Book Review: So the book jacket had blurbs from Polly Shulman, author of Enthusiasm (like! see review here!) and from Karen Jay Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club (not so much.) It could go either way!
The key to this book is that it’s funny. Really. If you know the movie Cold Comfort Farm, this is the book version. [edit: Turns out it was originally a book! This is the Austenian version.]
Our heroine is unapologetically materialistic, as well as conveniently beautiful. She could be a horror. But she’s also remarkably unselfish. And resourceful! Yay saving graces. Her family’s fortune depends on her making a good marriage, and by golly, this reader never doubted she would.
Of all Jane Austen’s heroines, I’d say this Althea closely resembles Emma. She’s certainly not the most observant girl in the world. But Emma if you picked her up and stuck her into I Capture the Castle. Make sense? Maybe a little? If this is at all your thing, I’d encourage you to give this one a try. Go into it with an open mind though.
It’s a little jarring to see a modern writer making fun of the nineteenth century – is she making fun of the time period or of our continued obsession with Jane Austen novels? Either way, the jarring was a good thing for me. I felt like I was in on the joke, especially the second time through when I could truly appreciate the humor apart from the plot. And make no mistake, this is a light, fun read.
Recommended for: Fans of historical fiction, and especially anyone who likes Jane Austen!
If You Liked This Book You Should Also Check Out: I Capture the Castle, mentioned above. It’s much older – I’d venture to call it a classic by now. It’s different in tone and a different time period (between the world wars), but in concept there are many (good!) similarities.