This novel was first published in 1949 and is still in print. It was written by Dodie Smith, author of '101 Dalmatians', and is set in a remote part of England. The story is told through the eyes of a teenage girl, Cassandra Mortmain, who has ambitions to be a novelist. She keeps a journal of her everyday life, and the book is an account of her experiences, as if she was writing about them at the time.
The castle of the title is an ancient one, now in ruins, and Cassandra tells how she and her family came to live in a strange and lonely old house which used to be part of the castle. Her mother has died and her father has remarried. His lovely young wife is an artists' model. Cassandra has an older sister and a younger brother. There is also a boy her own age, who has lived with the family since his mother died.
The family is extremely poor and life in the old house is very basic, with little or no money for luxuries. They do not even have enough for decent food or new clothes. The boy who lives with them, and works for them, takes an additional job so he can help them financially. The father has previously had success as a writer, but since his first book was published he appears to have writer's block and can no longer write or support his family.
Two very wealthy young American brothers arrive on the scene. They own the house in which Cassandra and her family live, having inherited the estate. They move into their nearby family home and get to know the two sisters. There is much excitement and speculation as to where this may lead, and some confusion about feelings of love and physical attraction.
I thought the story very entertaining. The characters are all rather eccentric. I liked the innocence of the narrator, and her growing awareness of her first feelings of love. The story is told in a way that is amusing and often very funny. There are plenty of misunderstandings, and confusion about love, friendship and desire. I found some of it quite moving too, especially the unrequited love the boy, Stephen, feels for Cassandra. There is much sadness in the story too. Cassandra's father is having some sort of mental breakdown, which causes many difficulties for his children and his new wife.
Some scenes take place in London but most of the story is set around the old castle and its location. I really felt I knew what life was like in that cold and semi derelict place. I very much liked the main character and her observations of life. I think a lot of young readers will be able to understand and identify with her. The time and the place may now be remote to most of us, but I think this is still a story worth reading, and I found it to be an enjoyable experience.