I received a new shipment of novels in the mail this week and am merrily munching my way through. A couple of the books have been around for awhile, and on the recommendation—or rather, based on the outpouring of adoration—of fellow writers, I couldn’t wait to read and see what all the fuss was about. Currently, I’m in midst of one of these novels deemed ‘classic’ by trusted friends: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. Some of you may gasp: She hasn’t read that? Others may be in my similar shoes: Hmm, wonder what that’s about? Well, I’m three chapters deep and already completely smitten by the seventeen-year-old narrator, Miss Cassandra Mortmain and her family. The book is written in epistolary form as diary entries, though no dates or “Dear Diary” are present. The book is Cassandra’s journal and the story’s chapters are her speedwriting exercises. She’s a plucky young woman in the 1930s. A) I love pluck. B) I love pluck in a historical setting. So already I’ve met a kindred. In some ways (and granted I’m only at the start), Cassandra’s curiosity, genuine reflections, and devotion to her imagination remind me of Anne Shirley. And if you’ve been following my blog posts or tweets, you know that I am an Anne devotee.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t immediately familiar with Dodie Smith. So I did a little research and discovered that she is also the author of The Hundred and One Dalmatians (1956). Published in 1948, I Capture the Castle was her first novel. Apparently, it was penned while she was living in Pennsylvania and homesick for England. She was in her fifties at the time, but obviously had the spirit of a seventeen-year-old because Cassandra is nothing short of enchanting.
As evidence of the widespread love of this novel, I’ll give you two of the jacket cover endorsements:
“This book has one of the most charismatic narrators I’ve ever met…”
~J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter series.
“A delicious, compulsively readable novel about young love and its vicissitudes.”
~Erica Jong, Fear of Flying
Did you catch those, folks? Erica Jong and J.K. Rowling. It doesn’t gets more diverse than that. I don’t usually go on and on about the book I’m reading. I’m no book reviewer and have no desire to dip my wick in that business. However, I believe I’m developing a bit of a crush on Lady Dodie Smith and this novel. The woman lived to be ninety-four years old and wrote a majority of her best-known works in the latter half of her life. I mean… how could you not be fascinated.
Today I’m back to simple black with paper-thin slices of lemon making the sweetest pitcher of iced tea you’ve ever tasted. My sip is not the point this tea party. I want to chat tea cosies. Yes, I said a tea cosy. Do you know what this is? I didn’t, but it was in the second line of I Capture the Castle so of course I had to look it up (being that all things tea related capture my fancy).
Here’s the line:
“…the rest of me is on the draining-board, which I have padded with our dog’s blanket and the tea-cosy.”
Well, what the heck is that, I asked myself. Out came Mr. Webster: “a cozy for keeping tea warm.” Not entirely helpful to my understanding. So I Googled and was provided with not just an explanation but… an Etsy link where one may purchase such an item. My toes tingled at the sight, so now I gleefully share with you.
A tea cosy is a cover for a teapot to insulate the tea and keep everything warm while it brews. In Britain, where this novel is set, they are traditionally hand-knitted of cloth or wool into charming and unique coverlets. Some even have hidden pockets for herbs to be placed so not only does it keep your tea warm, but the heat has a potpourri effect. Um, these are brilliant (as the English would say).
I’ve been perusing the gorgeous tea cosies on Etsy and love them all. Look at this darling red and white flowers one. Oh, and this red rosebud is too dear. They come in the shape of owls, bumblebees, cupcakes, sheep, pumpkins and my gracious, even nuns! I can’t get enough. I own one teapot, but I argue to myself that I have different outfits for my moods… couldn’t a teapot as well?
Sarah’s Sipping Summary:
Since my tea topic came straight from the book’s page, the correlation is blatant. If only Dodie knew how she’s captured my imagination and inspired me to dig up my crochet needle and search out a whimsical tea cosy pattern to match my kitchen.
Happy Thursday Tea to you, friends. Cheers, Sarah