The dust jacket of Keeping the Castle by Patricia Kindl boasts an amalgamation of I Capture the Castle and Pride and Prejudice, so as you well might imagine, my interest was immediately piqued. While I haven’t read I Capture the Castle (yet), I am, like most middle aged (and younger, yes) female book bloggers, a fan of P & P. The whole issue that makes Mrs. Bennett so annoying in Pride and Prejudice–that she needs to help her daughters make the right marital connections–is the basis for the plot of Keeping the Castle. In this story, though, Althea Crawley is attempting to marry well in order to save their family’s crumbling and decrepit castle home for herself, her mother, and her four year old half-brother, Alexander:
We could not afford to live in and maintain the castle; neither could we quit it. In order to lease it out to a tenant it would be necessary to make some rather expensive repairs, and even had we wished to sell it we could not: it belonged to little Alexander. Other than abandoning it to tumble into the sea, we had no other alternative but to live in it as cheaply as could be contrived and put our hopes in the future, which, sad to say, looked little brighter than did the present. We had no aged, wealthy relative teetering on the brink of eternity, and it would be many years before Alexander could make any attempt to repair our fortunes. Besides, we doted on him and did not like to think of his risking his life and health in the gold fields, or at the helm of a privateer sailing the high seas.
No, our only hope was in marriage. Mine. (7)
I did enjoy Keeping the Castle in its own right, though–even though I knew exactly where it was going, and even though one or two of the plot twists have been done before. Of course, this one isn’t a novel written in the early nineteenth century, so it’s a bit easier to follow. In some ways it seems that Kindl is poking fun at Austen’s world. For example, the names Kindl gives her characters are amusing, to say the least: the new, young, handsome neighbor in the story is appropriately named Lord Boring; his butler is named Withins; he has a middle aged friend named the Marquis of Bumbershook; and my personal favorites, Sir Quentin and Lady Throstletwist, are neighbors and trusted friends of our heroine, Althea Crawley. The story most definitely isn’t a parody or a spoof, though–Althea’s troubles are real, and they have a real solution in the end. And yes, the solution is marriage.
Now that I’ve read Keeping the Castle, I’m still not sure how I feel about someone co-opting Austen. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Kindl really, really likes Austen. This story does stand on its own two feet, though, and it is very entertaining. I think I’d like to give Kindl another try, and I would definitely be interested in reading the two companion novels to this one that she plans to write. The very slight tongue-in-cheek humor that Kindl wields to tell her story of Lesser Hoo, Yorkshire, is fun. (Viking, 2012)