Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl ISBN: 9780670014385
Plot Summary: Althea lives in a crumbling castle on a cliff—her great grandfather’s idea of an ideal home. But Althea’s family has fallen on hard times, and struggle to keep up with needed repairs, much less with how to eat. Althea’s stepsisters have a large inheritance, but hate to part with any of it. So it is up to Althea to marry a rich gentleman who can provide for her, her mother, and young brother. If only her quick tongue wasn’t always getting in the way! The arrival of handsome Lord Boring seems promising, though he does bring his rude and messy cousin along…What is a beautiful, intelligent girl to do?
Critical Evaluation: This was a very enjoyable book to read. The most fully realized character is Althea, though her friends are also developed a little more. To me, the other characters, like her mother and stepsisters, are kind of one dimensional. Her mother is very sweet but rather helpless it seems. The stepsisters are not very attractive and not very pleasant to be around, reminding me of the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella.
I must also draw a comparison between this and Pride and Prejudice. To be fair, I have not read Pride and Prejudice, but what I know about it is very similar to this story. The protagonist is beautiful but opinionated, and can’t help but speak her mind. She meets a handsome man and is instantly attracted to him, while she is repulsed by another. Yet, by the end, we find that in fact she’s in love with the man she thought repulsed her and him with her. Even though this is not an original plot, as I’ve said before, it was quite fun to read. Althea is funny, and she does find herself in interesting, humiliating, and amusing situations.
The language was, to my eyes, fairly authentic to the time period. The time period is never explicitly stated, but the language is one of the key ways that I recognized that this was in the past (besides of course the buggies and no electricity). I can’t really speak to women’s rights in the 1800s, but I suspect that some of the thoughts that Althea has are rare for women of her time. I do find them mostly believable given her character, but these lines did stand out to me when I was reading.
Reader’s Annotation: Althea must save her family and her castle. If she can only keep her big mouth closed long enough!
Information about the author: Patrice Kindl has written several award winning YA books. She was born in in Alplaus, New York in 1951. She attended Webster College in St. Louis, as well as a theater school in New York City. She didn’t start writing until she was in her thirties, and didn’t get published until she was in her forties.
She now lives in upstate New York with her husband and a rotating cast of animals. They have trained monkeys for quadriplegics, and kept hawks, dogs, cats, birds, several kinds of rodents, and once a corn snake. She also has a grown son who now works at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Humor
Curriculum ties, if any: If any classes are reading Pride and Prejudice, it would be interesting to juxtapose it with this book.
Booktalking Ideas: I would emphasize the humor in this story. Althea frequently does and says funny things in this story, and her sisters are rather exasperating, which I think many teens could relate to. And depending on the audience, some might appreciate the connections to Jane Austen.
Reading Level/Interest Age: The main character is 17. However, besides her age, and the fact that she is looking to get married, there is nothing that would make this book controversial for younger readers. That said, I think it is a more sophisticated read, appealing to a teen that maybe has already read period fiction from the 1800s, and thus would be better for an older teen. School Library Journal approves this book for grades 7 and up, and Publishers Weekly for ages 12 and up.
Challenge Issues: None that I can think of.
Why did you include this book? : It is historical fiction, and was said to be an enjoyable read. It has also been compared to “I capture the castle,” which is one of my favorite books.
Kindl, Patrice (2013). About me. Retrieved from http://www.patricekindl.com/aboutme.html