sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

April 20, 2011

into the stacks: the blue castle
posted by soe 12:42 am

The Blue Castle, by L. M. Montgomery

From the jacket: “At twenty-nine Valency had never been in love, and it seemed romance had passed her by. Living with her overbearing mother and meddlesome aunt, she found her only consolations in the ‘forbidden’ books of John Foster and her daydreams of the Blue Castle. Then a letter arrived from Dr. Trent — and Valency decided to throw caution to the winds. For the first time in her life Valency did and said exactly what she wanted. Soon she discovered a surprising new world, full of love and adventures far beyond her most secret dreams.”

My take: Last fall, raidergirl3 reviewed this novel and then offered it up to anyone who’d yet to read it. It came to me and sat on the shelf patiently waiting for me to choose it. Early last month, it jumped out at me as being the perfect read for the dreary transition to March we were having.

And it was. Valency wakes up on the morning of her 29th birthday with chest pains and despair about her life ever getting better. The good, obedient daughter of a domineering mother and overly involved, unkind, Victorian-era extended family, Valency has spent her life trying to live up to everyone’s expectations of her, whether it’s reading books only as often as her mother permits or serving as the straight man to her uncle’s mocking jokes or rubbing her cousin’s aching back before bed. But when she learns that she doesn’t have much time to live, she decides it’s time for a change. A total change. She answers her family back. She moves into the town drunk’s home to serve as housekeeper and nursemaid to his disgraced daughter. And, most scandalous of all, she’s seen interacting with Barney Snaith, who’s rumored to have done any number of terrible things.

If you’re anything like me, you spend the first bit of the novel chafing at the treatment Valency is subjected to and wondering why she doesn’t stand up for herself. Certainly some of it can be brushed off as being more fitting of the time the novel takes place (the early 1920s), but she really does suffer because of her stuffy family. And then you remember all the stupid or mundane things you do (or don’t do) yourself because “it’s expected” or “that’s just how it is.” Says who?

Valency finds it’s possible to carve out a life worth living without adhering to each “thou shalt” that comes along. But will she be able to remain true to herself when life throws up roadblocks or as she gets closer to the end of the time frame the doctor has given her?

L.M. Montgomery, as many of you probably know, wrote the Anne of Green Gables series as well as a number of other books. If you’ve read any of her Anne or Emily books, you know that she harbors a not-so-secret fondness for gothic fiction, and it seems like this novel is in keeping with it. But, as with Montgomery’s other works, it only dabbles in it here and there, with references to Blackbeard and certain romantic elements.

If you’ve enjoyed Montgomery’s other works or need a smidge of rebellion in your own life, I highly recommend adding this to your to-read pile. Even if you can pinpoint how the book will end pretty much from the start, it won’t stop you from taking in the sights and enjoying the journey.

Pages: 218

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