Book Review : The Blue Castle
By L.M. Montgomery
Valancy lives a drab life with her overbearing mother and prying aunt. Then a shocking diagnosis from Dr. Trent prompts her to make a fresh start. For the first time, she does and says exactly what she feels. As she expands her limited horizons, Valancy undergoes a transformation, discovering a new world of love and happiness. One of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s only novels intended for an adult audience, The Blue Castle is filled with humour and romance. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)
Adult Point of View
I enjoyed Anne of Green Gables as a young teen and didn’t know that Montgomery had written a novel for adults. If The Blue Castle was published today it would be considered a young adult or even a tween book because it is squeaky clean.
I was charmed and thoroughly enjoyed this book. The contrast of Valancy’s thoughts to her actions had me laughing. The ongoing troubles that plague her life, one of which is her mother, had me smiling. I had to like Valancy because she escaped into books, forbidden books describing nature by John Foster. Her other escape is dreaming of a blue castle, and no one guesses she is unhappy and that she has secrets. Even though I guessed plot devices it was a joy to see each element get pulled together. Her love interest, Barney Snaith, is a charmer.
A couple of favorite quotes:
‘I’m sick of fragrance of dead things,’ said Valancy (p. 47)
‘I like a man whose eyes say more than his lips,’ thought Valancy (p. 90)
‘Doss dear,’ said Cousin Georgiana mournfully, ‘some day you will discover that blood is thicker than water.’
‘Of course it is. But who wants water to be thick?’ parried Valancy. ‘We want water to be thin – sparkling – crystal-clear.’ (p. 135)
Valancy had heard so much about him that she couldn’t help turning her head back over her shoulder for another shy, curious look at him. A shaft of pale spring sunlight fell through a great pine athwart her bare black head and her slanted eyes. She wore a pale green sweater and bound a fillet of linnaea vine about her hair. The feathery fountain of trailing spruce overflower her arms and fell around her. Allan Tierney’s eyes lighted up. (p. 160)
Another book,The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough, had some decided similarities to The Blue Castle. In both books the protagonist is in danger of remaining an old maid, has a health issue with chest pains, has a domineering mother and repressive extended family, and a cousin who is considered very beautiful and oh, so desirable. Even the love interest has a bad reputation around town and is an outsider. It’s been a long time since I read The Ladies of Missalonghi, but this is too much for coincidence and upon reflection makes be angry at those who plagiarize other’s work.
I enjoyed The Blue Castle more because it is so innocent and doesn’t rely on a supernatural twist to resolve the character’s problems. The focus is not just on Valancy’s romance, but coming into her own power and believing in herself. I love how she looks like a fairy when she looks over her shoulder while wandering in the woods. There is a subtle message that each woman has her own beauty when she lives true to herself. Another message is that happiness is possible in our relationships more than the things we own. (Certainly a good message for modern readers.)
My only regret is that I didn’t know about this book sooner!
4 out of 5 stars
- the Mother
If you liked this one you might like The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (a girl-power book), The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly, A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck (oh, so funny) and Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns.