Saturday, August 22, 2020

"The Blue Castle" by L.M. Montgomery

My library book club has been on hiatus since the arrival of COVID-19 this spring :(  but happily, I stumbled onto an(other) online book club of sorts to take its place. The "Rilla of Ingleside" Readathon Facebook group went chapter by chapter through one of my favourite Lucy Maud Montgomery novels, about Anne of Green Gables's youngest daughter, set in Prince Edward Island during the First World War, supplemented by material provided by LMM academics about Montgomery, the war, life in Canada during that period, etc.  We had so much fun that we decided to continue through the summer with "Jane of Lantern Hill," another personal favourite of mine. 

That discussion is drawing to a close, but happily, we've decided to keep going into the fall and change the group's name to the more generic Lucy Maud Montgomery Readathon. Our next selection (starting soon) will be (another) one of my Montgomery favourites -- "The Blue Castle"!  (In fact -- with apologies to "Anne of Green Gables," lol -- "Rilla," "Jane" and "The Blue Castle" would probably be my top 3 LMM reads of all time -- just don't ask me to rank them...!). :)  You are welcome to join usI will be going through this book again as we read & discuss it together, and I will count it as another book (re)read when we've completed our discussion. :) 

The cover photo posted here shows the edition I own -- a musty, yellowing paperback that I bought in June 1973 (! -- date written inside the front cover) when I was 12 years old, in Regina, Saskatchewan, while visiting family friends. (Cover price: a whopping $2.99.)  I've re-read it several times over the years, but not in quite a while, so I was happy to revisit it and am looking forward to discussing it in-depth with others. 

"The Blue Castle," published in 1926, is one of Montgomery's few novels aimed at an "adult" audience, and the only one that's set entirely in Ontario (and not her beloved PEI), in the cottage country area of , Muskoka.  Montgomery spent a two-week vacation there in 1922, in the town of Bala. The tourist home where she stayed is now a museum (although operations this year have been limited because of COVID). 

Our heroine, Valancy Stirling, age 29, is an "old maid" who leads a dull life with her oppressive mother and whiny cousin in the staid town of Deerfield. The two things that make Valancy's life bearable are the books by nature writer John Foster that she borrows from the local library, and her dream life in her "Blue Castle" in Spain (complete with a Prince Charming, of course).  

But when she receives some unexpected & shocking news, Valancy decides to throw caution to the wind and start living her life honestly and to please herself. She scandalizes her family when she moves out of her mother's house and becomes a housekeeper for the local drunk and a caregiver to his invalid daughter, whose reputation was ruined when she (gasp!) bore a child out of wedlock. (ALI/mild spoiler alert:  the baby died before his first birthday, and there is a poignant chapter in which his mother tells her story to Valancy and expresses her love for her lost son. Montgomery, of course, knew whereof she wrote: her second son, Hugh, was stillborn in 1914.)  

And then she meets the mysterious, reclusive, roguish Barney Snaith... and finds her real-life Blue Castle.

This book is a wonderful argument for taking control of your life and living it NOW, without worrying about others' opinions. Who doesn't sometimes dream of telling their nosy, overbearing relatives exactly what they think of them?? (Some of the scenes with Valancy's bewildered relatives had me literally laughing out loud, even though I've read this book several times before.) 

As I said, one of my favourite LMM novels, and perhaps one of my favourite books ever.  I loved it when I was 12,  I loved it when I was 20, and I think the lessons of Valancy's life are even more meaningful now that I'm almost 60. There are a few aspects of the book that are perhaps a bit dated/unrealistic, but Valancy is a thoroughly modern kind of heroine. 

4.5 stars on Goodreads, rounded up to 5.  

(I wrote about "The Blue Castle" here, almost 10 years ago!) 

This was Book #31 read to date in 2020 (Book #7 finished in August), bringing me to 103%!! of my 2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 30 books. I have completed & now exceeded my challenge goal for the year by 1 book, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 12 (!) books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2020 tagged as "2020 books." 

No comments:

Post a Comment