Although I read and cherised L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series (and in fact, still have my boxed set of mass market paperbacks given to me by my older step-brother way back when), I’d never even heard of a stand-alone novel she’d written called The Blue Castle until a few years ago when I read about it on a book blog. Since then it’s been on my wishlist, but not until a recent spate of mentions on current book blogs did I decide to buy a copy. And not only that, but I read the book within days of receiving it – a rarity for me! I was sick with a nasty cold a couple of weeks back, and the forced bedrest allowed me to spend a good deal of my time reading. Between extensive napping, I think it took me the better part of a day and night to read The Blue Castle.
The novel itself was apparently written with an adult audience in mind, although it is suitable as a young adult book, particularly today, when the subject matter and writing style is so mild in comparison to a lot of what is written for modern teens. Most of the reviews on Amazon appear to be from adult readers who profess their sentimental attachment to the book. It tells the story of Valency, a spinster who, in her 29th year, learns that she has a heart defect that will kill her within the year. That discovery kindles a latent spirit of rebellion and desire in Valency, who up to this point has led a quiet and demure life with daydream fantasies about her Blue Castle her only means of escape. Valency finds independence, love and herself in the course of a year, and a few other surprises as well.
I won’t ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read it by giving out any more details, but suffice it to say that The Blue Castle is a delightful and nostaglic romance, one with a spirited and endearing heroine. It deserved all the accolades it has received – I only wish I’d read it years ago. But I can see myself rereading it again in the future.
There were quite a few passsages or words spoken by characters that I loved, and you could just see Montgomery’s personality shining through. To wit:
“It was permissable, even laudable, to read to improve your mind and your religion, but a book that was enjoyable was dangerous.” (p. 38)
“Fear is the original sin. Almost all the evil in the world has its origin in the fact that someone is afraid of something.” (p. 59)
“People who don’t like cats … always seem to think that there is some peculiar virtue in not liking them.” (p. 100)
“He hadn’t the least idea what she was up to, but he was sure her motive was not commendable. When he could not understand a thing he straightway condemned it. Simplicity itself!” (p. 139)
I do have one quibble, but it’s not with the book itself. Rather, it’s the introduction for this particular edition. By now, I really should know better than to read them before I finish the book, but why oh why do the editors and writers of introductions insist on giving away major plot points and dissecting the book before the reader has even had a chance to find out for themselves? Wouldn’t that kind of discussion be more suitable as an afterword? It’s so annoying and does a disservice to the book and the reader, in my opinion.
Reading The Blue Castle also counts as a Canadian Book Challenge 4 selection.