Thursday, August 28, 2008
The Blue Castle
I know it seems that recently most of my posts have been book reviews, full of me gushing about how great my latest read was; but honestly, I just happen to have been reading a string of very good books these last few weeks!
This week I read The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery (author of Anne of Green Gables).
The Blue Castle is about Miss Valancy Stirling. Valancy lives with her mother and elderly cousin, both of whom treat her as though she is 9, rather than 29. She is plain and very single, and her prospects for matrimony appear bleak. She seems destined for old-maidenhood. Poor little Valancy leads a miserable existence. Small, shy, and insignificant, she gets trampled on by all of the Stirling clan. Bound by fear and insecurity, she is ever afraid to speak her own mind - voice her own opinions - do the things she wants to do - live the life she wants to live, be the person she wants to be.
The only place where she can be herself is in her imaginary Blue Castle in Spain. So, she lives in her own private little world of dreams and imaginings. But dreams are poor comfort sometimes - they can't take the place of real human companionship.
Then one day she receives a letter from her doctor. It contains some shocking news. Valancy makes a decision that will change her life forever.
What follows is a delightful story - a real-life fairytale. And the ending was completely unexpected, very unpredictable!
In some ways, Valancy Stirling reminded me of Anne Elliot from Jane Austen's Persuasion. You could almost say that The Blue Castle is Montgomery's Persuasion - a quiet masterpiece, written later in life; although Montgomery lived for 16 years after The Blue Castle, whereas Persuasion was written only shortly before Jane Austen's death.
This really is Montgomery at the peak of her powers, and it showcases her immense talent as a storyteller. Unlike Anne of Green Gables, The Blue Castle was actually intended to be more of an adult novel, one of only a few adult fiction books written by Montgomery. It's still clean (more so than many of the books being published for pre-teens today!) but you can tell that it was written for a more mature audience.
If you're a fan of Jane Austen and/or L. M. Montgomery (particularly the Emily books and Rilla of Ingleside), or simply a hopeless romantic, I can pretty much guarantee that you'll love The Blue Castle.
As far as I know, it's only available as a cheap mass-market paperback. A jolly nuisance - if there was a nice hardcover edition in print I'd buy it, even if it cost four times as much as the paperback! Oh well - I'll have to keep an eye for old hardcover copies at op-shops and the like.
That's the cover below. Isn't it dreadful!