Story Title: The Blue Castle
Author Name: L.M. Montgomery
Amazon URL: Story Link
Downloadable (Free) URL: Story Link
Content Rating: Teen (for references to the circumstances surrounding an illegitimate birth)
Status: Published in 1926
Length: 230 pages
Amazon.com’s Story Summary: Valancy Stirling is unmarried at 29. Frustrated by her loveless state and stifled by her moralistic family, for years she has been escaping into an imaginary life in her Blue Castle in Spain. Then unexpected news shocks her into asserting her independence and striking out against society’s conventions. Her old fantasies seem irrelevant now – but dreams of the Blue Castle are not forgotten as she refocuses her energies on living her life on her own terms. Lucy Maud Montgomery has created a wonderfully sympathetic heroine in Valancy, engaging the reader fully in her trials and triumphs. A great love of the Canadian wilderness comes pouring out in beautifully evocative prose accompanied with sharp observation of the personalities and attitudes of her characters and the society they inhabit.
The Blue Castle probably encapsulates or embodies my deepest personality traits, hurts, and interests, and metaphorically represents my childhood, more than any other book I’ve ever read. It should, therefore, be understandable why this is my absolute favorite book: a designation that is not easy for me to make, given my broad and varied interests in literature.
L.M. Montgomery primarily wrote books that are targeted at children or young adults (such as the fantastic Anne of Green Gables series and extremely inspiring Emily of New Moon series). The Blue Castle is one of her few books which was written for adults, even containing mentions of some rather taboo subjects, such as the illegitimate birth of poor Cissy Gay’s child, or the spiritual doubts that Valancy has at times. I love it all. It’s one of the most honest books I’ve ever seen, a fact which stands out all the more given the era in which it was published. I’m surprised it wasn’t banned. There is a similar book, The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough. It’s a rather blatant rip-off of Montgomery’s story premise, but is executed much more poorly and includes a deceptive, self-pitying, unlikable protagonist. If you have a choice, stick with the original.
Valancy is a pitiful specimen of humanity, but unlike the protagonist of The Ladies of Missalonghi, she is not self-pitying. When she is finally given a reason to be brave, she embraces it and stands up for herself with more courage than even she ever thought herself capable of exhibiting. I’m reminded of one of Alan Paton‘s prayers/poems, in which he says, “Give us courage, Oh Lord…to stand up for ourselves when it is needful for us to do so.” After 29 years of a repressed, stunted, atrophied existence, Valancy is given a reason to exhibit courage, and she does so in spades, both on behalf of herself and on behalf of others.
Barney Snaith, the subject of Valancy’s fascination, is a brilliant character, not only because of how much fun he is, but because of all that he isn’t. He is not Valancy’s salvation. In fact, this is a rather feminist romance novel, when I think of it, because although Valancy is in need of a hero to rescue her, she becomes her own hero and rescues herself. Barney is merely her partner in crime, her playmate, and, ultimately, the love of her life. But I love that Valancy never looks to him for help. Rather, she recognizes early on that the reason she has been living in fear for 29 years is because she has been waiting all that time for someone to rescue her, when she was always fully capable of rescuing herself. She is inspired by a set of books to instigate that rescue, but in the end it is Valancy who changes her own life’s path.
I often make great claims with my book recs about how one must read the story I am rec’ing, and how anyone should be able to love it. But I have no idea if this book will impact others the way it impacted me. I just know that I love it and I will always be grateful to Montgomery for penning something that helped give me the strength to find my own escape, just as the fictional John Foster’s books gave Valancy the strength to find her’s.