Monday, October 4, 2010
The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery
"Valancy has never been in love and, at twenty-nine, fears she never will be. She lives a drab life with her overbearing mother and prying aunt, finding solace in John Foster's forbidden books and her fantasies of the Blue Castle. Then a shocking diagnosis from Dr. Trent prompts Valancy to make a fresh start. For the first time in her life, she does and says exactly what she feels....she abruptly leaves home...and meets new people an experiences new things. Valancy undergoes a transformation, discovering a whole new world of love and happiness. One of Lucy Maud Montgomery's only novels with an adult heroine and intended for an adult audience."
Were you a fan of the Anne of Green Gables series or the Emily books when you were a young girl? I certainly was in love with L. M. Montgomery's charming writing and read quite a few of her children's books when I was in elementary school. I was not aware until recently that she had written a novel for adults. I learned about The Blue Castle from Lauren Willig's website and she referred to it as one of her favorite books. A favorite book of one of my favorite authors? That was all I needed to prompt me to find The Blue Castle and experience Montgomery's writing again. The old-fashioned charm was still there, but be prepared, at times, for an emotional drain.
Valancy Stirling -- twenty-nine, unmarried, oppressed, repressed, ridiculed, victimized by her unbelievably cruel family...the beginning of her story was achingly painful. I really wanted her to develop just an ounce of courage to stand up for herself when her overbearing mother was at her worst, but pain only made Valancy sink deeper into herself and her fantasy world of her books and her imaginary blue castle. Sick and weak in a physical as well as emotional state, Valancy's life is terribly bleak.
Prompted by pains in her chest, Valancy seeks medical attention and receives a letter with a horrifying diagnosis. Surprisingly, instead of succumbing to the hopelessness of the diagnosis, it becomes the catalyst for her transformation. Since she now has no hope for a future, she decides to begin to take control of her life and break away from her oppressive family. She becomes unconcerned with the social conventions and restrictions of the times and begins to live her life on her own terms. She befriends what her family considers "social outcasts" and begins to experience real relationships and acceptance for the first time in her life.
This is a story that made me want to stand up and cheer as I followed Valancy's journey of self-discovery and independence. Reaching out and grabbing all the happiness she could find made me stop and think: how would I live my life if I thought today might really be my last? A very poignant story of a young woman's search for love, independence, and self-worth.
Title: The Blue Castle
Author: Lucy Maude Montgomery
Dundurn Press 2006
Originally published 1926