Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Blue Castle - Book Review

There are some books that I love to re-read every year.  They are old friends that I love to revisit.  The Blue Castle is one of those books.  It is written by a beloved Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery.  It is one of two novels she wrote for adults, although it is usually sold in the YA or children's section of the book store.  Don't be fooled by the cheesy cover art, it's not a Harlequin Romance! 

The Blue Castle is set in the Muskoka country of Ontario, Canada, which is cottage country now, in the early 1900's.  Valancy Stirling has just woken up on the morning of her twenty ninth birthday, an old maid.  She lives with her widowed mother and aged cousin.  Her position in the family is not enviable, she belongs to an old established family, yet is the poor relation:  plain, unmarried, with no way of supporting herself, and no obvious talents.  She is constantly outshone by her beautiful cousin, Olive, who is wealthy, gorgeous, popular, and engaged to a fine young man.  Her mother is cold, unkind and does not love her.  She is bossed about unmercifully by her entire clan.  Valancy's only escape is her dreamworld, her Blue Castle, a land of imagination where she can escape from her unhappy existance.  She also can escape into a good book, especially nature books by her favorite author. 

Valancy has been plagued with a pain in her heart for years, and it has been progressively getting worse.  She visits a doctor, and finds out she has a serious heart condition.  This knowledge gives her the courage to take her life in her own hands, and shake off the restrictions placed on her by her family.  Valancy leaves home to care for a sick friend, and has many adventures as she follows her heart.  There is a great happily ever after at the end, and a fine romance, but the real heart of the story is how Valancy blooms and grows under adverse conditions. 

The character of Valancy is universally appealing, she is a delightful underdog, and watching her true wonderful personality appear is so much fun.  Her family is really awful, Montgomery does a great job of making them really unappealing.  The family dinner where Valancy finally says exactly what she has always thought is so funny, and my favorite scene in the book.  As usual, Montgomery does a wonderful job of describing the beauties of Canada, and brings Muskoka to life.  For years my idea of a Blue Castle was a tiny cottage on an island surrounded by a beautiful lake, thanks to her description in the book. 

The Blue Castle would be on my desert island pile of books. 

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