Tuesday 10 October 2017

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

The first time I read The Blue Castle, I read it soooooooo fast that I recall very little of the detail. I had just found out about the controversy surrounding this book and my long-time favourite Colleen McCullough book, The Ladies of Missalonghi. Therefore I read The Blue Castle constantly comparing and looking for similarities and differences; I didn't read it for itself.
(Please click on the two book links above to get the backstory for this controversy.)

This reread, however, was all about enjoying The Blue Castle purely and simply for itself. Thanks to a hectic life schedule atm, I was looking for a quick, easy, comforting read to sink into.

The chance to also reread it with two others (Naomi @Consumed By Ink and Sarah Emsley) who clearly love this story as much as I do, was an added bonus.

My first observation is that The Blue Castle was a much richer, emotionally satisfying story than I remembered. Yes, it's predictable and sentimental, but it's done so well and hits just the right note when one is in the mood for this kind of book.

It was also a love letter to the woods 'up back' of Canada.
Once or twice night overtook them, too far from their Blue Castle to get back. But Barney mad a fragrant bed of bracken and fir boughs and they slept on it dreamlessly, under a ceiling of old spruces with moss hanging from them, while beyond them moonlight and the murmur of pines blended together so that one could hardly tell which was light and which was sound.

Whitt Island, Lake Muskoka, Ontario

There is something so satisfying in owning a whole island. And isn't an uninhabited island a charmng idea? I'd wanted one ever since I read Robinson Crusoe. It seemed to good to be true. And beauty! Most of the scenery belongs to the government, but they don't tax you for looking at it, and the moon belongs to everyone.

Valancy looked - and looked -  and looked again. There was a diaphanous, lilac mist on the lake, shrouding the island. Through it the two enormous pine-trees that clasped hands over Barney's shack loomed out like dark turrets. Behind them was a sky still rose-hued in the afterlight, and a pale young moon.

A question though - how do you pronounce Valancy? Is is Vuh-lan- cy, Val-arn-cy or Val-ancy? I'm leaning towards the latter as it roles of the tongue quite nicely. Is Valancy a traditional Canadian name or is it a significant name in L.M. Montgomery's own backstory?

(I just found this post with very helpful, interesting comments all about the name Valancy. God, I love the world wide web!)

The lesson we learn from Valancy about conquering your fears and being true to yourself, remains a powerful one that transcends time and place. Sure there's an ugly duckling/wish fulfilment element here as well, but dreams do come true, just not easy, as Valancy also found out.

She was no longer unimportant, little old maid Valancy Stirling. She was a woman, full of love and therefore rich & significant - justified to herself. Life was no longer empty & futile, and death could cheat her if nothing. Love had cast out her last fear.

Which kind of makes Valancy a Canadian Jane Eyre.

I loved this quote in particular:
Valancy was in the midst of realities after a lifetime of unrealities.

Valancy had spent her life dreaming about and fantasising about another life; a better life that took place in her Blue Castle. Her life was stifled, suppressed and repressed by her family and by societal standards of the time. Without knowing it, her life was on hold, in limbo. So many of us feel this at some point in our lives; at least I did for most of my childhood years.

And that is where it's success and beauty lies. For anyone who has felt like the ugly duckling or unnoticed or fearful about life, The Blue Castle gives hope and inspiration. We all have the power to do-over, make-over and reinvent ourselves. We can all rise above the mores of the world around us and be true to ourselves. That is the path to happiness.

The Blue Castle is a book that deserves to be in a leisurely manner. I'm glad I waited for the right weekend and the right to mood to fall into this little treasure once again. Along with The Ladies of Missalonghi (to be reread for #AusReadingMonth) I now have two delicious stories to turn to when in the mood for a charming, nostalgic romance.

Visiting Canada or Prince Edward Island is not an easy proposition when you live in Australia, but one of my sisters visited PEI in 2008 for the 200th anniversary of Anne of Green Gables. She knew exactly which big sister would love these coasters the most!



  1. Anonymous10/10/17

    I love this book! Again one of my most favorite all time comfort reads! I think Ms. Montgomery had a beautiful way of describing Canada, whether it is this one or the Anne of Green Gables series. I love the simple tale of reasserting your self esteem and trying to seek out a better life. I love Colleen McCullough's writings as well and while I have not read The Ladies of Missalonghi, I am very strongly tempted to read and in fact I know I will read it with you for the #AusReadingMonth!! How I give into temptation!!lol!

  2. Perfect, I've ordered The Ladies to read for #AusReadingMonth!

    1. Wahoo! We have a readalong!

      How does the first week of November sound? Is that enough time to get a hold of the book?

    2. I ordered it via Amazon Prime so it will be with me tomorrow! First week of November sounds fine!

  3. Anonymous11/10/17

    I'm so glad you loved this. I'm curious to know how you think it compares with The Ladies. I read them both for #ReadingValancy and now I feel like I've got them muddled up in my brain. Not sure that was the best plan. :)

    It's funny, isn't it, that LMM's books are often predictable, but it really doesn't seem to matter. One of the ways she works her magic, I guess!

    I love that you call Valancy a "Canadian Jane Eyre"... hadn't thought of that before!

    Thanks for joining in! :)

    1. I made the mistake of reading them both together last time too Naomi, that's why I'm giving them space with this reread. For me it was TBC that suffered as it was the new-to-me story at that time.

      Going into this I thought that TLM was my favourite of the two, but now I suspect they will both have their own special place in my heart :-)

      The Jane Eyre comparison popped into my mind when Valancy was nursing Cissy, it reminded me of Helen Burns.

  4. The Blue Castle is just one of the best books ever! Glad to see you enjoyed it so much!


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