I knew I was going to like L.M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle when I got to a line in the second paragraph that I could identify with oh-so-well:
“One does not sleep well, sometimes, when one is twenty-nine on the morrow, and unmarried, in a community and connection where the unmarried are simply those who have failed to get a man.”
Not that I’ve ever been on the cusp of twenty-nine and unmarried. Or that I’ve been in a community and a connection where the unmarried are simply those who have failed to get a man.
But I have been 27 and unmarried, feeling like I was simply one who had failed to get a man. I, like Valancy, “had never quite relinquished a certain pitiful, shamed, little hope that Romance would come [my] way yet.” Until I was 27 and talking to a mortgage officer about a home loan. Then, I felt sure that I’d given up hope.
I was entirely sympathetic with Valancy’s plight.
Then I got to the fourth page, where I learned of the blue castle in Spain, the daydream Valancy had been escaping to since she was a young girl. I knew at that point that Valancy and I would be kindred spirits.
I had no drab existence (at least, not in the sense of a yellow-painted floor with a hideous hooked rug and ancient photos of relatives I don’t know hung within my bedroom) or unloving childhood to escape from–but I took refuge in my own blue castles nonetheless.
Like Valancy, I decorated my castle and imagined romances for myself. I had a series of “lovers” (only one at a time, of course, like Valancy did) who each faded away as a new story presented itself to my mind.
I was never a shy child or a shy woman who cowed under the censure of a strong-willed family. I never had a dull life, was never colorless or mousy. I was not one bit like Valancy in personality or family circumstance–only in singleness and dreaming.
But that was enough for me to like her and be interested in her plight.
Thankfully, Valancy doesn’t stay a single doormouse caught up in her dreams (that’d be a rather boring book, wouldn’t it?) Instead, she receives some news that shocks her out of her complacency and compels her to start living real life.
She starts saying and doing the things she’s been thinking for so long. She throws the jar of mouldy potpouri that’s been sitting in her bedroom out the window and against the building next door: “I’m sick of the fragrance of dead things.” She announces to a dinner party of assembled family that “the greatest happiness is to sneeze when you want to.” And she moves out of her widowed mother and aunt’s house and into the home of a widowed man and his dying daughter.
And then she moves into her blue castle and building her own life–discovering along the way that her castle is a little different than she’d dreamed all along, and so much more wonderful. (I identify with this discovery completely.)
And then comes the second great shock of her life–a shock great enough to overthrow everything she’d been building for the past year (du-duh-DUH!)
I liked this book. I really, really did. And I think others will as well.
Rating: 4 stars
Synopsis: The only interesting thing in dull, mousy Valancy Stirling’s life is her dream world–the “Blue Castle” in Spain. But shocking news changes everything for her and she suddenly starts shocking everyone else by building a real life for herself–in anything but a dull, mousy way.
Recommendation: Definitely worth reading if you like romances (of the unsmutty variety) or L.M. Montgomery
I read this as a part of Carrie’s Reading to Know Classics Book Club and the L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge–which means you don’t have to take my word on the book as the final word. All sorts of other bloggers are reading and writing up their thoughts on The Blue Castle. Check them out!