This was my first L M Montgomery; after reading a review of it over on Vintage Reads and after hearing Elaine at Random Jottings wax lyrical about L M Montgomery, I decided it was high time to address the fact that 23 years of my life have managed to pass without an L M Montgomery book so much as featuring in them. I confess; I have not even read Anne of Green Gables. Shocking, I know! Serendipitously, after deciding I quite fancied reading The Blue Castle, and being disappointed to see that it was both out of print and very difficult to get hold of at a reasonable price, I managed to pick up a lovely copy cheaply on ebay and so the wonderful world of Valancy Stirling entered my life.
Valancy is 29; a plain, dull old maid, living with her widowed mother and Cousin Stickles, who treat her like a child and give her no freedom whatsoever. Cowed by the constant reprimands of her domineering mother and the rest of the varied Stirling clan who live in their small Canadian country town, Valancy is miserable but too afraid to do anything about it. She is the butt of family jokes, treated like a disappointment and an inconvenience by her own mother, and denied any opportunity to express her vivid imagination. Ever since she was a child Valancy has escaped her miserable existence by wishing herself away to her dream world, in which she lives in her beautiful ‘Blue Castle’ and is loved by a dashing young man. Only in her Blue Castle can Valancy be the woman she wants to be, but she wakes up on her 29th birthday with the realisation that she has nothing to look forward to, and she cannot go on living in a fantasy world. Something has to give.
So, Valancy makes her first step towards independence by going to see a doctor disapproved of by her family about a little heart problem she has been worried about. Devastatingly the doctor writes to her after her appointment to tell her that she only has a year to live; and with this news to give her the push she needs, Valancy decides to go out and live her life, for herself, for as long as she has left. To the shock and shame of her family, she ups and leaves to keep house for the local drunk and his fallen daughter who is dying of TB. While there, she becomes aware of her capabilities, finds happiness in her life for the first time, and even falls in love. From then on, the sky is her limit…but what will happen when her year is up??
I can’t tell you how much I LOVED this. It was such a simple, gentle story, but profound in its message that everyone has the capability of living a full and interesting and happy life, and that living your life in fear is a waste of your potential no matter how frightening taking those first steps into the territory we so fear may be. Valancy is so loveable, and her family so lacking in understanding of the spirit of adventure and romance that lights up her heart, that you can’t help but want everything to come right for her as she sets out on her journey of self discovery. The heartwarming story of how Valancy finds her very own real life Blue Castle is absolutely brilliant and, as Writerspet said in her comment on my previous post, it’s the sort of book where ‘everything you want to happen, happens.’ It’s practically perfect in every way, much like Mary Poppins, and this is going to become a comforting staple in my reading diet to lift my spirits whenever I feel down. What a magical, wonderful, gem of a book. It doesn’t deserve to be so forgotten, and I urge you, if you can find a copy, to read it, and believe in your dreams again!