Title: The Blue Castle
Author: L. M. Montgomery
Synopsis (Courtesy of Indiebound): “At twenty-nine Valancy had never been in love, and it seemed romance had passed her by. Living with her overbearing mother and meddlesome aunt, she found her only consolations in the “forbidden” books of John Foster and her daydreams of the Blue Castle. Then a letter arrived from Dr. Trent — and Valancy decided to throw caution to the winds. For the first time in her life Valancy did and said exactly what she wanted. Soon she discovered a surprising new world, full of love and adventures far beyond her most secret dreams.”
Thoughts: I have always had a special infinity for Valancy. Growing up, Ms. Montgomery’s Anne stories were wonderful and idyllic, but Valancy is the character with whom I related the most. Her family is odd and overbearing. She is ignored and considered inconsequential by all family members, including her mother. She is bored, lonely and resigned to her fate as the family spinster.
The fact that she opts to do something without consulting the family and even forgoes the family doctor is the first sign that there is more to Valancy than initially appears. From the moment she receives that fateful letter from Dr. Trent, sparks fly, and the rest is pure magic. Valancy’s new release on life is hilarious, refreshing and absolutely inspiring. Who hasn’t wanted to tell certain family members exactly what one thinks about them? Who hasn’t wanted to ignore convention? Surrounded by eccentric but lovable characters who provide her the love and support she has craved all her life, she is no longer afraid to live and does so with such gusto, one cannot help but fall in love with her.
As a child reading The Blue Castle I never knew Ms. Montgomery’s biography. I knew she wrote wonderful novels but never took the time to discover who she was and what inspired her. Now that I have taken the time to read her history, the fact that Ms. Montgomery wrote this particular novel shortly before her suicide makes the story more poignant for me. Knowing how depressed Ms. Montgomery was for most of her life, I can’t help but wonder just how much of Valancy is Ms. Montgomery’s own cry for help. Was she trying to find her own happiness by writing about someone who struggles but eventually attains it? Did Ms. Montgomery view herself as Valancy does in the first half of the novel? If Ms. Montgomery were able to overcome her own demons, would she have been half as successful a writer? Was her search for happiness the impetus for her characters’ own personal searches? Valancy is all about searching out and making her own happiness. It isn’t easy for her, but she ultimately succeeds by finally being herself. It is unfortunate that Ms. Montgomery was not able to succeed as well.
Once Valancy decides to live for herself, happiness follows. As a young girl, this is such an impressive lesson to learn. Even better, the lesson never gets old no matter how many times one re-reads it. Having read this most recently with my book club, it was an absolute delight to see the reactions and life-changing epiphanies that so many fellow members had while reading The Blue Castle. Written by one of the most beloved children’s authors, it truly does appeal to people of all ages. Having re-read it more often than the Anne series, it was one of my all-time childhood favorite novels and remains one of my all-time favorite stories today.