L.M. Montgomery, 1926
Valancy Stirling is a young woman in 1920’s Canada who lives firmly under her mother’s thumb until a life event propels her from subservience to freedom. Further details about the life event would cross into spoiler territory. Valancy’s transition from a closed-in life to one of freedom is reflected in her surroundings as she moves from a stifling home in the city to the fresh air and bracing winds of the Canadian countryside.
What do I love? I enjoy Valancy’s voice, and celebrate her courage once she finds it. The word-pictures used to describe the Canadian wilderness are fresh and appealing – and the story is funny in parts. I am struck by Valancy’s resemblance to my grandmother, who would have been roughly the same age as Valancy and was also raised in a rural area near a small northern town (in Michigan). She never said as much, but I like to imagine her reading this book and finding a kindred spirit in Valancy, whose demeanor is so similar to Genevieve in her twenties as I imagine her.
Valancy’s sudden and effortless about-face from shy mouse to fearless woman, with little to no internal struggle as she makes her transformation, seems unrealistic, and Valancy’s relatives are one-dimensional and cliche. However, none of those flaws diminishes my enjoyment of the story, which gets five stars for the pure pleasure of reading.
I recommend The Blue Castle as a charming read that, at 221 pp for the trade paperback, won’t require much investment of your time. Here is the link to the edition I purchased: Sourcebooks
A couple of thoughts unrelated to the review:
I noted after finishing the book that it was stickered as “Young Adult Fiction, Ages 10 and Up.” I read it for a classic fiction book group made up of adults only, so this surprised me. Valancy, and most of the other characters, are decidedly adult. The publisher’s web site as listed on a couple of times on the copyright page and end papers reflects the young adult status: teenfire.sourcebooks.com.
My limited research tells me that Colleen McCollough, who wrote The Thorn Birds, may have used The Blue Castle as a basis for her novel The Ladies of Missalonghi – subconsciously. Clearly I need to add this to my upcoming reading list.