I first heard of “The Blue Castle” by L.M. Montgomery from Jane. The fact that Ms. Montgomery has written anything outside of the “Anne of Green Gables” series was in itself a revelation, but the fact that she wrote adult novels was a whopper! Any girl who ever read Ann of Green Gables in her pre-teen years must become a lifelong devotee of Ms. Montgomery (some even later- my flat mate for instance read “Ann of Green Gables” just recently in her mid -30s and now she is convert! Imagine Ms. Montgomery’s effect then on adolescent youth!! ) and when you are a devotee, you stick by your Icon in all their shapes and forms. Naturally, to not read “The Blue Castle” was out of question and I finally wound down to do all kind of indulgent reading over this holiday and this book was lying among the top, HAS TO BE READ label!
The book is set in early 20th century and located in the fictional town of Deerwood, in Ontario. The novel opens with Valancy Sterling, our protagonist, waking up on a cold May morning, shedding copious tears, on her 29th birthday, reviewing all the have-not-dones in her life. She has lived her entire life among the large and formidable Sterling Clan, who have set narrow standards of how life ought to be led and by those standards, Valancy is a failure. She is 29 and has never been sought by any young man and is going to spend her whole life living as an old maid, living with her mother and cousin. She is neither good-looking, nor rich and therefore no man has even been interested in her and is completely dominated by her mother and constantly compared to her more beautiful and more socially acceptable cousin Olive. On top of all this, she is nicknames Doss and no one seems to be interested in addressing her as Valancy. Things however take a turn when, constantly bothered by a chest pain, Valancy consults a doctor, who tells her unequivocally that her heart is in a dangerous state and she has only one year to live. Finally realizing that the sands of time are slipping by, Valancy decides to shed her old life and live for this one year on her own terms. This includes moving out of her mother’s house, getting a job working for a town outcaste and falling in love with the town’s reprobate and living a thousand life times in a year. However, the fateful year is up and it’s time for Valancy to face the truth…
It is a lovely, slow-moving funny and soothing book. The characters are well defined and everyone’s role is cut out. Valancy Sterling is a very much a flesh and blood creature, inhibited by circumstances and when those circumstances become difficult, she discovers an inner courage and resilience that makes her a wonderful heroine. Barny Snaith completely answers to one’s idea of a hero –the reprobate with a heart of gold. The Sterling clan is exactly what it should be – horrid to live with, but absolutely laugh out loud funny when one reads of them.There are many hugely humorous moments and a strong sense of everyday fun, which keeps you smiling through the very end of the book. There are not too many wisdom nuggets or profound life truths in the book; but I think Ms. Montgomery was exactly doing that – writing a simple book, that highlighted the simple and therefore often overlooked pleasures of life. The plot is linear and everything kind of rushes in together headlong in the end, but it does not really effect the book. It’s got a lovely, absolutely marvelous Mill’s and Boon touch to the story, without being ekky, clichéd, kitschy and tactless, something most of today’s romances are. It is indeed a lovely love story of not only a man and woman, but also about loving life and loving nature. There are gorgeous descriptions of Muskoka region of Canada and the wilderness is described in all its splendor and beauty through the four seasons. There is some lovely lyrical portrayal of Southern Canada that makes you want to take the first flight to visit the place.
It’s a book you take out with you when you have the whole day stretching ahead with no plans you can sit soaking the winter sun, and multi task at reading this book in a unhurried manner and watch the squirrels play. Trust me this book is best read in natural surrounding!