L.M. Montgomery has long been one of my favorite authors. Like many over-energetic, imaginative girls with a knack for getting in (and out) of trouble, I found a kindred spirit in the feisty Anne of Green Gables. I spent many summer days enacting favorite scenes from Anne of Green Gables with friends in the woods behind my family’s house. It was L.M. Montgomery, among other authors, who set me on the path to becoming the hopeless romantic I am today.
In revisiting Anne of Green Gables recently, I uncovered a particularly entertaining book report poster I made in third grade. Favorite scenes: Anne hitting Gilbert with the slate and Gilbert rescuing Anne. I don’t know if I would go so far as to call Anne of Green Gables “the best book on earth” today, but it’s definitely a novel I re-read often!
But, I’m getting side-tracked. The subject of this post is, in actuality, The Blue Castle (1926), a lesser-known Montgomery novel and one of her only adult books. The Blue Castle is a classic, endearing love story written with the same charm that makes Anne of Green Gables timeless.
Like many romance novel heroines, Valancy Stirling seems damned to old maidhood. Twenty-nine, unmarried, and still living with her mother and assorted relations, Valancy leads an uneventful existence, eased only by her own imaginings and her reading. Fear defines her life. She does not ever challenge her boring, boorish relations, follows propriety to a tee, and suffers in silence.
When suddenly diagnosed with a fatal heart condition and told she could die at any moment, Valancy decides she does not want to die without ever having lived and throws caution to the wind. Valancy flies the familial coop and takes up residence with her once childhood friend Cissy, who has been ostracized as a fallen woman. Valancy becomes the family’s housekeeper while caring for Cissy, who is likewise suffering from a serious illness.
It is at Cissy’s house that Valancy encounters Barney Snaith, a loner with a bad reputation whom she has long admired from afar. Nurtured by her newfound friends and freedom, Valancy begins to let her true colors show.
When Cissy passes away, Valancy’s family implores her to return home. Rather than surrender her happiness, however, Valancy asks Barney to marry her. After learning about her condition, he accepts her request out of pity and friendship, even though he cannot return her love.
Montgomery builds the heartwarming friendship between Valancy and Barney masterfully, keeping the reader fully invested in their success as a couple throughout every hardship.
While the love story of The Blue Castle is really wonderfully done, I especially enjoyed L.M. Montgomery’s message about how fear can cloud our will to act out our thoughts and desires. It is all too easy to be held down out of fear of failure or what others think. The Blue Castle is a celebration of being true to yourself.