Thursday, 27 August 2015

'The Blue Castle' by L.M. Montgomery (1926)

Synopsis: Valancy Stirling is 29 years old and lives in a small town called Deerwood in the Muskoka Lakes region of rural Ontario. Valancy has never married or been in love and is deeply lonely, insecure and depressed. Her family (especially her controlling mother and her older cousin) tyrannise her, constantly mock her for being a spinster, and see her as a burden and a failure. Valancy's only comforts in her miserable life are a series of poetic nature books by her favourite author John Foster and her vivid, romantic daydreams about her fantasy world. This is the "blue castle" - a beautiful place where all of her dreams and wishes come true and where she's loved by a dashing, young hero. But when Valancy makes a trip to the doctor about the strange pains that she's been having around her heart her life is then changed forever. She learns that she's suffering from an acute disease and that she'll be dead within a year. Although Valancy is naturally devastated by this it finally gives her the courage to go out and live her own life. To the shock and horror of her family, Valancy leaves home and becomes a housekeeper for the local drunk Roaring Abel and his fallen daughter Cissy, an old school-friend of Valancy's who is dying of consumption. During her time with Abel and Cissy, Valancy is transformed. She becomes much more self-confident and outspoken and finds happiness for the first time in her life. She also comes into frequent contact with the handsome town badboy Barney Snaith and finds herself falling in love with him... but what will happen when Valancy's year is up?

Oh my goodness how I loved this book! It's a pure Cinderella fairytale of the very highest quality and is easily one of the best books that I've read this year. Valancy Stirling is an extremely likeable heroine and the book itself contains some absolutely stunning descriptions of the Canadian wilderness. This book is also funny, romantic, gripping, moving, and utterly heart-warming. The Blue Castle happens to be my first L.M. Montgomery novel and it certainly won't be my last. And yep, you did read that last sentence correctly. I don't quite know how I managed it but I somehow made it to the age of 27 without reading a single one of Montgomery's books (gaaasp!) I'm sure many readers will feel that I've missed out by not getting to read any of them as a child and maybe I did. But having said that I think it's probably a good thing that I didn't manage to read this particular book up until now, because I believe The Blue Castle is one of only two books that Montgomery wrote with an adult audience in mind and there are some genuinely deep and meaningful themes in it - e.g. overcoming fears, embracing change, the idea of rebirth and new life - that I really don't think I'd have been able to fully appreciate as a child.

Some reviews of this book that I've read have pointed out that it's rather a predictable read, but the predictability of it in no way lessened the story for me and there was this one detail about the hero's past that I genuinely didn't see coming. In fact the only thing that I'd really criticise about this book would be the name of its hero! Because Barney Snaith has got to be one of the sexiest and most swoonworthy heroes that I've come across in years and yet I've never heard his name being mentioned in the pantheon of romantic literary heroes before. I'm convinced that it can only be because of his name because Barney is a pretty horrible name for the hero of a romance novel. Forgive me, Barneys of the world! 

The Blue Castle is such a lovely, happy, magical book and I would strongly recommend it to Jane Austen fans, especially those fans who particularly love Persuasion because The Blue Castle has some similar themes to that one. Now that I've read The Blue Castle I plan on moving on to Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon books in the near future. I'd love for someone to make a film adaptation of this book some day too! I've put down Felicity Jones and Ryan Gosling as Valancy and Barney on my Pinterest dream cast board :)

Rating: 5/5


Hayden said...

I. Love. This. Book. While the Anne series will always have first place in my heart, The Blue Castle is definitely my favorite out of all of L.M. Montgomery's other novels. I read it when I was older, too, of which I'm glad- I don't think I'd have quite appreciated or grasped everything in it when I was younger, either.

Oh, for them to make an (accurate) movie of it!

Hannah said...

It's just such a wonderful book isn't it?! :) I really can't believe that no-one's ever adapted it on screen before! (According to Wikipedia there have been a couple of stage adaptations of it).

Hamlette said...

I keep reading glowing reviews of this book, and it's on my to-read list, but you're making me bump it up my TBR list a ways :-)

Hannah said...

YAY! I really think you'd love this book, Hamlette! :)

Hamlette said...

I am reading it right now and it is so good that I stayed up past midnight reading it, which I almost never do. It is AWESOME!

Hannah said...

Yes it is! I'm so glad that you're enjoying it so much!!!!! And I can't wait for your eventual review!

Hamlette said...

Yes and Yes and YES YES YES!!!

All of what you said -- that's how I felt. Except I didn't mind Barney Snaith's name, other than being amused because I'd just read Dear Enemy, which had a character named Miss Snaith who was about as opposite from Barney as possible.

I read this book in 24 hours, that's how much I was caught up in it. My goodness, it's delicious, isn't it? Thanks for posting about it and giving me that final nudge that made me get it from the library at last!

Hannah said...

I'd say "delicious" is about right! And it was *me* who gave you that final nudge to read the book?! I'm honoured!

*does a little happy dance because you loved this book as much as I did*

Hamlette said...

Yup, see where I said I was bumping it up on my TBR list? I actually went right to the library website and put a hold on it right then.