The Blue Castle is a perfect example of marketing gone very, VERY wrong. Those silly publishers who gave this wonderful book such a tawdry cover and shallow synopsis have done L. M. Montgomery and Valancy Stirling a huge disservice. This isn't a conventional romance, but an inspiring story of a woman who takes control of her life and discovers a beautiful world living her dream, her Blue Castle. The positive reviews may sound a little over-enthusiastic, but women and girls have reaffirmed this book as an all-time favorite time and time again. Everyone I know who has read this wishes they had gotten to it sooner and/or laments its undeserved obscurity. My sister and I fight over our copy, stupid cover and all, since we both feel compelled to read it a few times a year.
Here's why: Valancy Stirling is an Everywoman - all of us can relate to her helplessness and apathy, her joys and triumphs. In Valancy's case, her intimidating, suffocating family and poverty have instilled fear from a young age, when she was an insignificant little girl. After a lifetime of negative comments, she finds herself a hopeless, though respectable, old maid at the age of 29, unloved and unwanted even by her own mother. Then Dr. Trent tells her she has a terminal heart condition, and Valancy throws all caution to the winds, deciding to really *live* for her last few months.
Her repressed personality and spirit finally express themselves, often humorously and cheekily. She says what's on her mind, sees her relatives as the sillies they are, and very importantly, refuses to wear her hated red flannel petticoat. You will feel deliciously refreshed as Valancy lives on her own terms for once. The characters are well drawn with Montgomery's typically detailed hand, giving life to each of the distinctive citizens of Deerwood, from hilarious Roaring Abel to sweet Cissy to the fearsome Rev. Stalling, as well as many members of the upright, uptight Stirling clan. Also as important as the people is the marvelous Muskoka "outback," with its evocative descriptions in the John Foster books Valancy devours, and the lovely little island of Mistawis and its natural wonders.
Most readers will agree that The Blue Castle is an adult book. Considering L. M. Montgomery wrote *all* her books for an adult audience, this isn't strange. What makes this one more so isn't content so much as appreciation. Any adolescent will enjoy the book, but it takes those years after being a teen to truly empathize with Valancy's story. The Blue Castle is about disappointment and renewal, bitterness and second chances, rarely in the realm of an age of "firsts;" which is why this one markedly lacks the preciousness that is often found (appropriately) in the "younger" books like The Story Girl, the Anne of Green Gables, and the Emily of New Moon books. Give this book a try - you won't regret it. This is one to share and pass on.