Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

🌟 I read this for the Yule Bingo Challenge, for the category of Malfoy: Character you love to hate. For more info on this challenge, click here. 🌟

Oh man, this was just the palate cleanser I needed after all those crazy bodice ripper romances. L.M. Montgomery, author of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES fame, brings to the table something wickedly funny and wholesomely real with THE BLUE CASTLE: a story of a bitterly unhappy girl who learns to discover her true self in the face of a terrible tragedy.

The plot actually reminded me of the 2006 film, Last Holiday, starring Queen Latifah, and I couldn't help but wonder if Last Holiday was in some part inspired by THE BLUE CASTLE. THE BLUE CASTLE is about a girl named Valancy who lives with a bitter and miserable family, mired in tradition and utterly consumed with ritual and what's "proper."

Valancy is kept under their thumb, abused, and mocked for being a twenty-nine-year-old spinster, but her unhappiness is also the glue that not only keeps her family united, but also rationalizes their own self-misery and unhappiness. It's an utterly toxic atmosphere, and it's no wonder that Valancy suffers anxiety attacks and depression, and cries herself to sleep at night as she reminisces over past injustices while also hoping for something more. Her two spots of solace in the world are books by an author named John Foster, who writes beautiful prose on the Canadian wilderness, and a fantasyland of her own imaginings: Blue Castle, where everything is beautiful and goes according to her wishes.

One day, Valancy visits a doctor about one of her "spells" and finds out that she has a fatal heart defect, and only has a year to live. She decides that she doesn't want to spend that last year miserable, and begins telling off her awful relatives and living a scandalous but thoroughly happy life that leaves her relatives reeling, and also, of course, bitterly envious of her daring and contentment.

This was a really great story. Is it realistic? No. But it has an emotional depth that is somewhat lacking in the earlier Anne novels - perhaps because this book is intended for an older audience. Valancy's depression is depicted with gritty realism, and I felt utterly sorry for her in the beginning. I also liked her sarcasm and bitter wit - she's not at all like Anne; she's much more sarcastic and cynical, and her repartee with her awful relatives cracked me up. That cynicism, in many ways, reminded me of the terrible family in COLD COMFORT FARM. I think THE BLUE CASTLE is written for a much more cynical audience who, like Valancy, hasn't quite given up hope...

If you're a fan of clean and older romances, you should definitely pick up THE BLUE CASTLE. It's only 99-cents right now, and the realness of it, as well as the charming and slow burn romance, were exactly what I needed to get me through this cold and chilly Sunday. Be prepared to laugh, and enjoy some of the most beautiful descriptions of nature you've ever seen. I even learned a new word: incarnadine.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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