Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Blue Castle

The Blue Castle
L.M. Montgomery
1926, McClelland and Stewart Limited

Valancy wakened early, in the lifeless, hopeless hour just preceding dawn. She had not slept very well. One does not sleep very well, sometimes, when one is twenty-nine on the morrow, and unmarried, in a community and connection where the unmarried are simply those who have failed to get a man.

Bullied and neglected by her extended family, Valancy Jane Stirling has grown to a miserable, shrinking womanhood, trapped between the conflicting demands of those around her. She listened to their admonitions to be proper, to be quiet, to be well-behaved and somehow all it's done is make her the family disappointment and old maid, ignored unles someone has a slighting remark to make, afraid of everything. Afraid of the one boy who tried to kiss her when she was sixteen. Afraid of being cut out of the will of a wealthy uncle. Afraid of her mother's endless icy silences. But in the privacy of Valancy's own thoughts, where her humor and soul have been hiding since childhood, she inhabits a wonderful fantasy world.

Valancy had two home - the ugly red brick box of a home on Elm Street, and the Blue Castle in Spain. Valancy had lived spiritually in the Blue Castle ever since she could remember... Always, when she shut her eyes, she could see it plainly, with its turrets and banners on the pine-clad mountain height, wrapped in its faint, blue loveliness, against the sunset skies of a fair and unknown land.

Back in cold, proper Deerwood, Valancy has always been plagued by ill health. But when Valancy, dullest and vaguest of old-before-her-time maids, goes to the doctor in secret about her sharpening chest pains, the results electrify her clan and her town.

For Valancy has been handed a death sentence. One year to live. And meek, frightened Valancy suddenly has nothing to lose, and nothing to fear. But her family does. Valancy doesn't tell her smothering, unloving family, who would make her final months as mindlessly painful as her previous 29 years, and they're confused when their humble victim suddenly becomes outspoken and fearless. And they're horrified when Valancy, so dull and proper, first moves into a disreputable household to care for a dying girl who'd been the subject of much gossip after bearing an illegitimate baby, and then marries local scoundrel Barney Snaith.

In that year, Valancy, for the first time in her life, is happy. She adores Barney's snug little cabin in the woods, the beauty of nature all around her a feast for her eyes after living in a cramped and ugly house. Barney makes a good companion, undemanding and comfortable to live with, asking only that Valancy respect his locked study. She agrees wholeheartedly, finding more than enough to do in simply being her own person for once - free to eat when she likes, swim all day in the summer, sleep late or go to bed late, etc.

Holmes speaks of grief 'staining backward' through the pages of life; but Valancy found her happiness had stained backward likewise and flooded with rose-colour her whole previous drab existence.

And then - disaster. Will Valancy and Barney's idyllic existence survive an utterly unexpected piece of news?

About the Author

Books by L.M. Montgomery
Anne Of Green Gables (1908)
Anne Of Avonlea (1909)
Anne Of The Island (1915)
Anne Of Windy Poplars
Anne's House Of Dreams (1917)
Anne Of Ingleside
Rainbow Valley (1919)
Rilla Of Ingleside (1921)
Chronicles Of Avonlea (1912)
Further Chronicles Of Avonlea (1920)
Emily Of New Moon (1923)
Emily Climbs (1925)
Emily's Quest (1927)
The Story Girl (1911)
The Golden Road (1913)
Pat Of Silver Bush (1932)
Mistress Pat (1935)
Kilmeny Of The Orchard (1910)
Magic For Marigold (1929)
A Tangled Web (1931)
Jane Of Lantern Hill (1937)

Anne of Green Gables websites
There are many websites and forums devoted to Anne and her creator. One clearinghouse of them is Tickled Orange

Montgomery's books star Prince Edward Island, which has responded gratefully to the tourism results. Prince Edward Island tourism site

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