The Blue Castle- L. M. Montgomery

9780770422349-us-300

 

Valancy had lived spiritually in the Blue Castle ever since she could remember. She had been a very tiny child when she found herself possessed of it. 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. Everything wonderful and beautiful was in that castle. Jewels that queens might have worn; robes of moonlight and fire; couches of roses and gold; long flights of shallow marble steps, with great, white urns, and with slender, mist-clad maidens going up and down them; courts, marble-pillared, where shimmering fountains fell and nightingales sang among the myrtles; halls of mirrors that reflected only handsome knights and lovely women–herself the loveliest of all, for whose glance men died. All that supported her through the boredom of her days was the hope of going on a dream spree at night. Most, if not all, of the Stirlings would have died of horror if they had known half the things Valancy did in her Blue Castle.- Lucy Maud Montgomery, The Blue Castle

This is the sort of book that makes me so glad to be a reader. Montgomery is an EXTREMELY talented and beautiful writer. Recently I’ve been finding myself wanting to read more of her work because it’s honestly like a balm. There’s  a feeling I would get very often as a child when I was discovering the world of literature and everything was fresh and new; it’s a feeling  that as an adult I rarely get close to reliving, but in this book I did see some glimmers of it.

I’d never read any Montgomery books outside of the Anne series and anyone who’s read those books knows how special they are. This story took me back to my preteens in Africa when I was first introduced to Anne by my aunt who then lived in the Maritimes (Nova Scotia). Now that Canada is my home, and because I’ve visited Prince Edward Island, Montgomery’s beloved home, I have to say I feel even more attached to Montgomery now, knowing first-hand where she got much of her inspiration from.

This is the story of 29-year-old spinster, Valancy Stirling, the old-fashioned and archaic word for single woman being used because those were conservative times where a woman who was single after a certain age was considered to be a loser. As the book said, “She was twenty-nine, lonely, undesired, ill-favoured–the only homely girl in a handsome clan, with no past and no future.” Our heroine is single, miserable, and part of a large clan where she sees herself as invisible, has a lot of fear, has no friends, and has never really known happiness in her life. In her sad existence, all she has is her blue castle: her imagination. A pivotal experience in her life (no spoilers), however, changes her life forever.

I loved the new Valancy; I fully support women who have thrown off their shackles, decided enough is enough, and have decided to live authentically. Recently I’ve been reading a lot of feminist texts that have reminded me what this empowerment means and just how important it is. Rereading Audre Lorde and rediscovering her famous quote,  “My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you”, made me think of how apt it was in Valancy’s case, and how life-giving it is when we realize that we can totally be free:

“‘I’ve been trying to please other people all my life and failed,’ she said. ‘After this I shall please myself. I shall never pretend anything again. I’ve breathed an atmosphere of fibs and pretences and evasions all my life. What a luxury it will be to tell the truth! I may not be able to do much that I want to do but I won’t do another thing that I don’t want to do. Mother can pout for weeks–I shan’t worry over it. ‘Despair is a free man–hope is a slave'”

The freedom and life that Valancy experiences after the big turning point in her life warmed my heart. And it made me laugh to read how Valancy’s relatives thought she had gone mad because of course free-thinking women have clearly lost it.

What I also adored about this book was Montgomery’s veneration of nature. Although the book is set near Muskoka, Ontario, Montgomery got her nature-writing muse from PEI which is, in my humble opinion, one of the most beautiful places in Canada. Montgomery’s descriptions of nature makes you want to be in it:

“…the woods, when they give at all, give unstintedly, and hold nothing back from their true worshippers. We must go to them lovingly, humbly, patiently, watchfully, and we shall learn what poignant loveliness lurks in the wild places and silent intervales, lying under starshine and sunset, what cadences of unearthly music are harped on aged pine boughs or crooned in copses of fir, what delicate savours exhale from mosses and ferns in sunny corners or on damp brooklands, what dreams and myths and legends of an older time haunt them. Then the immortal heart of the woods will beat against ours and its subtle life will steal into our veins and make us its own forever, so that no matter where we go or how widely we wander we shall yet be drawn back to the forest to find our most enduring kinship.”

Highly recommended! One of my favourite reads of the year ❤

Advertisements

18 thoughts on “The Blue Castle- L. M. Montgomery

  1. I love this review! I’ve also been an “Anne fan” since I discovered her as a teen, & yes, reading Montgomery is like a balm, something desperately needed right now. ‘Brings back my desire to visit P.E.I.!

  2. I feel as though I know Valancy! I looked through my books and couldn’t find her so have downloaded a copy! L.M. Montgomery is the primary reason reading has been my greatest enjoyment! Love being able to so easily obtain books on my IPad! There have been so many beautiful writers but L.M. Montgomery is close to my heart!

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  3. I’m so glad you loved this book. All of her books feel like comfort to me.
    Beautiful pictures of PEI!
    Are you planning to read any more of Montgomery’s books soon?

    1. Hi Naomi, thank you so much!:) Yes, I’m actually currently reading Volume 1 of her journals and I’m loving it so much. After I’ve finished with that one I think I want to reread the Anne series. Are there any other LMM books you’d recommend?

      1. If you like the Anne series, then I’m pretty sure you’d also like the Emily series, so that’s a good place to start. I would also recommend The Blue Castle, but you’ve already read it. Another good standalone is Jane of Lantern Hill.
        But, really, I would recommend all of them. 🙂

  4. I think this is the most wonderful book in the world, and you’ve quoted my favourite passage from it. Thank you!

    I can never decide whether deciding one’s most enduring kinship is with the woods is very sad, very honest or very fortunate. And I always wonder who LM Montgomery was thinking of when she came up with Barney.

    1. Yay, you’re welcome! It’s a book I’m going to reread again and again! I’m curious about who Barney is modelled after too. I’m actually reading Montgomery’s journals so maybe I’ll come across the answer 🙂

  5. The Anne series is one of my favorites of all time (though it’s been some years since I’ve read them), but strangely enough, I too have never read any of L.M. Montgomery’s many other works. Thanks for posting a review of this one, as it really strikes a chord somewhere in my heart :).

    1. You’re welcome, Jupiter, and thank you! I stayed away from Montgomery’s books outside the Anne series as I was subconsciously afraid of being disappointed but this was highly recommended and I’m so glad I gave it a go:)

  6. Great review! I have only read three of the Anne books (and just in the past couple of years). I’m pleased to hear such good things from an Anne fan about a different book by Montgomery. I’ll have to check this out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s