The first time I read The Blue Castle, I read it soooooooo fast that I recall very little of the detail. I had just found out about the controversy surrounding this book and my long-time favourite Colleen McCullough book, The Ladies of Missalonghi. Therefore I read The Blue Castle constantly comparing and looking for similarities and differences; I didn’t read it for itself.
(Please click on the two book links above to get the backstory for this controversy.)
This reread, however, was all about enjoying The Blue Castle purely and simply for itself. Thanks to a hectic life schedule atm, I was looking for a quick, easy, comforting read to sink into.
My first observation is that The Blue Castle was a much richer, emotionally satisfying story than I remembered. Yes, it’s predictable and sentimental, but it’s done so well and hits just the right note when one is in the mood for this kind of book.
It was also a love letter to the woods ‘up back‘ of Canada.
Once or twice night overtook them, too far from their Blue Castle to get back. But Barney mad a fragrant bed of bracken and fir boughs and they slept on it dreamlessly, under a ceiling of old spruces with moss hanging from them, while beyond them moonlight and the murmur of pines blended together so that one could hardly tell which was light and which was sound.
|Whitt Island, Lake Muskoka, Ontario|
There is something so satisfying in owning a whole island. And isn’t an uninhabited island a charmng idea? I’d wanted one ever since I read Robinson Crusoe. It seemed to good to be true. And beauty! Most of the scenery belongs to the government, but they don’t tax you for looking at it, and the moon belongs to everyone.
Valancy looked – and looked – and looked again. There was a diaphanous, lilac mist on the lake, shrouding the island. Through it the two enormous pine-trees that clasped hands over Barney’s shack loomed out like dark turrets. Behind them was a sky still rose-hued in the afterlight, and a pale young moon.
A question though – how do you pronounce Valancy? Is is Vuh-lan- cy, Val-arn-cy or Val-ancy? I’m leaning towards the latter as it roles of the tongue quite nicely. Is Valancy a traditional Canadian name or is it a significant name in L.M. Montgomery’s own backstory?
(I just found this post with very helpful, interesting comments all about the name Valancy. God, I love the world wide web!)
The lesson we learn from Valancy about conquering your fears and being true to yourself, remains a powerful one that transcends time and place. Sure there’s an ugly duckling/wish fulfilment element here as well, but dreams do come true, just not easy, as Valancy also found out.
She was no longer unimportant, little old maid Valancy Stirling. She was a woman, full of love and therefore rich & significant – justified to herself. Life was no longer empty & futile, and death could cheat her if nothing. Love had cast out her last fear.
Which kind of makes Valancy a Canadian Jane Eyre.
I loved this quote in particular:
Valancy was in the midst of realities after a lifetime of unrealities.
Valancy had spent her life dreaming about and fantasising about another life; a better life that took place in her Blue Castle. Her life was stifled, suppressed and repressed by her family and by societal standards of the time. Without knowing it, her life was on hold, in limbo. So many of us feel this at some point in our lives; at least I did for most of my childhood years.
And that is where it’s success and beauty lies. For anyone who has felt like the ugly duckling or unnoticed or fearful about life, The Blue Castle gives hope and inspiration. We all have the power to do-over, make-over and reinvent ourselves. We can all rise above the mores of the world around us and be true to ourselves. That is the path to happiness.
The Blue Castle is a book that deserves to be in a leisurely manner. I’m glad I waited for the right weekend and the right to mood to fall into this little treasure once again. Along with The Ladies of Missalonghi (to be reread for #AusReadingMonth) I now have two delicious stories to turn to when in the mood for a charming, nostalgic romance.
Visiting Canada or Prince Edward Island is not an easy proposition when you live in Australia, but one of my sisters visited PEI in 2008 for the 200th anniversary of Anne of Green Gables. She knew exactly which big sister would love these coasters the most!