Sunday, December 6, 2015

#42 [2015/CBR7] "The Blue Castle" by L.M. Montgomery

Anne with an 'e' played a huge role in my childhood. I can't remember when my mom first bought me Anne of Green Gables, but the rest of the series followed soon after. The first time I saw the movie, I was enthralled. The casting was perfect, and I was in love with Gilbert. The Emily trilogy was an exciting find as well, although not quite as impressionable. I always assumed I'd read everything by L.M. Montgomery, but then I found a review for The Blue Castle (1926) on Cannonball. L.M. Montgomery wrote a romantic novel for adults? How could I not know about this? So, I picked it up. Although it wasn't quite as inspiring as Anne was to my childhood, I was not disappointed.

Valency is 29 years old and she's already given up. She's an old maid, controlled and belittled by her horrible family. She hates her home, her room, and her imposed life. Any misstep and her mother attacks her with vile, passive aggressive threats. But when she goes to a doctor for chest pain and discovers she has a bad heart and will die shortly, her perspective and priorities change. Valency begins to stand up for herself, separating herself from her family, and not concerning herself with pious appearances. She moves in with a young childhood friend who needs help and meets the town's scoundrel, Barney Snaith. Rumor has it that he is some kind of criminal, but the new Valency doesn't care.

If you haven't read The Blue Castle yet, I recommend that you stop reading this review and go find the book. I think the less you know of the plot the better. Spoilers follow, the more spoilers the farther you read. Anyway, when Valency's friend dies, she has no place to go besides her hated home. Instead, she proposes marriage to Barney Snaith, explaining that she's desperate for independence and fated to die anyway. Barney agrees and Valency moves to Barney's isolated cottage on the lake--the aforementioned blue castle. Valency loves everything about her new life and she and Barney grow closer, despite the numerous secrets he continues to keep from her. As is probably to be expected, everything works out in the end. ***SPOILERS FOR REAL NOW*** I thought it was obvious that Barney was Valency's favorite author, and I figured we wouldn't go through all of that just to have Valency die in the end. However, I was surprised that Barney was also the son of the rich and famous doctor. That almost took it a little too far. Valency had already found a happy life for herself, she didn't need extreme riches as well.

I really enjoyed this book and I'm so glad I heard about it. L.M. Montgomery did an amazing job with Valency's horrible family, and it was so refreshing to see Valency finally standing up for herself. The love story between Barney and Valency was sweet and sincere. My only problem was that I had to read this book as something of a fairy tale. In real life, if your partner is looked on with suspicion by everyone you know and he keeps huge parts of his life a secret from you, those are some serious red flags. Finally, I feel a little dirty bringing the subject of sex into such a pure book, but once they got married, Valency and Barney were having sex, right? They weren't just living together? Valency said something about loving having his arms around her. But wasn't she worried about getting pregnant and either hastening her demise or leaving a helpless baby with Barney--which was not part of the bargain? I'm curious because it was a distracting concern for me.

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