I count the Anne of Green Gables series among the formative books of my life. I read them countless times as a child, teen, and young adult, though it has been many years since I read them end-to-end. However, I never dipped into any of L.M. Montgomery's other books, until this past week.
As part of the Back-to-the-Classics challenge, I decided to read Montgomery's The Blue Castle for Children's/Young Adult category. Actually, however, the front flap of the newly issued Hesperus Press Limited edition that I read said that The Blue Castle is one of Montgomery's "only novels intended for an adult audience." Be that as it may, it still read as a YA book to me. Despite the grim premise--a desperately unhappy 29-year old woman is told she has a terminal illness and only has a year to live--it is replete with the enchanting descriptions of the magical powers of nature that characterize the AoGG stories.
The garden was lying in the magic of the warm, odorous July twilight. A few stars were out and the robins were calling through the velvety silences of the barrens.The whimsically named Valancy Stirling is definitely a kindred spirit of Anne Shirley, and shares with her a beautiful core that eventually shines through the shabby exterior. Montgomery frequently describes Valancy in language similar to that she used for Anne: "She really looked like a wild elf strayed out of the greenwood."
What I really liked about The Blue Castle was Valancy's willingness to finally take responsibility for her own happiness. There is a harshness and bitterness in Valancy that you never see in Anne, but then Anne found a family and love and security at age 11...better late than never! In a way, this is a "what-if" Anne story. What if Anne hadn't been adopted by the Cuthberts when she was 11--what if she had to continue to soldier on, unloved, unwanted, unappreciated, not understood?
The message of The Blue Castle is powerful--you can escape into a dreamland, you can construct a beautiful blue castle in your head if that's what you need to get you through times of darkness and loneliness--but if you want to live, you have to act, break out, break away, and make that blue castle a reality.
The writing is a bit precious and the romance a bit contrived, but I enjoyed reading this book immensely. Like visiting an old friend but one who has new stories to tell.