Monday, December 12, 2011

{review} the blue castle

L. M. Montgomery The Blue Castle (1926)

Valancy wakened early, in the lifeless, hopeless hour just preceding dawn. She had not slept very well. One does not sleep 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. 
What can I say about this lovely, lovely book that hasn't already been said? I devoured it in almost one sitting, as though it was some light but luscious, slightly sickly choux pastry creation inhaled on the footpath outside a pâtisserie. Like a Ladurée violet religeuse.

This is one of those books that you pick up in the sure knowledge that everything is going to turn out alright for the likeable heroine and her hero, despite the very long odds:
"Oh, if I could only have a house of my own—ever so poor, so tiny—but my own! But then," she added bitterly, "there is no use in yowling for the moon when you can't even get a tallow candle." 
It's like a check-list of everything one wants in an L.M.Montgomery book: fab scenery, gruesome but dainty deaths from tuberculosis as punishment for moral infringement, a secret fortune, mistaken medical diagnoses, and, oh yes, Lurv with a capital L.

Valancy is that dreadful creature, a spinster with romantic longings, living under the thumb of a bullying mother and stern gossipy community.

People like prudish "Second Cousin Sarah Taylor, with her great, pale, expressionless eyes, who was noted for the variety of her pickle recipes and for nothing else. So afraid of saying something indiscreet that she never said anything worth listening to. So proper that she blushed when she saw the advertisement picture of a corset and had put a dress on her Venus de Milo statuette which made it look 'real tasty'."

The writing is so wickedly good, which carries what is really a roll-call of (delightfully grim) clichés. For example, the line, "After all their bright hopes at the funeral!", or "'Fun!' Mrs. Frederick uttered the word as if Valancy had said she was going to have a little tuberculosis."

"I don't know what it would be like not to be afraid of something". Valancy daydreams away her sorrows by living a secret life filled with romance in the 'Blue Castle' of her imagination. She is thoroughly annoyingly spineless: "Valancy never said what she thought". Her mother is thoroughly stereotypically an evil [step]mother.

And then something happens that I'm not going to tell you and Valancy is presented with an opportunity to live large. Will she take it?

Words to drop in conversation: lambrequin.

Rating: 10/10 for sheer, gorgeous escapist romance coupled with ingenious plot and lovely writing.

If you liked this... it's got to be Anne of the Island. I don't think I ever got over Gilbert's narrow escape from death. Montgomery writes a great near-fatal illness.

BTW: I read this on the Kindle via a not wholly typo-free $4 copy on epubebookeditions.com.au. Proof-reading, folks...

2 comments:

  1. I loved this. Just loved it. And am giving it to my sister for Christmas, because she's going to love it, too. And for all the reasons you say: because I can see Anne in it, because it's so very Canadian, because I knew what was going to happen, because I love tuberculosis stories, because it's funny. Oh, now I want to read it again.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Jenny - I think this book will be on my 'must reread every year' list. I wonder if anyone's done a themed post on great tuberculosis scenes in fiction?!

    ReplyDelete

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