“Valancy was in the midst of realities after a lifetime of unrealities.”
L.M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle is one of her stand-alone novels. It is also one of the few she wrote for adults. The story opens on the morning of Valancy Stirling’s twenty-ninth birthday. “The only homely girl in a handsome clan, with no past and no future,” Valancy is unmarried and lives with her widowed mother and a widowed cousin. All her life she has lacked the gumption to do or say anything against her family members who have treated her like a delicate, not-too-intelligent child.
Shortly after her birthday, she finds out she has only a year to live. Suddenly, what do conventions matter? How can the disapprobation of her family hurt her? Valancy has experienced very little of life and has been of no use to anyone. She decides that before she dies she will dare to find some happiness that no one can take from her.
Though Montgomery doesn’t leave out any of her stock characters in this novel, the heroine is not one of them. Valancy lacks money, looks, opportunity, ambition, and talent. Yet, she digs deep and finds the courage to overcome her fears, which are really what has held her back all her life.
Going after the Blue Castle of her dreams requires Valancy to flout the conventions and expectations of her family, but she does not flout morality. This is not a racy romance, but it is a romance and the characters are adults. One of the characters is the town drunk. Valancy befriends his daughter who has been disgraced and to whom decent people do not speak. This is one of my favorite Montgomery novels, but it would not be on my list of follow-up stories for young girls who have loved Anne, Emily, or Pat.
You can find all of our L. M. Montgomery book reviews here.