July 31, 2016

The Blue Castle~L.M.Montgomery

“Fear is the original sin,” suddenly said a still, small voice away back—back—back of Valancy’s consciousness. “Almost all the evil in the world has its origin in the fact that some one is afraid of something.”  Blue Castle: Valancy stood up. She was still in the clutches of fear, but her soul was her own again. She would not be false to that inner voice.:
Yayyyy. Recently I was pondering on how long it's been since a new book came my way that drew me head over heels into its story. I wanted something new and exciting, some book that would sweep me off my feet for love of it and add another fictional world-and accompanying characters-to my collection of favorite stories.  A story that would leave me thinking of the characters, mentally drawing new stories for them, or a story that inspires to pick up my pencil and chip away at my own writing projects. Well, thankfully I received L. M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle for my birthday.

This book is definitely one of Montgomery's finest, in my opinion. It's nothing majestic or different or astonishingly exciting. It many ways it could almost be labeled cliche or predictable, but I just couldn't say that about this book. Anything you would label as such is covered over by all that's fresh, bright, witty, and unique.

First off, we have our heroine, with her utterly unique name, Valancy. Oh, what a lovely heroine. I wouldn't say I particularly relate to her, but I understood her. I ached for her when the book opens to describe her awful existence. For the most part, I could sympathize with her door-mat personality (although I did have a few moments of thinking "WHY do you put up with this?!!") and I wanted to hug her and be her friend and encourage her and help bring sunshine into her life. And I would definitely have encouraged her to leave her family and strike out on her own. Family or not, they're horrid. And Valancy is 29 years old! She has every right to find her own "place" in the world.

(Oh, and I find it really refreshing to have a heroine who is NOT a teenager or in her early twenties. I do love heroines like that, but older, more mature ones are scarce and this should not be so. How many people have all their excitement in life happen when they're just past childhood?)

 (Yes, I know I'm comparing real life with fiction, but hush. My point still stands. Look at Corrie Ten Boom!) (Although, her "excitement" wasn't exactly...exciting. But I digress.)

(Oh, and you should all read The Hiding Place. One of the most inspiring books I've ever read.)

(I promise, I'm getting back to the review now.)
Behind the Scenes - Alicia Vikander (Vera Brittain) - Testament of Youth (2015) directed by James Kent:
Before reading TBC,  I had seen dream casts for a movie of the said story, and so I think the faces for Barney and Valancy kind of stuck with me. I'm pretty sure I recall Alicia Vikander as being a possibility for Valancy. But, whether she was or not, I pictured her a little like that.

Barney. Barney. Baaarrrneeey. Okay, other than your rather horrid name (it conjures images of a purple dinosaur and a rather inept policeman) you are wonderful. I wouldn't put you on my list of favorite heroes (well, maybe I would) but I did really love you and what you did for Valancy and when you saved her from the train and when you finally told her you loved her and....yeah.

*spoilers* And oh, wasn't the proposal adorable? I just loved its unorthodox-ness and the matter-of-fact attitude in which all is arranged. And then, later on, we finally get his declaration of love and...ohhh. SO sweet. Let me just include this part:

"Love you! Girl, you're in the very core of my heart. I hold you there like a jewel. Didn't I promise you I'd never tell you a lie? Love you! I love you with all there is of me to love. Heart, soul, brain. Every fibre of body and spirit thrilling to the sweetness of you. There's nobody in the world for me but you, Valancy.” 

If that's not one of the most romantic declarations ever, then I don't know what is.
*end spoilers*

Fassbender in Slow West:

As for Barney, Hamlette's suggestion of Michael Fassbender is something I definitely agree with. And yet, I also pictured him a little like Dan Deluca, who played Jack Kelly in the tour of Newsies.
Dan Deluca in the touring cast of Disney's Newsies (Photo by Deen Van Meer) Can't wait to see this cast in January!:
(Why do I keep mentioning the tour of Newsies? I'm just making myself upset.....)
(It's 5 hours away from me right now and I want to see it sooooo bad! -sniff-)

*spoilers*
Going into this, I knew very little about the plot, but enough to keep me waiting for Barney's appearance. And, I honestly don't know how I figured this out, but the moment the librarian told Valancy about her favorite author being "anonymous" and "no one knows where he lives", I knew it was Barney. For awhile I thought I must have read it somewhere and forgot, but then my mom read the book (right after finishing it I thrust it upon her. "HERE. You must read this book!!") and she guessed that early on, too. Both of us were surprised when he turned out to be Dr. Redfern's son, though! Oh, and I was pleasantly surprised to find Barney wasn't previously married. I figured he had some sort of Romantic Past, and though widowers finding a second love works really well in some stories, I just didn't see that for this one.
*end spoilers*

So, for those of you who don't know the story, Valancy lives a monotonous, stifled life with her mother. She has a large family, and none of them understand her or treat her very kindly. She's an old maid, with nothing to look forward to in life. And then, she gets some news from her doctor that flips everything she thought about her life upside down. She finally decides to stand up to her family, and strike out on her own. She agrees to become the housekeeper of Roaring Abel, the notorious town drunk, and be a companion for his dying daughter, Cissy. It just so happens that Barney Snaith, the man everyone in town thinks to be a murderer, extortionist, gambler, and anything else that is remotely bad, happens to be friends with Roaring Abel and so he and Valancy meet often.  She has never believed the stories they told about him-or at least one in particular-and they become friends. Meanwhile, her family looks on in horror. They're certain that timid, mouse-like little Valancy has gone mad.

There's so much humor and romance scattered throughout the story. The dance at Chidley Corners started out exciting, but eventually progressed to a sweet scene because of broken down car--and then a hilarious encounter with two of Valancy's relatives.

That's another thing I love about this book. Goodness, it was so FUNNY sometimes! I smiled and laughed quite often at Valancy's various mental (and spoken) observations about her family and all sorts of things. L. M. Montgomery's narration is also quite delightful and witty.

And then we have the descriptions. Goodness, I forget what talent Montgomery has at description. (Okay, I don't actually forget, but I take it for granted till I read her work again.) I confess at times I would start to skim her delicious imagery to get back to the characters (more dialogue, please!), but I then I would stop and try to make myself read it slowly because it's just so darn beautiful.
10 things to do in Northern Ontario.  Picture of a canoe in Algonquin Provincial Park, Canada:
Living in Michigan myself, I loved how the area the story is set in (Muskoka, Canada) reminded me of northern Michigan rather than Canada. I love Prince Edward Island, but it was really nice getting a break from that setting and having a more woodsy, lake feel. Like a camping trip or a hike during the misty, chilly morning. It was beautiful. And it makes me want to LIVE in Muskoka. Could it get any more beautiful?

And let me talk for a moment about Barney's house because CAN I PLEASE LIVE THERE? His cabin is just...perfect. While reading this, I found myself dreaming about owning a secluded wooden home on an island, cozy and comfortable, resting quietly in the middle of a placid, sapphire blue lake. Reading the seasons pass on the island was so restful for me. The chilly, sharp autumns blazen with color, winters spent in front of a roaring fire after trekking through the diamond, snow-laden woods, springs and summers spent outdoors, exploring everything green and blooming and beautiful--I just loved it so much.
 :
Basically, this book was the perfect summer read. It was light and quick, but still chock full of beautiful words and a story that is now one of my very favorites. I can't wait to re-read this and write down all my favorite passages.

I would recommend this book wholeheartedly. It had a few (mild) swear words, and talk of a girl who had a child out of wedlock, but nothing is explicit or detailed. It's a lovely, magical story about a woman, her dream of a blue castle, and her subsequent discovery of it.

Well done, L. M. Montgomery. If I wasn't already a fan, I would be now.

13 comments:

  1. AHHHH I'M SO GLAD YOU LOVE THIS BOOK. (And the collage in the beginning! Did you make it, or did you find it somewhere? Anyway, it's gorgeous and there must be a movie.)
    I don't see Barney as Michael Fassbender at ALL - no no, he looks like Fisher Bloom from Lark Rise to Candleford. :-)
    I know right?!!! THE BOOK IS SO FUNNY. "Your grandfather would turn over in his grave." "I daresay he'd like that for a change."
    And Uncle Benjamin's jokes!!!! "What's the difference between a stamp and a donkey? One you stick with a lick and one you lick with a stick!"
    I LOVE THE SCENE IN THE CAR.
    AND BARNEY'S LOVE DECLARATION AHHHHHH. It melts me. E v e r y t i m e.
    I agree, I neeeeed Barney's house. The whole setting and smell of this book is delcious - and yes, while I love Prince Edwards Island, I think it's nice to read a book of hers in a different setting, too.
    I'm SO happy you love this book as much as I do... MY LIFE IS COMPLETE. :-D
    Oh, and I never guessed Barney was the author... you and your mum are apparently way cleverer than I am. ;-P

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    1. Naomi,
      I Knoooow!! Eek, I'm SO glad I finally read it. No, unfortunately, I didn't make the collage. I found it on Pinterest. :) YES, we need a movie!!!
      Haha! Well, I don't think Barney look AT ALL like Fisher Bloom, so I guess we're even. ;)
      Yessss. I love that line!! About the grave, I mean.
      I'm so glad you love those scenes, too. ESPECIALLY HIS LOVE DECLARATION. <3
      Indeed, indeed. His house is definitely on my top 10 list of fictional homes. (Hmm, that gives me a post idea...)
      Haha, thanks! I'm so happy I love it, too! :D I love discovering new favorites.
      Oh well...it was just a funny coincidence, I think. I'm not usually good at guessing plot "mysteries." :D

      Delete
  2. I highly approve of your collage--it's beautiful!! :-) Also of your casting of Barney and Valancy; Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender would indeed be perfect for the roles.

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    1. Thanks, Jessica! I didn't make it, but I'm so glad you like it! And ooh, you agree on the casting? Yay! :D

      Delete
  3. Okay, basically just Naomi's comment. Can I just second everything she said? Well, I may as well write my own version. :)
    NATALIE. YOU READ ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS EVER!!! This book. This BOOK!!!!! !!!
    First, your whole review was simply perfection. You did due credit to this book and its authour. You did simply a marvellous job reviewing it and it made me realise I need to read this book again! (And I've read it...maybe three times? I don't know...) You just...yes.
    And the pictures! I have no idea whether to agree with you about the casting, because I've never thought about it, but I thiiinnnk I see Barney as kind of a combination of the two you put, but still different in my mind. For some reason, it's hard for me to picture characters in my mind. :)
    But that collage at the beginning was divine! It was absolutely gorgeous and perfect! I ask with Naomi, did you make it or did you find it somewhere? If you made it, then--oh, it's gorgeous. Simply perfect. (Dear me, I'm getting rather repetitive.)
    BARNEY!!! (Yes, horrid name, but the man himself--!!!) Reading that declaration of love again just--Barney!!!!
    YES, the descriptions! Montgomery really is the master of descriptions. And her descriptions in this book are some of her very finest. Seriously, I want to live in their "blue castle" too!
    Well, anyway, basically I agree with everything you said. This review was just perfect. The Blue Castle is marvellous!

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    Replies
    1. Rae,
      Haha, YES! It's AMAZING! Aww, really? Thank you! I'm so glad you liked it. :) And yes, you should read it again!
      I understand. Sometimes I see characters VERY clearly in my mind, like a photo, and other times it's just a blurry haze. :/
      Heehee, thank you, but no, I didn't make it. I found it on Pinterest.
      YES, Barney!! <3
      I honestly think "The Blue Castle" may be my favorite of her books, description and setting wise.
      Thanks so much! :D

      Delete
  4. I really want to read this book! (And yes, I skipped the spoilers. ;))

    And look another Newsies picture! STAHHHP. (No really, I didn't mean that. I just went and looked at Pinterest photos of Newsies on Broadway. Of course I didn't mean that.) And in reply to your comment on the post before - yes, Corey Cott's vlog on "exposing secrets" was ssooo good too!!! :D That was my favourite along with the Pumpkin Head interview, hehe. XD (Also, did you consider Kara Lindsay's scream to be THAT high? Because I think if my voice was warmed up I'd be able to do it... although, I am much younger than her, as well.) Who is your favourite Jack Kelly? (Jeremy Jordan, Corey Cott, Dan Deluca etc?) I haven't seen much of the others except Corey and Jeremy, and right now it's a tie between the two. I just love ALL OF THEM. <3

    Also, I apologize that I'm talking about Newsies when it's a sore subject and you expressly said it was upsetting you... but I tend to feel that at least talking about it helps somewhat. ;))

    ~Miss Meg

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    Replies
    1. Oh, good! Yes, do read it, and do stay away from spoilers! :D

      Hahahaha, Newsies is ALWAYS a good thing. ;) Hmmm, I'm not sure. It was definitely a higher scream than I would be able to do. I can't scream very well! :D
      Oh, Jeremy will always and forever be my favorite, but Corey Cott is definitely up there now. ;) I've seen some videos of Dan DeLuca and Joey Barreiro as Jack, and they were great actors and singers, but they just weren't "right" to me. I'm so used to Jeremy as Jack. He just IS Jack. :D

      Haha, not at all! I'm not really that upset anymore. (Especially now that the show close to me is over now. Ah well.) And yes, talking about it does help! It's such fun being able to fangirl with someone. ;)

      Delete
  5. Just had to pop in and read this again because NOW I'VE READ IT AND I KNOW THE STORY!! :D

    And I probably already told you this but I guessed Barney and John Foster were one and the same almost immediately, too!! (We're so smart, we are. ;)) Barney is SO sweet. He's just....gahhhh. I like him so much!! <3 <3

    Oh, and guess what? A very good friend of mine just gave me my own personal copy of this book! Isn't that awesome?? :D :D

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    1. Awww, YOU DO?? That's so exciting, Miss March! I just converted a friend into a fan of this book, too. She really enjoyed it. :D Especially Barney. And the moment after the train incident! <3

      Hmmm, I don't THINK *you* told me that. But my friend that I converted into a fan did! She's so smart, too. ;)

      SHE DID?? That's marvelous!! Funny thing...I gave a copy of TBC to the friend I converted into a fan.....are we living parallel lives? :P

      PS. If that wasn't the most confusing comment ever, I don't know what is!

      PPS. I MISS YOU. *HUGS*

      Delete
    2. Seriously??? Wow. What a small world. :P Yes BARNEY! He's the best. And the whole train incident...AHHHH!! That was just the sweetest thing. <3 <3 <3

      Goodness. This friend of yours sounds a lot like me. This is kind of freaky.

      No way!! You've got to be kidding!! Why a friend of mine just gave me a copy of that book, too. We really MUST be living parallel lives! :P

      P.S. Haha. Most confusing indeed. But I liked it. ;)

      P.P.S. MISS YOU, TOO!! *returns hugs*

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    3. "It's a small world after all..." Sorry. Haha, SO glad you agree. <3 We disagree on so much I was worried that perhaps you didn't like the train scene. ;P

      This IS freaky....

      Whaaaattt? Mind. Blown. (Okay, are we ever going to be serious again? ;D)

      PS. Heehee, I'm glad! :D

      PPS. Awww. <333

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    4. No, rest assured. On this we do agree. Isn't it amazing? ;)

      (I don't know. Once you've entered down the path of silliness it's hard to get yourself straightened out again. Really. I know this from experience. Perhaps we never shall be serious again. ;))

      Delete

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