Bookish in the Mitten

Book reviews, book recommendations, book talk, and a little knitting

I’ve yet to read Anne of Green Gables – I just wasn’t interested; I preferred re-reading Little Women and Jane Eyre. After reading Lucy Maude Montgomery’s The Blue Castle, though, I might just take a look at Anne.

The Blue Castle:

Valancy Stirling is a young woman in 1920’s Canada who lives firmly under her mother’s thumb until a life event propels her from subservience to freedom. I won’t share further details as I would be crossing into spoiler territory.

I do have to note that Valancy’s sudden and effortless about-face from shy mouse to fearless woman, with little to no internal struggle as she makes her transformation, seems unrealistic, and Valancy’s relatives are one-dimensional and cliche. However, none of those flaws diminishes my enjoyment of the story.

What do I love? Valancy’s voice, her courage once she finds it, and the word-pictures used to describe the Canadian wilderness are fresh and appealing – and the story is funny in parts. I am also stuck by Valancy’s resemblance to my grandmother. Grandma Genevieve, of the Genevieve Driscoll Reading List, would have been roughly the same age as Valancy and was also raised in a rural area near a small northern town (in Michigan). She never said as much, but I like to imagine her reading this book and finding a kindred spirit in Valancy, whose demeanor is so similar to Genevieve in her twenties, as I imagine her.

I recommend The Blue Castle as a sweet read that, at 221 pp for the trade paperback, won’t require much investment of your time. Here is the link to the edition I purhased: https://shop.sourcebooks.com/blue-castle.html

Read more about the book here as well: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blue_Castle

A couple of thoughts unrelated to the review:

I noted after finishing the book that it was stickered as “Young Adult Fiction, Ages 10 and Up.” I read it for a classic fiction book group made up of adults only, so this surprised me. Valancy, and most of the other characters, are decidedly adult. The publisher’s web site as listed on a couple of times on the copyright page and end papers reflects the young adult status: teenfire.sourcebooks.com.

Also, I have begun to discover that books written prior to the 1940’s and 1950’s but after the Victorian era – particularly the 1920’s and 1930’s – are more honest in their portrayal of women than those written later, in the 50’s and early 60’s, for the most part. (I’ve noticed the same with movies. I would like to know more about the portrayal of women in movies and literature and how it changed from about 1860 to 1920. I’m sure this has been addressed. Sometime in the next few months I will learn more about this – you readers may already have the answer.)

The Wikipedia link provided above states that Colleen McCollough, who wrote The Thorn Birds, may have used The Blue Castle as a basis for her novel The Ladies of Missalonghi – subconsciously. Clearly I need to add this to my upcoming reading list!

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