|The Blue Castle / LM Montgomery|
TO: Bantam, 1989, c1926.
#SpinsterSeptember is an Instagram reading challenge created by @pear.jelly & when I saw it I knew I had to join in. I reached for a couple of comfort reads featuring spinsters for my participation in this one!
The first one was an old favourite, L.M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle. I'm actually a little surprised I haven't talked about this one before on this blog! In any case, this is a reread of a book I've read many times before. This time around I noticed a few flaws but I still enjoyed my read -- it's an entertaining and satisfying novel, one of the only books she wrote intended for an adult audience.
As it opens, Valancy Stirling is waking up on her 29th birthday, realizing that she is well and truly a spinster, doomed to living with her mother and aged cousin, repeating the same routine every single day. She's hemmed about with rules and regulations, only able to steal a few minutes a day to enjoy a nature book by her favourite author John Foster.
But everything changes when she slips away to see the local doctor (not the family doctor) about some heart pains she's been experiencing. The doctor has to hurry off but sends her a letter letting her know that she has a fatal heart condition and a year to live.
Suddenly Valancy is faced with dying, without ever living. This shakes her up, and she first moves to the farmhouse of the town reprobate to care for his dying daughter, a "fallen woman". This is bad enough, but when poor Cissy dies, instead of returning home meekly, Valancy proposes to the other town outsider, Barney Snaith, just so she can live in the peace and beauty of his backwoods cabin rather than being taken into the bosom of her suffocating family once more. This of course scandalizes the family, who cut her off; little old Aunt Georgiana, a fellow spinster, is the only one who seems to think of her at all.
Of course Valancy finds peace, beauty, freedom, and eventually True Love. There are some issues with this book; I find the first third, when she is cowed by her family, a little too long and dreary, and sometimes the snark is a bit edgy. And there are moments in the rest of the book where it tinges on purple prose that is a little rich. But the story is entertaining, Valancy and Barney are a satisfying couple, and the setting is lovely. The town of Deerwood is a fictional location but is based on Bala, where Montgomery spent some time. The Muskoka landscape is a big part of this novel, and it's thoroughly drawn.
Every Montgomery fan needs to read this, and those looking for a charming Canadian novel with the flavour of a century ago will also enjoy. Perfect comfort reading for me.