My first response to The Blue Castle was to draw back from the despair. Lucy Maud! How can you? Because, you see, Anne, the Green Gables girl, had a tough beginning in life and Emily, the New Moon girl, was hurt by horrible aunts and uncles; *but* both Anne and Emily knew she was cherished by her late mother and father.
Valancy Stirling has a mother—alive and kicking—who is overbearing, suffocating, domineering, disrespectful, and mean. We meet Valancy on her 29th birthday, shamed and teased because she hasn’t married. Life has no flavor, living is a grim prospect.
All her life she had been afraid of something…
Afraid of her mother’s sulky fits—
afraid of offending Uncle Benjamin—
afraid of becoming a target for Aunt Wellington’s contempt—
afraid of Aunt Isabel’s biting comments—
afraid of Uncle James’ disapproval—
afraid of offending the whole clan’s opinions and prejudices—
afraid of not keeping up appearances—
afraid to say what she really thought of anything—
afraid of poverty in her old age.
Valancy escapes her horrid little life by fantasizing about living in a Blue Castle in Spain, where beauty adorns her, women admire her and men adore her.
Valance becomes aware of a piece of information, a secret from the family; she throws off her bondage and inhibitions and forthwith says and does what she desires. Her family is shocked—shocked!—and thinks Valancy might suffer from mental illness.
They went for long tramps through the exquisite reticence of winter woods and the silver jungles of frosted trees, and found loveliness everywhere.
I am torn by this book. I can’t help but holler hallelujah! when she leaves her loveless family. Happy Independence Day! The happiness she finds is, however, very private, very insular. I doubt that life can be so fulfilling when lived without community. I’m not a fan of what Valancy says about living life to please herself…whoo, boy, that’s a recipe for misery. But I love the compassion she shows to a single mother shunned by society.
I laughed aloud at the imitation swearing comment. A reference that made me snort but will only be caught by those who know old hymns. Maud surely knows how to make fun.
…had her moles removed by electrolysis—which Aunt Mildred thought was a wicked evasion of the puposes of God.
“There are things worse than death,” said Uncle James, believing that it was the first time in the world that such statement had been made.
Valancy lived with me for many days after I finished the book, a sign of a good read.