Friday, July 15, 2016
The Blue Castle - L. M. Montgomery
I read this on my Kindle, so I had to search for an image. I can tell that many of the cover illustrators never read the book!
The Blue Castle is a sweet, old-fashioned story. Valancy Stirling is 29 and unmarried. Her family kids her about being an old maid. She's not amused. But her widowed mother has her so tied down to chores and routine and respectability that she doesn't have a thought to herself. They barely allow her the library books by nature writer John Foster because they're frivolous. Her haven is her imaginary Blue Castle, the place she goes in her mind and imagination when real life is too grim.
Valancy has 'heart attacks', pains in her chest, from time to time, so she's considered delicate. She goes to a heart specialist who has to rush off when he's told his son has been seriously injured. He sends Valancy a letter telling her that she has a serious heart condition and will probably die fairly soon.
Valancy decides that she wants to live before she dies. She defies her family and goes 'up back' to the woods and 'those people' to nurse a young woman who's dying. The woman is shunned by the town because she had a child out of wedlock, a child who died. But the 'good people' of the town show no compassion. The woman's father is a loud drunk who plays the fiddle at dances. Valancy sees more to both of them.
Valancy's had her eye on one of the most disreputable men in town, Barney Snaith. He lives alone on an island in the river. No one knows what he does all by himself. He rips around town in a beat up old car. He is allegedly a drunk, but who has seen him drunk? Valancy thinks he has the nicest smile.
Boldly, she goes to him, reads him the letter from the doctor, and asks him to marry her. After all, it will only be for a short while. He agrees because, although she's not pretty (as everyone seems to like to tell her), there's something about her.
They live on his island, loving the wilderness, the animals, and their two cats, Good Luck and Banjo. They swim and skate and hike and boat. The fireplace warms them. And they grow close. Barney has a room that he disappears into for hours at a time. He asks her not to go in and she complies.
Then, one day, they're crossing the railroad tracks and Valancy's shoe gets stuck as a train comes. Thirty seconds change everything.
I had already figured out one part of the puzzle, but I was still in suspense when the train roared past and I was surprised by other parts.
I've been reading this in bed before I go to sleep. It was perfect for that, a gentle, lovely story about two people who need and love each other, although the last few chapters were page turners.