May 7th, 2020

Winter Sunlight

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

I had never heard of this book, but it was being discussed on Discord recently and I downloaded and read and loved it. It's utterly delightful, at least as much fun as her much better-known Anne of Green Gables books. It is in the public domain in some countries (not the US, unfortunately) so you should be able to find a free copy with a google search; I didn't hang onto the link.

Shy, mousy, downtrodden Valancy has lived her entire life under the domination of her abusive mother and a large extended family of staid, puritanical, absolutely awful relatives. At the age of 29, she has resigned herself to being an old maid and living a long miserable life with her horrid family, until she receives a diagnosis of a terminal heart condition.

Suddenly Valancy has nothing to lose, and now she's telling all her relatives exactly what she thinks of them, making friends with the town's ne'er-do-wells, and proposing a marriage of convenience to a scruffy mechanic who lives in a cabin in the middle of nowhere.

(The "Blue Castle" of the title is Valancy's imaginary escape world that she has used for her entire life to get away from her abusive and horrible family. Suddenly she finds herself in the position of figuring out how to make a Blue Castle out of the real-life world she'd given up on.)

I don't think I was expecting this book to be as funny as it is. The start is pretty dark (Valancy's bleak and miserable life is brought to life with depressing clarity) but then it kicks into high gear after Valancy loses her last fuck to give; the comic timing and her relatives' deepening despair as Valancy realizes and then begins to capitalize on the fact that they literally can't make her do anything or stop her from saying anything is cathartic, hilarious, and very inspiring. The setting is also rich and wonderful; it's set in small-town Ontario in the first decade (or thereabouts) of the 1900s, with beautifully described scenery and a warm but unsentimental take on small-town/rural people, who are as likely to be violent rednecks or religious fanatics as salt-of-the-earth types. And I really liked her love interest, who is sweet and charming.

Some of the twists near the end are A Bit Much (though you can see them coming from a mile away), but on the whole this is really engrossing and sweet, and it's also got me rereading Anne of Green Gables now. (I kinda had to anyway, because one of the original novels I'm currently working on references it heavily, but I'm enjoying it a lot.) This entry is also posted at with comment count unavailable comments.