Originally Published: 1926
Length: 272 pages
Source: Purchased from Amazon
Personal Enjoyment Factor: 4/5
Fear is the original sin. Almost all of the evil in the world has its origin in the fact that some one is afraid of something. It is a cold slimy serpent coiling about you. It is horrible to live with fear; and it is of all things degrading.
I'm so grateful for "feel-good" books. I love a good, heart-wrenching tragedy, and I'm okay with sad or ambiguous endings, but every once in a while I need the high I can get from a warm and fuzzy novel. Sometimes the reading-induced tears need to be drops of joy and not gushes of agony.
Lucy Maud Montgomery is a great author to turn to for my happy fix. It's interesting that Montgomery herself suffered from many bouts of depression while taking care of her mentally-ill husband and facing the demands of motherhood. I presume that writing was her "drug", and perhaps she hoped to provide readers with an escape of their own.
In The Blue Castle, 29-year-old Valancy is unhappy and bored with her life under the thumb of severely micro-managing relatives. For instance, it is completely unacceptable to sneeze in public. Apparently you can suppress a sneeze by pressing your finger on your upper lip. (I haven't tried it myself yet--I can only imagine what one must look like holding a sneeze while pushing a finger on their face.) She flees from reality by daydreaming about her Blue Castle, a beautiful place that has grown up with her in her mind, and where she has been loved by a succession of imaginary beaus. (I think I had a similar fantasy when I was younger, but it was more likely set in Middle Earth . . .) But reality is never far away, especially when Valancy finds out that she only has a year to live, and the standard cure-all sworn to by her family, Redfern's Purple Pills, is not going to help her much at all.
She finds inspiration in the writings of her favorite nature author, John Foster, and decides that she will not live the rest of what remains of her life dominated by fear. She breaks free from the conventions of her overbearing family, and starts spending time with the town reprobate, Barney Snaith. Despite his hopelessly unromantic name, Barney ranks right up there with literary loveables like Mr. Darcy, Mr. Rochester, and Ron Weasley (a personal pick). With her new life, Valancy tries to grasp a piece of that Blue Castle fantasy before she dies, and finds something even better.
This is such a sweet novel--not airy, cotton-candy sweet, more like warm apple crisp with vanilla-bean ice cream on top sweet. It made me feel good, and I hope the writing of it had a similar effect on Montgomery herself. The ending gets all wrapped up like a snazzy little birthday present. While I wouldn't want every book I read to end so tidily, it is great getting a gift every once in a while, isn't it?