A charming delightful book. The book I read from was dated 1926. The central character is Valancy Stirling, don’t you love that name? Who is in her later twenties and has led what only can be called a very grey, molded, restrictive, socially overbearing life. She lives with her mother and her Cousin Stickles, all is ugly.
LMM writes ‘Valancy, so cowed and subdued and overridden and snubbed in real life, was wont to let herself go rather splendidly in her day-dreams. Nobody in the Stirling clan, or its ramifications, suspected this, least of all her mother and Cousin Stickles. They never knew that Valancy had two homes – the ugly red brick box of a home, on Elm Street, and the Blue Castle in Spain.’ Thus the title of the book – The Blue Castle.
Valancy also delights in reading John Foster’s books about the woods, which she gets from the library, even these are eked out by her mother, who does not know how much she enjoys them.
She is having some trouble with palpitations of the heart, so decides to go to the doctor, and not their own family clan doctor. This is a big step for Valancy. While at the doctor’s he is called away urgently to see his son in Montreal, who is involved in an accident. A few days later Valancy receives a letter in the mail from the doctor, stating that she has a very serious heart condition and has only at the most about a year to live.
At this time Valancy makes a monumental decision in her life. She is going to do exactly what she wants to do. She wants to live life, what ever short life she has left.
Thus she decides to help a young woman, Cissy, who lives with her father, the town drunk Roaring Abel. Cissy has been ostracised by the town for having an illegitimate baby, that died at a year old. Cissy has never gotten over this and is herself dying of consumption, TB.
In comes Valancy to live with them, as their house-keeper and companion to Cissy. The Stirling clan are beside themselves, what will people think.
Into this pot is thrown the other leading character, Barney Smith. Nobody knows where he came from and he drives around in a terrible old car, called Lady Jane. Is he a jail bird? Is he a murderer, all stories abound. At best he is a reprobate, or so the town thinks, and therefore a very bad association for one’s good name. But Valancy likes him, and decides to ask him to marry her, explaining it’s only for a year.
He lives on a beautiful island in a lake, it is idyllic. Here Valancy blossoms, from a very plain woman into an alluring, interesting, and somewhat beautiful woman. The island is her Blue Castle.
And who is John foster?
I will not tell you anymore. You must try and find the book for yourself to read. I managed to find it at my local library, filed in what they call old shelving. Books that you have to request, and they are brought down to you, in all their mustiness, and expectation of what forgotten stories will unfold from within.
I cannot finish this review without addressing the book written by Coleen McCullough, published in 1987, The Ladies of Missolonghi. I read this book a long while ago and just loved it. It is set in Australia, where as LMM’s is set in Canada. At that time I did not know of LMM’s book.
The story and plots of the two books are so similar. As I read ‘The Blue Castle’, ‘The Ladies of Missolonghi‘, kept coming back to me. The word plagiarism does come to mind.
You must read them both, first LMM’s book, then Coleen McCullough’s book. See what you think.