Sunday, September 13, 2015

"The Blue Castle" by L. M. Montgomery

This is another book I did not know existed until I became active in the world of book blogging.  Over the past couple of years, I have seen it mentioned over and over, always glowingly and lovingly.  So I put it on my TBR list and my Classics Club list, and this past week, I finally got it from the library.  Now, all those glowing, loving reviews made me a little hesitant to read it, because what if I didn't love it?  But finally, on Wednesday, I started it.

I couldn't get to sleep that night because I was thinking about this book.  In fact, I got up out of bed, fetched the book, and sat in our closet on the floor, reading it until midnight.  And then I finished it on Thursday, right after lunch.  Because... I loved it.  Next time in a book store, I'm going to hunt down a copy of my own.

The Blue Castle of the title refers to an imaginary wonderland constructed by Valancy Stirling to escape the dreariness of her own narrow life.  She's twenty-nine and unmarried, treated shabbily by her family, constantly pestered by her mother and the aunt who lives with them, and generally unhappy.  She sees the doctor about some heart trouble and is told she has maybe a year to live.  And the knowledge that she is dying convinces Valancy she needs to live while she can.  She stops letting her family walk all over her, she tries new things, buys clothes she likes, and gets herself a job keeping house for the town ne'er-do-well and his dying daughter.  This naturally causes her family to believe she has lost her mind, since she didn't tell them about her diagnosis.


(Michael Fassbender)
And then there's Barney Snaith, that ne'er-do-well's buddy.  You know how in 10 Things I Hate About You, there are all those wild rumors about what Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) has done before he moved there?  Dated one of the Spice Girls, ate a live duck (everything but the beak and feet), lit a state trooper on fire, sold his liver, and so on.  Barney Snaith has collected similar rumors:  he's a defaulted bank clerk, an escaped convict, a fugitive murderer, an infidel, a counterfeiter, a forger, and probably the father of any illegitimate children wandering about town.  (Busy boy, that Barney Snaith.)  He also, in my opinion, should be played by Michael Fassbender if they ever make a movie, which they should.  Fassbender excels at haunted, grim niceness, you see.

It's pretty obvious from the get-go that Valancy is going to fall in love with Barney.  There are other fairly predictable things going on in the story, and the plot hinges on a couple of convenient coincidences.  Do I care?  No.  It's a charming, earnest, lovely book anyway.  As usual, Montgomery's descriptions of Canada and the outdoors soar, though I must admit skimming some of them because I wanted to get back to the people.

Particularly Good Bits:

It was permissible, even laudable, to read to improve your mind and your religion, but a book that was enjoyable was dangerous (p. 13).

Second Cousin Sarah Taylor, with her great, pale, expressionless eyes, who was noted for the variety of her pickle recipes and for nothing else (p. 54).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for a couple of old-fashioned curse words, alcohol use, and discussion of an unmarried girl becoming pregnant.

This is my 26th book read and reviewed for the Classics Club.

43 comments:

  1. AHHHH!!!! You loved it! This is one of my ALL time favourite books, so I'm sooo happy you loved it. (Seriously, I've read this book *so* much.)

    I don't imagine Barney like that - but I can see why you do. I just see Mr Rochester in Michael Fassbender, maybe that's why. :-)

    Lovely review! Thrilled that you enjoyed it!

    ~ Naomi

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    1. Naomi, I can well understand how this could be one of someone's all-time faves! I have a feeling that with a reread or two, it will ascend into my top tier too.

      Maybe I've just seen Fassbender in more roles than you? I've only seen his Jane Eyre once, but I've seen him as Magneto in both X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past (which I've seen 7 or 8 times), and I also saw him as a cowboy in True West. Maybe that helps? Do you have anyone you'd cast as Barney Snaith if there was a movie?

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    2. I'd cast someone more like JJField or the guy who plays Roger Hamely in Wives and Daughter. But then someone older, of course, though. :-)

      But I CAN see Fassbender play it. :-D

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    3. Hmm, not sure I could see J.J. Feild, as he looks so affable -- I don't think he'd pull of the disreputable initial appearance, do you? Roger Hamley, maybe, but again he looks very nice.

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  2. I want to read this book sooooooo badly! Naomi has been telling me for YEARS (well, more than one year, at least) about how good it is. It sounds amazing. :-)

    Haha, why does it seem like I often cast Michael Fassbender as book characters in my head? I can think of several. Have you ever read Fire By Night by Lynn Austin?

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    1. Emma, READ IT!!!!!!!!!!

      Do you really? I don't think I've ever cast him in anything, be it book I was reading or story I was writing. But he just fit, for me.

      I've never read anything by Lynn Austin. Yet! I have a couple of her books on my library TBR list. Shall I add that one?

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    2. Ah yes, Emma, Michael Fassbender would be perfect as Doctor McGrath!

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    3. YES you should add that one!!!!! IT'S THE BEST. (Well, closely tied with Hidden Places. I got back and forth allllll the time about which one is my favorite. ;-))

      And Naomi -- Michael Fassbender has alllllways been my James McGrath. From the very beginning. It's the red hair, I think

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    4. Okay, Emma! The library has it, so I put it on my TBR list :-)

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  3. I had heard of this before, but for some reason received a wrong impression about it. After seeing it praised in the blogging world I too put in on my Classics Club list in my L.M. Montgomery section. I think it is the best written in many of ways of all the books of hers I have read sooo far. And our library had new copy with a beautifully illustrated cover. I just love when Valancy just "goes nuts" and then when her uncle gets pitched out the window. Barney is just perfect; in an imperfect way (Montgomery often has difficulties developing her heroes, but not with Barney). Several of my sisters read and loved it (and Barney) too.

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    1. Livia Rachelle, I agree that this might have the best writing of all the Montgomery books I've read. I don't love it as much as the first few Anne books, but it is really well done. Especially Barney! The "surprising" revelations about him (and the one about his parentage totally surprised me) worked so well and were completely believable.

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  4. I should read this again. I definitely remember it being addictive, since I finished it in one day and I NEVER finish books in one day, but I didn't like the characters very much *ducks*. However, I think if I read it again I'd like it more:) Wonderful review, and I liked the dreamcast of Michael Fassbender;)

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    1. Olivia, addictive is a good word for it! I'm sorry you didn't like the characters, but... not everyone can like every character/book!

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  5. I love this book. I discovered it about twenty or twenty-five years ago at our library and checked it out several times. Then I couldn't find it anywhere for a long time. Last week Eva-Joy told me I could get it for FREE on Kindle. You can guess what I immediately did and then what I was doing every spare minute for the next two days. It was just as good as I remembered, and I had forgotten one semi-important detail from the end so that was a nice surprise.

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    1. Jennifer, oooooh! I'm going to have to download the Kindle version on my phone so I can carry it around with me everywhere :-D

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  6. Unsurprisingly I loved your review! I agreed with everything you said and it was a nice reminder that I really need to rewatch '10 Things I Hate About You!'

    I can understand why you would have been reluctant to read this one. I've been feeling the same about 'Anne of Green Gables' for a while now which is why I chose to read 'The Blue Castle' first. Less pressure!

    Oh gosh, Barney Snaith is pure hotness and one of the sexiest book characters that I have read about in a long, long time! I found myself picturing Ryan Gosling as Barney when I read the book - because he's Canadian and really attractive I suppose! - but Michael Fassbender as Barney?! I'd be okay with that! :D I also think he'd make a great Montag in 'Fahrenheit 451'.

    When I wasn't very far into the book I accidentally read a spoiler about, erm, how Barney spends his time when he isn't with Valancy (trying to be vague as I can for the people here who haven't read it!) so when I read the rest of the book I could see all the little hints - but I had no idea about his parentage. That really took me by surprise!

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    1. Hannah, yeah, "pure hotness" is a good way to describe Barney Snaith. Do not expect Gilbert Blythe to compare, if/when you read the Anne books. He lacks the swagger and mystique of Snaith.

      And oh, I could see Fassbender as Montag, for sure!

      I didn't read any spoilers on this book, but I figured out Barney's secret pretty quick -- partly because I've been reading a bunch of Montgomery's short stories, and she does that kind of thing a TON. But the parentage was a big shocker!

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  7. I had never heard of this book, but it's screaming 'read me'. Lovely review!

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    1. Masonobu, heed its screams! Glad you liked the review :-)

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  8. I hadn't heard of this one until I started blogging either. Hopefully I'll get around to reading it soon.

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    1. Lois, I hope you can find time for it!

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  9. I've never heard of this book. Sounds interesting. Thanks for the review.

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    1. Hibernator, it was a really fast read. Glad you liked the review!

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  10. I love "The Blue Castle".I own all of LM Montgomery's books, but this one has been read a lot more than most of the others. I read it for the first time when I was about twelve, and I remember laughing out loud at Valancy's dinner with her family. TOO much fun!

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    1. Lynn, wow, you own all her books? How cool! I own the 8 Anne books and recently bought the two Chronicles of Avonlea, but haven't read those two yet. I read the Emily books a few years ago, but that's it.

      I think we all have things we'd like to do or say if we knew we wouldn't have to live with the repercussions, which is what makes Valancy's journey so enjoyable. That dinner party was awesome!

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  11. Oh, I have a feeling that I'll love this book. I love Anne so much (though I haven't finish the series), and something about Valancy is interesting me.

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    1. Bzee, I hope you can find it and read it! Valancy is a great character, much different from Anne, yet with that same love of beauty and nature.

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  12. I read this book last year (also, indeed, after hearing about it a lot in the blogosphere) and I loved it! Valancy is such a unique heroine.
    I like your idea of Michael Fassbender as Barney in principle, but think he is maybe a bit too old for the character. But I don't rightly know another, younger actor who could fit the part.

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    1. Birdie, yes, exactly! Valancy is most unique, which is part of why she's so wonderful.

      I have a terrible time convincing myself to like actors under about 30. I always have. An exception here and there, but mostly yeah, I like them with a few miles on them. And really, Fassbender is only 38, and I saw Barney Snaith in his mid-30s.

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    2. Well, we are getting on in the world ourselves too right? Sometimes I look up an actor I've seen and liked in a movie and am shocked to find he's actually quite a bit younger than me :-S

      Fassbender does look a little older than 38, don't you think?

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    3. I tend to find guys in their 40s the most attractive, so I keep telling Cowboy in 6 more years, he's going to be so handsome I'll probably not be able to look at him directly.

      It's only recently that I've acquired any actors I admire who are younger than me, and it's a little weird! All through high school and college, the youngest actors I liked were Heath Ledger (1 year older than me), Ioan Gruffudd (7 years older than me), and Chris O'Donnell (10 years older than me). My other favorites were people like John Wayne, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Pierce Brosnan.

      Now, though, I have Chris Hemsworth (3 years younger) and Armie Hammer (6 years younger) and... I can't wait for them to age into their looks a bit more!

      I did think Fassbender was right around 40, so he does look a little older than 38 to me, but not a lot.

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    4. I definitely never was one for crushes on teenage actors or singers either, I think many men get better looking when they're a little older, I find a little grey hair quite nice to be honest!

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    5. This may be partly why I didn't date until I was a sophomore in college. Younger guys just didn't interest me in real life either.

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  13. This sounds so good! I'll have to find it!

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    1. Yes, Hannah! Find it and read it and love it.

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  14. You are the umpteenth blogging friend who has raved over this story. Why haven't I read it yet? I even own a physical copy AND a kindle copy! So glad to know you loved it. :)

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    1. Okay, you even own it already? Read it! :-)

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  15. Oh my! I just *love* L.M Montgomery's works...I will have to keep an for this one!

    Thank you for sharing your lovely review with us, Hamlette!

    Hugs!

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    1. Kelly-Anne, I could see you really digging this book! If you Kindle at all, I think it's only 99 cents.

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  16. Oh my, I have always loved this book. It might be my favorite of her books though I feel disloyal to Anne when I say that. My daughter is working her way through the Anne books and I can't wait to recommend some of the others.

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    1. Jennifer, I have to say that when I've read this a few more times, it's probably gonna at least tie with Anne for my favorite LMM too. It's astoundingly lovable.

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  17. I just finished reading this today and OH MY. New favorite. As you said, some (most) of the plot occurrences are coincidental and cliche, but the whole book has such a freshness to it...and it's just simply lovely. I adore it.
    I totally give my vote to Michael Fassbender for the role of Barney. (I also saw him a little as Dan Deluca, a broadway actor.)

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    1. Natalie -- exactly. It's so fresh and winsome that cliches and coincidences simply don't matter. I'm so glad you loved it too!!!

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