Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Blue Castle

Lucy Maud Montgomery
Fiction, Young Adult

Valancy Stirling, known for some reason as "Doss" to her family, is a cowed and miserable twenty-nine at the beginning of this book. All her life she has done as she has told, foregoing pleasure and happiness in order to be bossed around by her domineering mother and hypochondriac aunt. She's always been put down and bossed around, but she has one little bit of her soul left to herself, and that little bit allows her to sneak off to see a doctor - of her choice, not her family's - when she is feeling chest pain. And then she gets a letter from him telling her she has only a short while left to live.

What follows is a fairly plausible blooming of someone who has discovered that she has nothing left to fear. She allows herself to say the sarcastic (and often very funny things) she has thought about her stuffy family to their faces, because she no longer fears getting cut out of the will. She goes off to nurse a dying young woman, whom her family scorns for her out-of-wedlock child, because she no longer fears having to endure her mother's hurt silences. And she finds herself drawn to a man of whom her family strongly disapproves - because they don't know his past, they assume he is criminal - and does not fear her family's censure. There is only one fear left to her, that she should "die before she lived." Of course, she takes care of the 'living' part quite well.

Since this is a L.M. Montgomery book, the reader can of course assume that all will turn out for the best without knowing exactly how. Likewise, the typical Montgomery theme of a repressed individual who finds happiness is well developed. Montogmery only has a few themes, but in this book they are well-developed and worth a look.


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