What kind of story does a book titled The Blue Castle make you think of?
It may evoke images such as… girl meets a prince. They get married. He whisks her away to his kingdom to live happily ever after. But the story of The Blue Castle isn’t a fairy tale.
What would you say is an emotional issue people struggle with today?
So many people are plagued with self-doubt. We say the mantra’s we are told to recite like, “I am beautiful” or “I am enough”. But saying it doesn’t mean we buy into it. Our real subconscious thoughts often sound more like, “Does anyone see me?”, “Am I smart enough?”, ” Where do I fit in?”, “Am I unimportant?”, ” Am I unnoticed?”
The culture of today is filled with bullies, naysayers and fear-mongers. Even in our attempts to be a good person or to be aware of the less fortunate we rage against those we assume don’t see what we see. If our perspective is not met with agreement we assume it means we are hated. Lines are drawn. There is a good side and there is a bad side – and the bad side is whatever doesn’t step in time with our stride.
This is when an author’s voice can cause us to consider a different perspective.
It’s stories like The Blue Castle that make me love writing. Storytelling is powerful. You can tell someone a bunch of facts and most people will have forgotten many of them by the time the conversation is over. But when you weave those facts into a compelling story it will be remembered for years. I may tell you that real love changes people in every way, but when I show you through a narrative that resonates with where you are hopelessness, fear and doubt can become overshadowed with hope.
There is nothing new under the sun.
Often the historical past is seen as some sort of bygone golden era. We romanticize living a simpler life on a prairie. Or conjure idealistic images of an apron clad housewife setting the perfect meal on the dining room table like on “Happy Days”. But the truth of the matter is, the same problems have plagued humanity since Eve took a bite from the forbidden fruit and handed it to Adam.
Thankfully, authors from days gone by have given us some of the clearest depictions of how dysfunctional society can be regardless of the era.
Women authors who understood the world.
First case in point – Jane Austen
Jane Austin shed light on the strengths and weaknesses of the upper and lower classes in early nineteenth century England. She wrote characters with a strong moral compass and others who brought scandal. Of the rich and the poor of beauties and old maids. She brought an awareness that there are heroes and villains regardless of their class. And whichever category of character, be it hero or villain, that a person falls in to depends on the character of each individual not their station in life. If you haven’t read her books you can get them HERE.
Second case in point – The Bronte’ Sisters
In the mid nineteenth century the Bronte sisters painted dismal pictures of humanity. Of cruel orphanages and self-serving masters. Of unrequited love and cruel reactions to it. Their own sorrow-filled lives reflected on the pages of their books. Charlotte Bronte watched her brother destroy himself through addictions then grieved the deaths of her sisters within a short time of each other. Art often imitates life.
Final case in point – L.M. Montgomery
Then there was L.M. Montgomery who entered the writing scene just after the turn of the twentieth century. And although she also wrote of orphans and old maids, she, like Jane Austin, wrote with a silver lining in mind. She endured the same hardships of many yet, The University of Prince Edwards Island says, …
“But despite these and other problems, she continued to write, expressing her love of life, nature, and beauty in her fiction, journals, and letters.”
A life where you could be a strong woman and still end up with your soulmate and where good triumphed over evil… A life where beauty persisted.
Beyond Anne of Green Gables.
Montgomery’s beloved series based on a headstrong, red-headed orphan who finds a home in an unlikely place may leave you with the idea that she only wrote for children. But her stand-alone novels proved otherwise. My favorite of these novels just happens to be at the top of my list of romantic stories, The Blue Castle.
The Blue Castle
At the turn of the twentieth century an unmarried woman past the age of say, twenty-two, is an old maid. In the Blue Castle our heroine, Valancy, is unmarried, in her late twenties and it seems the only opportunity for marriage is a desperate widower who needs help with a passel of children. Now, I realize that there are many sweet stories where this scenario plays out satisfactorily. Who doesn’t love Sarah Plain And Tall , but this story is different.
A young woman who feels invisible…
Valancy is a bullied frail sickly girl who never really fits in anywhere. Not at school nor at home. Her only joy and solace comes through the reading of her favorite books by a naturalist/author named John Foster. Always a dutiful, obedient daughter, Valancy realizes her life has nothing to show for it and decides to change that. She moves out of her family home and into the house where Cecily Gay lives in supposed friendless solitude on account of her scandalous past. Cecily had born a child out of wedlock then suffered through the loss of the same child. She is in fragile health when Valancy comes to be her companion and friend.
Enter the love interest…
It is here that Valancy meets and falls in love with Cecily’s only friend the mysterious Barney Snaith. He lives on an isolated island. Rumors surround him. ‘He has the remains of several murdered wives on his island’ is one such rumor. Another is that he is the father of Cecily’s deceased child. But Valancy doesn’t believe the rumors.
A daring decision…
After Cecily dies Valancy is expected to return home and possibly marry the aforementioned widower. But after she receives a letter from her doctor informing her she only has about a year to live due to her weak heart she comes up with another option. She asks Barney Snaith to marry her and let her have one happy year before she dies. She never hides from him the fact that she is crazy about him and so he agrees. The two marry and he takes her to live on his island. A place that she names her ‘Blue Castle’. And life is everything she hopes until she gets shocking news. I will leave it at that because I don’t want to ruin the rest of the story.
Some Things Never Change
“What people are truly longing for is to be fully known and fully loved” – A friend
We all have this fear that if someone really knows us they will not be able to love us. This book tackles that fear straight on. I will say that my primary reason for loving this story is the lack of pretense in the relationship between Valancy and Barney. They don’t play games with each other and though Barney does have two looming secrets he withholds from Valancy due to his own fears the simple honesty with which he builds a life with her throughout this story is refreshing.
The Blue Castle isn’t a fairy tale. It’s better than a fairy tale because it shows that love has to be nurtured because if it’s growing it can’t die. And if we are intentional about cultivating it love truly conquers all.
What books inspire your hope for humanity? I want to know your thoughts.
Until Next Time…
I only offer links for products I care about and any opinion stated in this post is completely my own. That being said, this article has affiliate links. If you chose to purchase something through one of these links I will receive a small compensation at no additional expense to you. It is a way you can support me and the people who help make it happen. Thank You.