9. “The blue castle” by Lucy Maude Montgomery

Publisher: Project Gutenberg Australia (first published in 1926)
Page count: 214 pages

Valancy Stirling is 29 and unkissed, ergo she has long since been relegated to the ranks of the old maids, a fact that her family is never going to stop giving her grief about. Consequently, she spends every minute of every day stitching quilts, running errands for her mother, or rubbing in her old aunt’s back with foul-smelling ointments. Moreover, Valancy was never amongst the popular crowd in school, instead having to suffer in silence as she watched her cousin Olive get all the praise and attention. So Valancy has no friends, no privacy, and frankly no life to speak of as she trudges dutifully on pleasing everyone but herself.

One day, however, Valancy steals a few moments to herself to see the local doctor about her heart, which hammers unpleasantly at times. Before the doctor can give his diagnosis, however, he receives news of an accident involving his son, and storms out the door. Instead, Valancy receives a letter from the doctor a few days later informing her that she has a fatal heart condition and less than a year left to live. This becomes a turning point in Valancy’s life: rather than continuing her respectable but thoroughly boring life, she decides to flaunt society’s convetions and instead say and do whatever she likes. Not surprisingly, she is deemed mad (she has kept the doctor’s letter a secret) and her family is scandalised, but Valancy herself has never had more fun. And before she knows it, the love of her life is heading her way…

I very seldom review romance novels, simply because the outcome is always given at the outset (boy meets girl and after various mishaps they fall in love, before living happily ever after…), which makes for boring reviews. However, I decided to make an exception for “The blue castle” since I grew up reading “Anne of Green Gables” by the same author, and really, this book is almost as delightful as that old children’s classic. “The blue castle” is old-fashioned and sweet, with a thoroughly satisfying plot vindicating our heroine and seeing her fall in love with the quirky disreputable neighbour (who of course turns out to be quite the catch in the end, this is romance after all :). My only gripe with this novel is the overly long and flowery nature descriptions which litter the second half of the book, but I suspect this might be characteristic of the era during which it was written, and so it is really a very minor gripe. Well worth the read if you are into romance!


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