If you are looking for some comfort reading over the Thanksgiving weekend, you should consider L. M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle. Even if the story itself is a little cheesy, the writing is beautiful and soothing, and the whole thing just makes you feel good. And sometimes, that is something we all need. I read this book (for the first time) on a 9-hour flight to Detroit, where we had to wait for 5 hours for our connecting flight. I was tired from having to get up at 4 a.m. that morning, and I knew the kids would be exhausted and prone to meltdowns once we landed in Michigan. So I was looking for something light and easy, nothing controversial or depressing. A friend, not a sparring partner. How happy I was that that is exactly what I got.
Valancy is a young woman who is constantly put down by her despicable family. It’s not clear why exactly everyone picks on her, other than the fact that she never talks back or stands up for herself. But then the doctor tells her that because of her weak heart, she has only about year left to live. That’s certainly enough reason for Valancy to decide she’s had enough of her unloving family. She shocks the whole lot of them and goes to live with two people who are outcasts: a semi-alcoholic father and his dying daughter Cissy, who’s had a baby out of wedlock. While caring for Cissy—a shocking act of defiance in the eyes of most—makes Valancy automatically an outcast as well, she’s having more fun than ever before in her life. Plus, she gets to know Barney, another character who lives rather mysteriously outside of polite society. When Cissy dies, Valancy has no place to go, so she spontaneously suggests to Barney that they should marry. He agrees, and they live happily ever after in his “blue castle.”
Well, of course there’s more to the story. Barney has some secrets to hide, and Valancy eventually has to own up to her doctor’s prognosis. Both have to deal with their families at some point. Is it realistic? No. There are a number of unlikely coincidences that would probably make the story rather ridiculous if it were told by someone other than Montgomery. Does it matter? No. Sure, a contemporary reader might object to the frequent mention of Valancy’s plain looks or her lack of ambition. One might wonder why she is not more curious about Barney’s locked chamber or how she could possibly not guess his second big secret. But sometimes, I don’t want to contemplate everything that might be objectionable in a story. Sometimes, I just need a hug, and this book gave me one. It offered an escape from everything that is wrong in the world and reminded me of the beauty of simple things like sunsets and pine trees in the snow. Sometimes, that is all I need.
So I read the book on the plane, and then, when Kid #3 was finally done with his fit at the airport and was asleep on my lap, I read it a second time. And when things get crazy during this holiday season, I might well reach for it again.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving, all of you in the U.S. See you next week.