Like a Warm Hug: The Blue Castle #ReadingValancy

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.

Thank you to Naomi and Sarah Emsley for making me read this book. Check out what they have to say about it here and here.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, all of you in the U.S. See you next week.



  1. Nine hours to Detroit! And with three children! The horror — no wonder you read this twice! It is a very comforting read however. And did you know that Colleen McCullough basically ripped off the entire plot in her book The Ladies of Missalonghi? It’s set in Australia, but the plots are so similar that apparently McCullough was accused of plagiarism (she claimed it was unconsicous.)

    And I find it amusing that you are originally from Germany, but spent Thanksgiving in Detroit, since I am originally from Detroit (well, the suburbs) and now live in Germany! (I’m in the Rhineland-Pfalz if you are wondering).

  2. I love the idea that you read this twice in a single day. Just lovely. I’ve reread it many times, but mostly as a younger reader. Rereading back-to-back is a sign of a great read, I think.

  3. Aw, I’m so glad you liked this! It’s one of my go-to comfort reads. The scene where Valancy is saying whatever she thinks to all of her horrible family members at the anniversary dinner is just *kisses fingers* perfect.

  4. I participated in the read-along too and will have my review up today. I’m not surprised you read the book twice; it does have some squee moments that made me want to read it again. The only thing that stopped me is I also have The Tangled Web to read, LMM’s other adult novel. What were you doing in Detroit? I’m from Michigan!

  5. I really like your point about how the number of coincidences in TBC would probably make the book seem ridiculous if anyone else had written the story. I admit to feeling a little impatient with the coincidences—and yet, I still found myself drawn in by Montgomery’s magic. I totally understand what you mean about how sometimes, the main thing we want from a book is a hug from a friend, and/or a reminder of the beauty of the natural world. Thanks so much for joining the readalong, and I hope you’ve been having a lovely Thanksgiving weekend!

  6. I LOVE you’re description about this book being like a hug. That’s exactly why we have comfort reads – they wrap you up in their warm, loving and most importantly unconditional love 🙂

  7. I only know of this author through the Anne of Green Gables books which I read as a young girl. Nevertheless, it’s good to see there’s more to her than those headline books. It sounds like a lovely read, ideal for those times when you’re in the mood for something comforting and cosy. We all need a pick-me-up every now and again. 🙂

  8. A friend, not a sparring partner – I love that! Seems like all of this year I’ve been leaning more towards books that are friends. 🙂

    I would like to read this sometime. I’ve so enjoyed my Anne of Green Gables Readalong – one more to go!

  9. We all need books which, as you say, give us a hug, every now and again. I have a number to which I return at times of stress, or when I am tired or ill. They are dear friends without which my life would be very much the poorer. I was hoping to join in the read of The Blue Castle but life this month has seriously got in the way. However, from what you say maybe it is exactly the antidote to the current stresses and strains that I need.

  10. Beautifully said, TJ. if there’s one thing LMM does well it’s to remind of us of the simple things in life, and to be grateful for them. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend! 🙂

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