My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was a review I couldn’t wait to write! This book has established itself as one of my favourite Montgomery reads. I liked it a lot more than her other book I have recently read Emily of New Moon although they had some shared themes. You can read my review of Emily of New Moon here. I am certainly going to be re-reading this book a number of times.
The book is about a woman named Valancy (Or Doss if you want to displease her) who decides to break free and find a life for herself. She takes matters into her own hands and only then, realizes how simple it had been. This book has a whiff of the secret garden about it; with both books, the stories start off in extremely unhappy situations. With both books, the protagonist undergoes a sudden but massive change and find themselves plunged into a life full of enchanted lands, beautiful landscapes and sprawling, magnificent skies. Both of them find themselves at home in these idyllic places and grow healthier. They find happiness, adventure and love in these magical places. They conquer their fears and develop as individual beings. This is how Montgomery describes Valancy’s change:
“Valancy felt as if she had exchanged her shop-worn soul for a fresh one, fire-new from the workshop of the gods.”
Mary Lennox eventually finds her ‘Secret Garden’ while Valancy Stirling, here, finds her ‘Blue Castle’. The descriptions of the Canadian lands in this book were absolutely-thoroughly-gorgeous. I am not in general, a very passionate nature lover. But this book made me plunge into the fairy-tale landscape, imagine all the delights in their full glory and revel in them. The Secret Garden is one of my all time favourites, so ofcourse, this book is not far behind.
But now she loved winter. Winter was beautiful “up back” – almost intolerably beautiful. Days of clear brilliance. Evenings that were like cups of glamour – the purest vintage of winter’s wine. Nights with their fire of stars. Cold, exquisite winter sunrises. Lovely ferns of ice all over the windows of the Blue Castle. Moonlight on birches in a silver thaw. Ragged shadows on windy evenings – torn, twisted, fantastic shadows. Great silences, austere and searching. Jewelled, barbaric hills. The sun suddenly breaking through grey clouds over long, white Mistawis. Ice-grey twilights, broken by snow-squalls, when their cosy living-room, with its goblins of firelight and inscrutable cats, seemed cosier than ever. Every hour brought a new revelation and wonder
I loved the characters in this book, the infuriating Stirling clans as well as Old Roaring Abel, Cissie, Barney Snaith and ofcourse – Valancy. The story arc would not have been powerful without the lovely writing and weaving of the characters. The writer, it seemed, had tasted all the exquisite delights of nature that she described first-hand and was sincerely passionate in wanting to share these with you. It’s so hard to escape the charm of a number of delicious and rich words strung together such as ‘fire of stars’, ‘cups of glamour’, ‘great, tinted peace’, ‘rivers of crimson and gold’, ‘sky of flawless turquoise’, ‘witch-laughter in the pines’, ‘gorgeous pageant of colour’. Which stony-hearted man in the world could read these phrases and not be drawn in, delighted?
The first part of the story where Valancy lives a regimented life, under the thumb of her appalling mother and family is disturbing. At times, it felt like it was dragging on and I wanted to skip the chapter and go to ‘what happens next’ in the story. But once Valancy decides to take her life into her own hands, it is extremely interesting and funny. Meeting Barney Snaith begins a new adventure in her life, and one that was an absolute pleasure to read.
I love how they change each other’s lives- slowly but steadily. I loved the moment of realization on the train tracks. I loved how Barney Snaith was able to believe again in the reality of friendship and love. I loved the little things in this book – how Valancy asks for “something frivolous and unnecessary” for Christmas, and Barney gets her a beautiful white pearl necklace, how Valancy is fingering her fifteen thousand dollar necklace of Pears worrying that Barney had spent 15 dollars (and that was too much!), the little addition of the famous painter and the ugly purple pills. I love how Valancy keeps quoting passages out of John Foster’s book while Barney incessantly frowns upon them. I adore there little cottage, the two cats, the fire hearth and their elfin experiences in the woods. The descriptions that L.M.Montgomery paints are extremely beautiful and that along with the protagonists, Valancy and Barney Snaith made this book a particularly treasured read. I am convinced that Barney Snaith is one of the most appealing fictional heroes.
“Warm fire–books–comfort–safety from storm–our cats on the rug. Moonlight,” said Barney, “would you be any happier now if you had a million dollars?”
The twists in the story were extremely pleasurable to read but not surprising per se. The ending felt a little like a wooden modern-fairytale end, a sort of retelling of the Beauty and the Beast. But who said that’s a bad thing? This story is an old-fashioned fairy-tale-like story, it’s a sweet romance and a witty (sometimes even a laugh-out-loud funny) read and a brilliantly enjoyable ride.
To see more books that I’ve been reading this year, you can hop on to this page. Cheers, Happy Reading everyone! 😀