A fun, escapist piece of fiction with an entertaining, enjoyable plot and lots of juicy details.
Set loosely in the 1920’s, this departure from L.M. Montgomery’s usual style of story features a miserable and cowed 29-year-old heroine named Valancy Stirling. Continually overshadowed and hemmed in by her domineering and materialistic relatives, Valancy lives in a fantasy world that she calls her “Blue Castle.” Finally discontented with living in a fantasy, Valancy vows to discover who she is and what she loves when she receives a life-changing letter from her physician, Dr. Trent. She embarks on a series of adventures and discoveries that culminates in an exploration of love and selflessness.
Valancy nurses a dying woman, Cissy, who no one else will come near because Cissy is known to have had a child out of wedlock. The book clearly does not condone this conduct, though it challenges readers to see Cissy as a human being who made a regrettable mistake that had a negative impact on her life (fairly impressive for a book first published in 1926!). Valancy defies her mother and spinster cousin’s wishes that she remain at home and sets out to “have adventures” for the first time in her life. Given Valancy’s age (29) and her mother and cousin’s ability to care for themselves, Valancy’s decisions come across as understandable and brave rather than defiant and ungrateful.
The family attends church, though this is more of a social event rather than a spiritual exercise.
A strange man at a dance tries to drag Valancy out on to the dance floor and demands a kiss, but she is saved by another character before anything else happens.
Drug and Alcohol Content
There is a scene in which a late night dance occurs and the crowd is described as drunk. This is represented as extremely negative. Old Abel also drinks to excess and is portrayed as a barely functional alcoholic who drowns his problems by drinking.
Some kisses and affection between a married couple, but nothing inappropriate or graphic.
Crude or Profane Language or Content
There is one character who is said to use profanity. His swearing is limited to the word “h**l” and another word represented as the following: “d__________d.”
For L.M. Montgomery fans, this book is an intriguing and fairly sophisticated departure from her usual story arc. Her deliberate choice to have an older heroine with loads of emotional baggage, as well as her exploration of social limitations on women in the early 1900’s also adds to the story’s interest.
As in her famed Anne books, Montgomery’s physical setting for Valancy’s adventures is richly detailed and beautiful, providing plenty of momentum and interest. Montgomery’s humorous and cutting observations about Valancy’s absurdly eccentric relatives provide a gentle laugh at the foibles of a bygone era.
Valancy’s loneliness and desire to love and be loved make her an easy character to identify with, despite her somewhat dated social setting. The plot has plenty of interesting twists and a satisfying surprise ending.