#ReadingValancy discussion post for those who have read The Blue Castle

Thanks again to Naomi at Consumed By Ink for hosting the #ReadingValancy read-along this November! When I have questions about Lucy Maud Montgomery, I turn to Naomi. She’s sucked me into an obsession. I’m also glad I got to know a bit about more Sarah Emsley, Rohan Maitzen, and Jaclyn, who also joined the read-along.

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Becky can’t believe Valancy sat in a car all night with a strange man. Photo Credit.

The Blue Castle was something different from what I’m used to. Our heroine was an anxious person with validation issues, and our hero was a slobby runaway dreamer with a P.O.S. car. Or was he? I felt it was very odd that Montgomery chose to hide that Barney Snaith was Valancy’s favorite author, John Foster. What is the purpose of this? I wondered if Montgomery was trying to say something about the state of publishing. Although John Foster is beloved in Valancy’s town, how popular is he elsewhere? Perhaps it was shameful to be a writer at this time; Barney certain scoffs when Valancy mentions or quotes John Foster’s work. If he knows his wife loves Foster’s books and was practically saved by them when she lived with her mother, why not admit that he is the voice behind the pen?

It’s possible Montgomery is suggesting an author couldn’t make enough money to get by, but she certainly did — though you have to consider the huge amount she produced and published to support her family. I knew John Foster was really Barney Snaith — who else but a dreamer lives on an island all alone? And what better place for a writer to write? I was happy with this and crushed by his wealth, which his father obtained by swindling people into purchasing his useless potions.

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Would the Blue Castle look like this? I feel like Valancy would appreciate the tiny house movement. Photo Credit.

To learn Barney is also the son of Mr. Redfern left me wondering why the story had to go over-the-top. I should have seen something coming when Barney kept asking Valancy if she would be more happy if he were wealthy, but my mind was already made up that he was a writer of modest income. Didn’t it seem like he was asking her if she regretting marrying someone who is basically permanently camping?

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“Welcome home, dear!” Photo Credit.

In the end, Barney and Valancy travel the world, and I wondered if that fit with either of their characters. Yes, Barney had traveled a lot before, but it was implied that he was a lost, brokenhearted wanderer, not an world seeker. Perhaps it’s my own bookish bias that made me romanticize Valancy and Barney, their funny pets, and a couple of kids playing in the Blue Castle year round with stories, writing, and wilderness being an integral part of their lives.

I also thought something much more menacing would happen in the end when Uncle Benjamin attempted to play the voice of reason when Valancy returned home after she felt ashamed for accidentally tricking Barney into marrying her. Of course Uncle Benjamin wanted in on some of that sweet, sweet Redfern money! Then I wondered: how would he get any of it? I thought for sure he would have a trick up his sleeve. After he changed his will to Valancy, I was surprised: she didn’t need money (duh). I had to remind myself that by changing his will, Uncle Benjamin is basically saying, “See! I’m a good guy! NOW, GIVE ME SOME OF YOUR MONEY!!!” There could have been some real drama in the end, is what I’m trying to say. Did Montgomery miss an opportunity, or did she know when enough was enough?

Scrooge Counting Coins
“I want more, dammit!” Photo Credit.

One part I neglected to mention in my review of The Blue Castle is the mention of Grundy: “No Mrs. Grundy.” I wondered if I had missed something. Fortunately, because my e-book is a combo of The Blue Castle and The Tangled Web all in one file, a search for “Grundy” led me to learn that the Grundys are characters in The Tangled Web. I do feel very frustrated that L.M. Montgomery couldn’t keep her books straight. The same thing happened in the Green Gables series. Because there were books of short stories in between the novels set in the same place, characters of whom I had never heard would pop up in Anne Shirley’s life without introduction — because they had already been introduced in a different book. If that’s the case, why do publishers not sell the Green Gables series in its totality!? So frustrating.

Overall, I did love The Blue Castle and delighted in the horror Cousin Sickles felt keeping the secret of Valancy sliding down the banister to herself and the *squee* in my heart when Barney shaved. Oh my, he shaved. (Though he still didn’t love her yet? What was that about?!).

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23 comments

  1. I love the pictures you include! Especially “Welcome Home, Dear!” – that one made me laugh out loud.

    As much as I love this book, I was also kind of disappointed that Barney turned out to be wealthy. But mostly that they decided to travel the world and only live at the blue castle part-time. It doesn’t seem right to me. But knowing that LMM partly wrote for her audience always makes me re-think what she writes. Maybe this is what she thought her readers would want to see. To us, the picture of them on their island with a couple of kids seems cozy, but back then it might have been boring and too much like what many women’s lives were already like. They wanted to find out that their husbands were secretly wealthy and would take them away from the drudgery of everyday life.

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  2. While I was also a bit disappointed that Barney turned out wealthy, I didn’t mind them traveling the world. Yes, I would have been happy to see them permanently on their island, but I saw the traveling as a big opportunity for Valancy. Not that she needed it, as a “now she’s different and perfect” thing, but as a “she’s happy and can do whatever she wants” kind of thing. And for Barney, I thought the traveling meant he no longer feared being loved only for his money. I have completely bought into the whole “happily ever after, everything is perfect” idea. 🙂 Maybe my glasses are a little too rose-colored when it comes to their love story…

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  3. Even though, as Naomi has already written about, there are some elements of this story which part of me objects to, as part of this story I simply accept them, just because this was a favourite of mine when I was younger and I have enjoyed returning to the romance over the years. I didn’t have the feeling that other people loved John Foster’s books as much as Valancy. Maybe I simply overwrote that via my own imagination, but I felt like Valancy was his best reader and the person he had been imagining writing for, for all those years, even though they didn’t know it yet. The part which I always love most, though, is Valancy’s boldness, her determination to dare when she believes her days are numbered: I never tire of that! I can understand why you wouldn’t have loved it as simply as you might have if you’d discovered it when you were twelve years old, but I’m glad that you found some things to enjoy about it all the same.

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    • I enjoyed an awful lot about it, but I wanted to get these thoughts out there, too, to see what others thought. I wondered if Foster was very popular because Valancy said she noticed other people wanted the newest book but was told it wasn’t published (which confused her because she already had a copy). I wonder if I would have loved this book as a girl. I think it’s interesting how many women have noted that they read The Blue Castle as girls even thought this was LMM’s first adult novel 😊

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  4. Love this! Sorry it took me so long to find. I’m usually a better readalong partner, but life has been a little absurd recently. Anyway – I really enjoyed reading your thoughts about Valancy, and that tiny house is perfect – I mean, it’s even BLUE. I wonder if Barney didn’t conceal the fact that he was John Foster because he didn’t feel that the writing measured up to his expectations for himself? Not that he was ashamed of his nature books, but that he thought the writing could be better and was being too hard on himself. I guessed his identity when he dismissed one of Valancy’s John Foster books as “piffle” – it seemed to me that he was dissatisfied with himself, much the way Emily Starr would burn poems out of disappointment when she went back to them a year or so later and they didn’t measure up to her expectations.

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    • I haven’t read Emily yet, though I know Naomi did an Emily readalong. I read the 8 Green Gables books last summer and didn’t want to become an L.M. Montgomery blog! 😀

      I did lose some readers when I read all 8 books on my own. People fear spoilers or can’t keep track of what’s going on if they aren’t familiar with Anne’s story.

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  5. Remember Barney has been disappointed in love. He neds to ascertain that Valancy loves Barney Snaith and not Bernard Redfern or John Foster. He doesn’t want her to guess so he talks his books down. Nature books were very popular once; I can remember reading those from BBC programs. This was before TV when you had to rely on books to ‘see’ other environments. And for the same reason he would want to show Valancy the wonders of overseas. As for th forbidden room, Valancy is living in hte present as she doesn’t think she has a future. Why should she care what’s in there? She expects Barney’s life to go on without her. Uncle Benjamin doesn’t covet the Redfern millions. He covets the status that comes from being related — bragging rights. He leaves his money to Valancy for the same sort of reason: he is rewarding her success in life. Do you know there are still people who will money to The Queen? It’s partly for the bragging rights and partly for some sort of magic by association.

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    • Those are all interesting ideas I had not considered, especially about willing someone money being bragging rights. Earlier in the book Valancy is told to stay in her uncle’s good side or she will be cut out of his will/not be assured some money she may need to survive. Thanks for commenting; you’ve given me a new perspective!

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