You may know L.M. Montgomery as the author of the widely popular Anne of Green Gables – the delightful tale of a red-headed orphan who cannot go two days without getting into a scrape. But did you know that Montgomery also wrote a book that was actually banned from libraries? The beloved Canadian author enjoyed the status, wealth, and position that the popularity of Anne gave her, but she did not like being labeled as a children’s writer. So in 1926 she wrote a novel with more mature themes. The Blue Castle tells the story of Valancy Stirling, a 29 year old woman who is quite distressed that she is still unmarried. Worse, no one in her tight-knit, busy-body, bound-by-tradition extended family will let her forget that she is unable to “get a man.” After learning that she only has a year to live, she boldly decides to flaunt all conventions, and go out with a bang. One thing she does is move in with an old friend (who is also dying) to give her the care that her alcoholic father cannot provide. The trouble here is that the old friend had had a child out of wedlock. According to Montgomery’s biographer, Mary Henley Rubio, this was the specific content that many parents, teachers, and librarians found offensive1. After all, in 1926, one simply did not talk about such things let alone put them in a book where the main character of a highly regarded “children’s author” is sympathetic! However, Valancy’s new confidence and charity pay off in the end since, even though Montgomery pushed the boundaries, she could not go far enough to have a non-happy ending. If you can accept this, you will find a compelling story of courage and rebellion as Valancy stands up to the “what will people think?” mentality. For example, Valancy switches from the Anglican church of her clan to the Free Methodist church for its simpler service; in response, her mother needs to spend a day in bed to recover! Meanwhile Valancy’s friend’s father exclaims that he has no use for Free Methodists since he is a Presbyterian2. In addition to social commentary, The Blue Castle contains Montgomery’s trademark beautiful descriptions of nature, strong story-telling techniques, and spot-on humor. Her true fans would expect nothing less no matter what the themes.
- Liz Gruchala-Gilbert
1. Rubio, MH. Lucy Maud Montgomery : the gift of wings. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2008.
2. Montgomery, LM. The blue castle. New York: Bantum, 1989.