?

Log in

aogg; anne and gil

h_loquacious in reading_lmm

The Blue Castle Discussion Post

Hi guys!

Hope everybody's been having a good past few weeks!  Sorry this is a bit late.  I got distracted earlier today, and now LJ isn't letting me post anything, which is annoying.  Also, I spent an embarssingly long amount of time trying to find a picture of my copy of this book, only to decide that one doesn't exist on the internet that is bigger than a thumbnail. Especially since I've decided not to try linking the cover, since LJ is already having some issues.  Hopefully this post goes up sometime today...

Anyway, the book. 

It’s the only one of LMM’s novels that doesn’t have P.E.I. as a setting at some point, though it does still take place mostly on an island.  I’ve also heard it’s one of her two novels intended for a more adult audience (the other is A Tangled Web), while most of her books were originally intended for young adults.  And it is my favourite of all of her novels.  I love this book so very much.  It just makes me happy, so I hope everyone else loved it too.

I’ve come up with a few questions.  As always, feel free to answer as many as you like.  Or to talk about other things.

1.  Let’s start with Valancy herself.  Do you find her a bit blah at the start?  A bit irritating?  She is a basically a complete doormat.  It doesn’t bother me, but during this reread, I could see how it might not make her the most likeable heroine.

2.  Barney rushing over to rescue Valancy from the dance, and their resultant night in the woods, best thing ever?

3.  Do you like the romance between Valancy/Barney, or does it feel contrived and too perfect?  (After all, not only is he her favourite author, but he’s conveniently a millionaire as well.)

4.  What do you think of the Stirlings in general?  Are there any you especially like?  Any you especially dislike?

5.  The Stirlings, an accurate portrait of a large family?  Or does the mockery of Valancy get a little mean-spirited?  Or both?

6.  What do you think of the addition of the character of Cissy Gay?  She’s a rare character in these books in that her life is genuinely pretty bleak from beginning to end.  What do you think she adds to the book?

7.  Do you think Cissy knew that Valancy loved Barney?

8.  This is one of the books that makes me realize how much I love LMM’s narration.  One of my favourite lines of this whole books is, “There was a convenient gate-post hard by.  Cousin Georgiana took firm hold of it.”  Just because it makes me laugh each and every time.  I don’t know why.  Do you have any particular favourites.

9.  Do you think everybody has a Blue Castle?

10.  “People who wanted to be alone, so Mrs. Frederick Stirling and Cousin Stickles believed, could only want to be alone for some sinister purpose.”  Any truth to this?

11.  Would you want to live in a cabin in the Muskokas all alone, even if it was with the person you loved?

12.  What do you think of Doc Redfern?  Will Valancy and Barney still be happy with their millions?

Comments

1. Let’s start with Valancy herself. Do you find her a bit blah at the start? A bit irritating? She is a basically a complete doormat. It doesn’t bother me, but during this reread, I could see how it might not make her the most likeable heroine.

Well, I love her. And I identify with her far more than I do Anne. The degree to which she goes along with absolutely everything (given that she is 29 at this point) is a bit ridiculous. But I can see it, especially in that society. I just have to remind myself consistently about differences in society at that point.

2. Barney rushing over to rescue Valancy from the dance, and their resultant evening in the woods, best thing ever?

It’s one of my favourite things about the Valancy/Barney relationship. The companionship that they both get out of it. They just fit together, with their similar subtle senses of humour and such. I also love the end, when he has to convince her he loves her.

3. Do you like the romance between Valancy/Barney, or does it feel contrived and too perfect? (After all, not only is he her favourite author, but he’s conveniently a millionaire as well.)

It does get to be a bit much, but it’s a happy ending of a romance novel. And you know she would have been just as happy (possibly happier) if he’d been neither of those things. Besides, both of them have to kind of work to get to the point where they realize what they mean to each other.

4. What do you think of the Stirlings in general? Are there any you especially like? Any you especially dislike?

I like Cousin Georgiana, worrying about whether Valancy is warm enough at night. And I like Uncle Herbert, who doesn’t seem like a bad person, just really, really unobservant. Uncle Benjamin is just annoying, even though I can picture him perfectly. And Mrs. Frederick needs to get a clue and not be so ridiculously self-centred (I have strong feelings about the Stirlings).

5. The Stirlings, an accurate portrait of a large family? Or does the mockery of Valancy get a little mean-spirited? Or both?

I find them realistic in some ways. There are always people in big extended families who get made fun of more than others, or people who don’t quite fit in maybe, but I don’t think it’s usually this cruel. I think part of the issue though, is that they didn’t realize how much a lot of it bothered Valancy, because she never told them and she just took all of it.

6. What do you think of the addition of the character of Cissy Gay? She’s a rare character in these books in that her life is genuinely pretty bleak from beginning to end. What do you think she adds to the book?

I think she’s a good contrast to Valancy herself in a way. Both women break some of society’s rules, though Valancy’s story ends up much happier than Cissy’s. I like the friendship between the two women, how much they both get out of it. It’s sad when Cissy dies, but she really didn’t want to live, so I guess there’s that.

Edited at 2011-07-31 07:15 pm (UTC)
7. Do you think Cissy knew that Valancy loved Barney?

Yup. When she’s dying and she says something like, “Somehow I don’t think Barney...” and trails off. I think she knows Valancy will at the very least try to check in on him. It is my suspicion that Cissy knew all along what was going on.

8. This is one of the books that makes me realize how much I love LMM’s narration. One of my favourite lines of this whole books is, “There was a convenient gate-post hard by. Cousin Georgiana took firm hold of it.” Just because it makes me laugh each and every time. I don’t know why. Do you have any particular favourites?

Well, I’ve already told you mine. It still makes me giggle. IDK.

9. Do you think everybody has a Blue Castle?

I think everybody has dreams of some kind, just maybe not so vivid as Valancy’s.

10. “People who wanted to be alone, so Mrs. Frederick Stirling and Cousin Stickles believed, could only want to be alone for some sinister purpose.” Any truth to this?

Obviously not. You could want to be alone for any number of normal, sensible reasons. But I do believe that people who don’t like being alone can’t understand the desire to want to be so.

11. Would you want to live in a cabin in the Muskokas all alone, even if it was with the person you loved?

No. There would be other people, and other things that I would miss. Valancy and Barney don’t really have anyone else in the world to miss, besides each other.

12. What do you think of Doc Redfern? Will Valancy and Barney still be happy with their millions?

I like Doc Redfern. I can see he and Valancy really liking each other. She’s never really had a father, he’s never had a daughter. It’s all very charming in my head. She’ll go visit him at his house, and he’ll have a special room for her and such. I have extensive head!canon for this. And I think Valancy and Barney will be happy because they won’t let the money go to their heads. Though it may frustrate them from time to time.
Haha, all of our answers are basically the same! I'd love to read more of your headcanon for Valancy and her father-in-law ;) I think it'd be interesting to know how Valancy managed to navigate the higher society after the end of the book...

Thanks for making the post, by the way! :)
Heh. Actually, I am planning on writing Blue Castle fic for the femgenficathon (or whatever it's called). But not about that necessarily.

My headcanon involves Valancy spending a week at her father-in-law's, possibly because Barney has to go on some business trip and she's pregnant and doesn't want to stay alone. Also she knows her father-in-law is lonely and such. And she ends up cooking for him, and he shows her baby pictures of Barney. And he says he never had a daughter of his own to spoil, and she points out her father died when she was two. And then when Barney comes back a week later they're the best of friends, and Doc Redfern is about ready to buy her absolutely anything she asks for. Did I mention that it was all ridiculously fluffy? Because it is.

You're welcome for the post. Sorry it was a bit late-ish. I really do love this book, so it was no trouble at all.
1. Let’s start with Valancy herself. Do you find her a bit blah at the start? A bit irritating? She is a basically a complete doormat. It doesn’t bother me, but during this reread, I could see how it might not make her the most likeable heroine.

I like her! I can identify with her to a certain extent and it's kind of nice to see that kind of character, someone who has to learn to stand up for herself and sort learn it all on her own? She was responsible for her change.

2. Barney rushing over to rescue Valancy from the dance, and their resultant night in the woods, best thing ever?

Pretty awesome!

3. Do you like the romance between Valancy/Barney, or does it feel contrived and too perfect? (After all, not only is he her favourite author, but he’s conveniently a millionaire as well.)

Valancy saying she was in love with him happened a little quickly for my tastes, but, overall, I really loved it! And, ha, it did all seem a bit convenient, but it's kind of nice from Barney's perspective, that she fell in love with him without knowing any of that.

4. What do you think of the Stirlings in general? Are there any you especially like? Any you especially dislike?

I liked Cousin Georgiana! I liked that Valanacy did have ONE relative who stuck by her. And I kind of wanted to know more about Olive? One thing that makes me a little sad about books with these kind of family situations is we never really get to see much of the other perspective. I don't think the Stirlings--at least, most of them--are actually mean-spirited.

5. The Stirlings, an accurate portrait of a large family? Or does the mockery of Valancy get a little mean-spirited? Or both?

Both! I guess I touched on this a little above, but I don't think the Stirlings realized how much their mockery hurt, since Valancy went along with it. Which doesn't make it okay, but I wonder how things would've changed it she'd, say, insisted they stopped calling her Doss when she was 13 or so.

6. What do you think of the addition of the character of Cissy Gay? She’s a rare character in these books in that her life is genuinely pretty bleak from beginning to end. What do you think she adds to the book?

Hm, I think she shows Valancy that she can be useful and that people can appreciate her just for who she is? I really liked that Cissy Gay had always liked Valancy.

7. Do you think Cissy knew that Valancy loved Barney?

I'm not sure! I kind of got the impression that maybe she thought they would be good for each other? But I'm not sure if she knew Valancy loved him.

8. This is one of the books that makes me realize how much I love LMM’s narration. One of my favourite lines of this whole books is, “There was a convenient gate-post hard by. Cousin Georgiana took firm hold of it.” Just because it makes me laugh each and every time. I don’t know why. Do you have any particular favourites.

I don't have any examples off hand, but YES. This book made me think about that, too.

9. Do you think everybody has a Blue Castle?

Hm, probably at least to some extent? I don't have a permanent Blue Castle or the equivalent, but certainly I daydream a lot.

10. “People who wanted to be alone, so Mrs. Frederick Stirling and Cousin Stickles believed, could only want to be alone for some sinister purpose.” Any truth to this?

No! But it's certainly not an uncommon belief. It's like that quote about how people who say they like to be alone never mean it. Um, yes, sometimes we do!

11. Would you want to live in a cabin in the Muskokas all alone, even if it was with the person you loved?

Yes. It seemed like a pretty good life. And they did still have some connection to other people. (Actually, what really sounds awesome is how they ended up at the end. Traveling and then coming back to the cabin!)

12. What do you think of Doc Redfern? Will Valancy and Barney still be happy with their millions?

I think so! Doc Redfern seems like a good guy and I like to think Valancy will help smooth out his and Barney's relationship.
I read your goodreads review where you said that you thought Valancy fell in love too quickly before my own reread, and I tried to pay attention to that - and yes, it happens quickly, but it's shown that Valancy thought him fascinating before, and plus, she never really had someone show her any kind of niceness before. So I totally got how it happened. Maybe it was more like a crush at first, but those can certainly happen quickly!
It's a common problem I have with books, so it might be one of those things where it's more me than the story. Your reasoning definitely makes sense, but I guess I wish we'd gotten to see more interaction between them early on. We're told they spend time together, but we don't get to see much of it until they're married.
Although, it is kind of interesting that we really only get to see Valancy and Barney together after they're married. Since that's basically the opposite of all other books of this type.
And that kind of thing--getting to know each other after marriage--is actually a trope I enjoy! And I definitely believed in their love by the end, but I just needed more up front.

Though, as I said, maybe it'll work better for me on re-read? I think Valancy probably is predisposed to fall in love quickly.
Valancy saying she was in love with him happened a little quickly for my tastes, but, overall, I really loved it!

I've genuinely never felt this way, which is odd, because usually that's a bit of an issue for me. I think it's because she so obviously has a bit of a crush on him, and they're too lonely souls who manage to find each other at just the right time. IDK.

And I kind of wanted to know more about Olive?

I thought that too on this reread. Olive is portrayed as actually understanding more about Valancy than the rest of the family, but on the other hand she also uses Valancy the most deliberately a lot of the time. And is occasionally genuinely hurtful. But Olive is probably the most interesting of the lot of them.
This is the first time I've read it, so maybe I'll feel different on re-read?

Yeah, I think Olive knew what she was doing to Valancy more than the others, but, perhaps because of that, it also felt like the most complex relationship when it came to the family.
Yeah. It's kind of hard for me to say since I've read this book honestly probably 30 times. I love it so.

Yeah, Olive seems far more aware than any of the others. The Valancy/Olive relationship would be interesting now, when they're older and Valancy isn't just a doormat.
1. I actually liked Valancy right from the start, because I get why she was the way she was. The trapped my circumstances thing usually resonates with me. She's no exception.

2. YESSSSSSSSSSSSS.

3. I mean, okay there are a lot of extraordinary circumstances, but the romance itself doesn't feel contrived. What they built wasn't built on any of the rest of it. But yeah, the way it wraps up is a bit like, "really? okay, then."

4. I actually like Cousin Stickles.

5. I do think it's mean spirited, but that type of thing, where everyone always remembers the same stories, that's definitely a real big family thing.

6. I think Cissy Gay is definitely one of the more adult parts of the book. I don't know, I think she adds perspective more than anything else. Valancy's life may be terrible in a lot of ways, but not terrible like Cissy Gay's was.

7. I do.

9. Sort of, yeah. Although I'm always envious of people who can picture theirs because visualization is a thing that I cannot do to save my soul.

10. HELL NO. Wanting to be alone is a totally normal thing.

11. I don't think so, no. I'm too much of a city person.
4. Really? Cousin Stickles seemed like one of the worst for me. Maybe it's the name, haha, and the fact that Valancy had to rub her back with some sort of medicine every night, ughhh. I felt like Little Elizabeth when she says "what right has the Woman to boss me around" - she's not Valancy's mother, she shouldn't be such a big & annoying part of her education ;) What made you like her?
I don't know, I actually thought that she was more worried about Valancy for Valancy's sake than for appearances sake, which is all that her mother was worried about her for. None of her relatives are that appealing, but idk. I hated her less than the rest of them.
Cousin Stickles is one of the ones I'm on the fence about. I love how she never tells anyone about Valancy sliding down the banister, and she's definitely preferable to Mrs. Frederick. But she's also a bit whiny, and she's almost like an appendage of Mrs. Frederick's sometimes. I'd have liked her better if she'd shown more distinctive personality.
1. Let’s start with Valancy herself. Do you find her a bit blah at the start? A bit irritating? She is a basically a complete doormat. It doesn’t bother me, but during this reread, I could see how it might not make her the most likeable heroine.

I really liked Valancy. In a lot of ways, I felt like I understood her. Possibly it is that I have sympathy for my fellow doormats. Plus, she grows and learns and changes herself, which I liked a lot.

2. Barney rushing over to rescue Valancy from the dance, and their resultant night in the woods, best thing ever?

I loved that scene. Loved it.

3. Do you like the romance between Valancy/Barney, or does it feel contrived and too perfect? (After all, not only is he her favourite author, but he’s conveniently a millionaire as well.)

I don't know if it's different for me because this is the first time I read it, but I did see basically all of it coming. But at the same time, it didn't seem to be any more contrived or perfect than most of the couples in Anne did (this isn't meant to be a gripe, I love the couples in Anne, it's just that most of them tend to work out pretty perfectly in the end). I did like them a lot, even if it happened pretty fast. Then again, Valancy has never loved anyone in her life before, so maybe it's not entirely unexpected that it happened this way.

4. What do you think of the Stirlings in general? Are there any you especially like? Any you especially dislike?

I liked Cousin Georgianna. Otherwise, I think the rest of the Stirlings are more or less clueless and a little self-centered. Not a huge fan of Valancy's mother or the uncle who was always telling bad jokes. Not a huge fan of Olive either, although I would have been interested in knowing more about her.

5. The Stirlings, an accurate portrait of a large family? Or does the mockery of Valancy get a little mean-spirited? Or both?

A little of both. There's an outsider or two in every big family, but I think a big part of the problem was that Valancy never said anything about it and they didn't know how much it was hurting her. Even if it's meant in jest, there are some things that the Stirlings probably should have known better than to use as material to mock Valancy though.

6. What do you think of the addition of the character of Cissy Gay? She’s a rare character in these books in that her life is genuinely pretty bleak from beginning to end. What do you think she adds to the book?

I think I viewed Cissy more as a stepping stone/turning point for Valancy than anything else. I did like their friendship a lot though. I think it was good for Valancy to have someone who did really like her.

7. Do you think Cissy knew that Valancy loved Barney?

I don't know, maybe? I got the idea that she liked the idea of them together, although maybe she didn't know specifics of how Valancy felt.

8. This is one of the books that makes me realize how much I love LMM’s narration. One of my favourite lines of this whole books is, “There was a convenient gate-post hard by. Cousin Georgiana took firm hold of it.” Just because it makes me laugh each and every time. I don’t know why. Do you have any particular favourites.

I actually remember reading that line, for no real reason it just stood out to me, but I don't have any particular favorites on hand. I do love LMM's narration a lot.

9. Do you think everybody has a Blue Castle?

I know I had one of sorts (not a castle exactly, but a comforting place/scenario), that changed with me as I changed, for a very, very long time. I suspect most people have something along those lines.

10. “People who wanted to be alone, so Mrs. Frederick Stirling and Cousin Stickles believed, could only want to be alone for some sinister purpose.” Any truth to this?

Maybe on occasion, but not as a general rule. I love being alone and I need that time to myself. It's nothing sinister, even though so many people think it's weird.

11. Would you want to live in a cabin in the Muskokas all alone, even if it was with the person you loved?

A cabin in the Muskokas seems like someplace I'd love to visit for a few weeks, but not live there permanently. As much as I like my space and my alone time, I'm also a city girl through and through. I'm glad it makes Barney and Valancy happy though.

12. What do you think of Doc Redfern? Will Valancy and Barney still be happy with their millions?

I think they will be. This is LMM, after all! Of course they'll be happy. I think they'll be careful not to do crazy/extravagent things with the money, and mostly just live their lives. And I like Doc Redfern, I don't think he's a bad guy. I think in time, he'll have a better relationship with Barney, and I could see him getting along really well with Valancy.
I don't know if it's different for me because this is the first time I read it, but I did see basically all of it coming.

I don't think I saw it all coming (though I first read this book over a decade ago, so it's hard to remember). I know I wasn't at all surprised. I also wasn't really looking for it.

And, Hee. I'm amused that we dislike the exact same Stirlings.
I don't know if it's different for me because this is the first time I read it, but I did see basically all of it coming.

SAME. Partially I blame it on just reading The Blythes are Quoted, which used similar tropes.

But, yeah, it didn't really bug me. I was expecting a fluffy love story, so it fit.
1.  Let’s start with Valancy herself.  Do you find her a bit blah at the start?  A bit irritating?  She is a basically a complete doormat.  It doesn’t bother me, but during this reread, I could see how it might not make her the most likeable heroine.
Oh no, I love her. She doesn't stay a doormat for long, and the narrative makes it clear that whatever spirit she had has been broken by her family. Plus, what a redemption she gets, so soon! I think my favorite "rebellious" thing of hers is saying true happiness is sneezing whenever you feel like it, haha. As someone with a lot of allergies, it struck a chord ;)

2.  Barney rushing over to rescue Valancy from the dance, and their resultant night in the woods, best thing ever?
Eh, I'm not the biggest fan of ladies needing to be rescued, but that was certainly nice of him. I like that he's established as a good guy, despite all the stories. But I love the night after that, they seem to have such fun, and it's great that they get to know each other a bit.

3.  Do you like the romance between Valancy/Barney, or does it feel contrived and too perfect?  (After all, not only is he her favourite author, but he’s conveniently a millionaire as well.)
Forget it, I loved it. Who cares about too-perfectness? And she falls for him for totally different reasons, twice in a way, since she loves John Foster so much. I don't know, maybe I like suspending my disbelief so much ;)

4.  What do you think of the Stirlings in general?  Are there any you especially like?  Any you especially dislike?
I find them all hilarious, seriously. It's nice that Georgiana is shown as nice, otherwise it would be too farcical, so I guess I like her best? I think the uncle with the lame riddles is the funniest. And I really hate Olive - she has no funny-ness to redeem her. Cousin Stickles annoys me too.

5.  The Stirlings, an accurate portrait of a large family?  Or does the mockery of Valancy get a little mean-spirited?  Or both?
Maybe an accurate portrait of a large family who believes themselves above everybody? I don't think she's mean, frankly, she's just honest and probably helps them all become better/more interesting people, haha.

6.  What do you think of the addition of the character of Cissy Gay?  She’s a rare character in these books in that her life is genuinely pretty bleak from beginning to end.  What do you think she adds to the book?
That is strange, a little bit. I feel that at least she was loved by her father, and she loved her baby, and so her life wasn't totally wasted... and she's shown to have such strength of character, refusing her baby daddy like that. I don't know, I don't have a big opinion on her - I guess she's a very good way to have Valancy do something very shocking without her doing anything bad, per say.

7.  Do you think Cissy knew that Valancy loved Barney?
Maybe? I didn't really think about it. I think she would have approved but possibly not cared that much.
8.  This is one of the books that makes me realize how much I love LMM’s narration.  One of my favourite lines of this whole books is, “There was a convenient gate-post hard by.  Cousin Georgiana took firm hold of it.”  Just because it makes me laugh each and every time.  I don’t know why.  Do you have any particular favourites.
This book is just so funny, especially the early rebellious period of Valancy! I mentioned the sneezing line, and also "Why don't you hunt up some new riddles if riddle you must?" And I love the final twists - I genuinely saw none of them coming the first times, yet there are enough hints that it's not completely out of nowhere. I think it's a very well-constructed book.

9.  Do you think everybody has a Blue Castle?
I know I do! I guess it's not necessary for happy people (although at the end Valancy's castle was a real place too). But then we always strive for better. Mine is a place I wouldn't exactly like to be in, but it's sure fun to think about before falling asleep.

10.  “People who wanted to be alone, so Mrs. Frederick Stirling and Cousin Stickles believed, could only want to be alone for some sinister purpose.”  Any truth to this?
Of course not, but I can understand why some people would find the need for solitude weird, because it really depends on your personality. Maybe Mrs Frederick gets bored out of her mind when she's alone and couldn't understand why someone would want that?

11.  Would you want to live in a cabin in the Muskokas all alone, even if it was with the person you loved?
Iiiii would need a TV, or Internet access, or a shitload of books. But if I had one of those, then yes, I'm pretty sure. I'm not much for social interaction, haha, my husband is pretty much all I need (with a few exceptions of course!).

12.  What do you think of Doc Redfern?  Will Valancy and Barney still be happy with their millions?
I loved how he was goofy but ultimately well-meaning. I think both of them will be able to say that something's wrong as soon as there's a problem, if they're not happy, and go back to their cabin for a while if necessary. After all, they have a good solid base for happiness ;)
I love rebelious Valancy too! When she arbitrarily states that she's going to the other church, just because it's the other one.

And I agree about the neccessity of Internet access, and the books. I'm not huge on tons of social interaction, but I would want some...
Oh no, I love her. She doesn't stay a doormat for long, and the narrative makes it clear that whatever spirit she had has been broken by her family.

Oh, I love her too. I tried not to make my questions too squee-y. Because Valancy is my very favouritest.

Eh, I'm not the biggest fan of ladies needing to be rescued, but that was certainly nice of him.

True. But given the time period, and the fact that it was a one-time thing, I'm okay with it. I do love the scene of them sitting in the broken-down car in near-silence.

And I really hate Olive - she has no funny-ness to redeem her.

I don't really hate Olive. She intrigues me. She could go either way in my head. I think the problem with the Stirlings is that absolutely none of them have a sense of humour, which is problematic.