Valancy Stirling is 29, unmarried, and has never been in love. Living with her overbearing mother and meddlesome aunt, she finds her only consolation in the "forbidden" books of John Foster and her daydreams of the Blue Castle--a place where all her dreams come true and she can be who she truly wants to be. After getting shocking news from the doctor, she rebelsagainst her family and discovers a surprising new world, full of love and adventures far beyond her most secret dreams.
Comment: I've had my eye on this title for some time before I actually went and bought it. The Sourcebook edition's cover was amazing and I do have to say the artist is very talented. I've read some superficial reviews (to not spoiler the story) and I was intrigued by how classic vs contemporary it could be considering it was written in the 20s. I was pleased with it in the end.
This is the story of poor Valancy Stirling, a 29 year old woman who never married and lives constricted by the routine and the comments of those around her. It's complicated to live with her family and all the things she's forced to endure because she doesn't have any other option.
Valancy's life changes when she receives a letter that informs her of something that is going to happen sooner than she expected. From this moment on, Valancy changes her behavior, changes her attitude and how she faces life and her family. She starts making decisions, including taking radical steps that, eventually, will lead her to a happier existence...
Overall, I did like this story. I think it has a simplicity that many people can challenge bearing in mind the ways of today, but based on when it was written and the theme, I think it's quite successful. I don't think it's a perfect read because the timing references do have a certain impact on the plot but I had a good enjoyment in reading this.
I think the interesting part of the novel is how certain knowledge can affect our behavior. Valancy has always met the society accepted rules and tried to be the perfect daughter, the perfect niece, the perfect girl, the perfect woman and somehow being perfect didn't give her anything but missed expectations and constrictions she can't escape from. Knowing a determined fact makes her change all that and start to say what she thinks, act as she wants, to demand and question things and more important than that, to feel alive.
Valancy goes from someone being guarded and miserable at home to making her own decisions such as starting to work for someone the rest of the village/city deemed as irresponsible and crazy. In trying to gain her own money and helping someone in need, Valancy not only shows character and tenderness towards others but also the independency she aimed for.
Of course this allows her to meet someone, a man she feels understands her and that will be a key factor in what happens to her next. It will give her courage to defend herself and to get away from her controlling family.
I liked the hero and heroine together. They establish a relationship where they both can be themselves and more than that, friends. I won't spoiler why they got together but let's just say that the plot scenes involving them were both cute and sweet until the moment the conflict happens and Valancy finds out things that change it all.
I liked the pace of the book, and the writing was to the point and clear. I assume many readers find the language too formal but that's a timing reference. The character's usual behavior is also dated but that's normal for the time. I think one has to read this like any classic where the behaviors of that time are part of the allure of the story and what many can find boring is simply social references.
I still think some scenes and situations weren't brilliantly done and kind of made me wonder if the author wouldn't have been more successful in changing some things like how Valancy finds out about the last turning point of the story - I wasn't convinced, no matter the time it was written- and also in the characterization of Valancy's family members which often sounded like exaggerations or too comic for what the story was feeling like then.
All in all, this was a good story, could have been better but I'll cherish the feel of it and the sweetness of a relationship that not everyone can reach. Not even in dreamy places like blue castles in our minds...