The Blue Castle and Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery (Brief Thoughts)

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  • The Blue Castle and Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery (Brief Thoughts)

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I grew up with Anne of Green Gables, which I reread frequently. For some reason, I don’t recall branching out and reading the other Lucy Maud Montgomery novels. As I was reading some longer, denser books recently, I felt the need for a reading break and took the chance to read two stand-alone novels by the writer from Prince Edward Island.

The Blue Castle (published 1926) is one of Montgomery’s novels written for adults. Valancy is a 29-year-old old maid who is constantly criticized, berated, and teased by her extended family, finding her only relief from reality in nature writing and daydreams about her dream home, an exotic Blue Castle. I must admit that when I began the novel, I really did not like the set up. I didn’t know anything about the plot, and I worried that I’d be able to read a novel with a weak woman. Never fear, L.M. Montgomery was able to quickly bring me around. When Valancy receives some surprising news, she comes to a decision that shocks her family: she speaks her mind. I loved Valancy’s transformation, I loved the twists in her life, and the ways in which she struck out on her own. I loved the romance in the story and all the coincidences of the plot. The Blue Castle is a novel I will enjoy rereading, and I suspect each time I finish it, I’ll be able to say with a sigh, “Ah, that was nice.”

Jane of Lantern Hill (published 1936) focuses on a young child (11 years old) but she faces similar frustrations in her life. Her grandmother nags and criticizes her, her loving mother is a weak-willed woman who still succumbs to the grandmother, and Jane longs for something to make her life complete. Like Valancy, Jane retreats from reality in to a daydream, in her case a trip to the magical moon. When she finds out that her long-absent father is alive and wants to spend the summer with her on Prince Edward Island, Jane is delighted by her new freedom. Although Jane transforms in ways similar to Valancy and even Anne Shirley herself, Jane didn’t feel as alive to me as these other favorite characters. Maybe because the romantic notions of a preteen no longer echo my own notions as preteen reading Anne of Green Gables, or maybe the plot simply wasn’t as satisfying. Nevertheless, I still really enjoyed reading about Jane’s self-discovery. It was a hopeful and peaceful book.

I now look forward to finding the other L.M. Montgomery novels I have not yet read!

(Can I just add that I greatly dislike these awful 1980s covers?)

Reviewed on December 3, 2011

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • Those covers ARE awful, but there’s still something I find comforting about those 80’s style pastel covers.

    I think I tried branching out into some other Montgomery books once, when I was a teenager, but didn’t make it far. I don’t know how many times I’ve read Anne of Green Gables now (somewhere between five and ten), but I can’t seem to make it far into her other works, or even the later Anne books. I’ll plan to check out The Blue Castle, in hopes it’ll help me change that!

    • Ellen Β» I loved ALL the Anne books. Rilla of Ingleside is the most satisfying for an adult. (I reread them all a few years ago.) In Rilla, which was written in 1918 or 1920 or something, Rilla is a 15 or 16 year old girl trying to find her place amid the WWI setting, where all the boys are going off to war. Very mature and full of reflection. I loved it the best now that I’m grown.

  • I’ve seen these books at my library and I think those awful covers put me off reading them! I’ve heard lots and lots of good things about The Blue Castle, though, so I know I would like to read it one day – I’ll just ignore the hideous cover.

  • These are two of my favorite of LM Montgomery’s books. I love how Jane gets so good at cooking and plans all the meals — I’m absolutely awful at cooking and I found that so impressive. But The Blue Castle is my true favorite, and you’re right, it’s always nice to reread.

    Of the other non-Anne books, I have a soft spot for A Tangled Web, even though it’s not actually as good as these two; ditto Magic for Marigold, which starts with this wonderful family scene where a massive family is trying to pick a name for the baby. Kilmeny of the Orchard is very not good; The Story Girl has its moments; and the short story collections can be really fun to read.

    Have you read the Emily books? Probably yes? I always liked her better than Anne. Her sense of humor appeals to me more.

    • Jenny Β» I haven’t read any other Montgomery books — pretty much just these two and the Anne books and some Anne stories as well. (Chronicles of Avonlea). So I need to read the Emily books and those others you mention. This is getting me excited πŸ™‚

  • I was a bit worried when I started The Blue Castle as well. I had a hard time with a 29-year-old dreaming about blue castles and such. She seemed more like a young teenager. But I the changes she experienced and found it highly entertaining. I so disliked the cover that I bought an edition that was quite plain by comparison.

    • Shelley Β» yes, that is it: she acted like a 15 year old. I had a hard time imagining it would take her to age 29 to finally stand up to her family. But then, I’ve always been honest to my mother when I disagreed with her, so I guess if that’s her passive personality….but then, how could she just change in a snap as she did? I don’t know. And yes, I’d love to own this book…if it had a different cover!

  • Even though I live only a few miles from PEI, the only Anne book I’ve read is Green Gables, and that only as an adult. I have others on book shelf (4 additional Anne books and Rilla of Ingleside) but I’ve just never gotten into them…maybe because I came to her as an adult and by then had seen so many productions of the play. I may have to give her Lucy Maud another chance!

    • Debbie Rodgers Β» I mentioned this a comment response above but Rilla of Ingleside is the most mature novel of the entire Anne series. Even without reading the other Anne books you may enjoy it. It was written during WWI about a girl coming of age during WWI, so it seems to have more thoughtfulness, versus day dream ANNE-ness (which was what I loved as a girl…)

  • I read quite a few of Montgomery’s books when I was younger, but somehow i didn’t discover The Blue Castle until a few years ago, and I still haven’t read Jane of Lantern Hill. (The library must not have had either book!) I’ve always found her books charming and/or delightful and when I finally read The Blue Castle it became a new favorite. I’ll have to look for Jane now…

  • I read The Blue Castle only a few months ago at the insistence of my closest friend. I simply LOVED it! She told me it was one of her favourite comfort novels. I can see why. It was extremely charming, and I enjoyed the descriptions of the island.

    I haven’t read the other novel you’ve mentioned.

    And personally I don’t mind the covers at all. I think, sometimes, the charm of an old book is even the culture and era it speaks of in terms of their covers. I have sometimes enjoyed picking up one of those ancient Mills&Boons, and always, it has been a cover very much like the above that has drawn me toward them. πŸ™‚

    • Risa Β» Well, but these books were written in the very early part of the century. On Wikipedia, you can see the original covers and they were certainly not hideous. These pastel-y covers reflect the era in which they were reprinted in, so it doesn’t reflect the author at all!

      But then, I don’t read “romance” novels. this is as “romance-y” as I can handle, and I’d never really call them that, so I just wish the covers didn’t LOOK so much like a romance novel.

  • Yay for PEI author πŸ™‚ I don’t recall Jane of Lantern Hill though I’m certain I read it when I was younger. Valancy and The Blue Castle, however, is a favorite which I reread every year or so, and sigh contentedly each time!

    • Amy Β» are you from PEI?! I knew you were in Canada. I’ve always had a soft spot for PEI even though I’ve never even been to Canada and i don’t know anything about PEI beyond Anne of Green Gables πŸ™‚

      • Born and raised yes! Moved to Toronto in March, but the family is still in PEI. When you go visit I’ll head home and show you around πŸ˜‰

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