DCIB Book Club: The Blue Castle! How Much Did You Love It?

I am so thrilled to share this book with you!!! It’s this little hidden gem, and more people need to know about it.

Things to discuss!

Quick, did you like Cissy, Valency, or Barney best as a character?

I am Valency all the way!!!! Cissy is interesting, and Barney is fun, but Valency is deep. I love the way she struggles with her emotions in big ugly tangles like a human, instead of having them all tidy and clear like book people usually do.

Is it too much that Barney is both a secret writer and a secret millionaire? If it could only be one reveal, which would you have picked?

Yes it is too much! I think he should have just been a secret millionaire. It’s an open question as to where his money comes from, that’s built into the whole idea of the outsider who lives in the forest. Making him also a secret writer is just silly, he’s more fun as a bit of a scoundrel with a heart of gold.

Was Valency’s family described as too cruel for you, not cruel enough, or just the right amount of cruel?

I think slightly too cruel for me. I wanted there to be one person in her family who actually related to her, just to show how she grew up capable of love and understanding.

Do you care at all that the premise for the story is featherlight and ridiculous, or are you able to set aside all logic and go “who cares, it’s a romance”?

I am fine with it! So the doctor made a mistake and somehow she didn’t find out for over a year, these things could in theory happen. Whatever, we ended up in a happy place, and that’s all I care about.

Did Valency and Barney actually have sex despite her heart condition?

One of the things that stands out to me about this book is that it comes closer to referencing sex than any other Montgomery book, or any other book I have read from this era! She talks about laying in his arms in the middle of the night and stuff. But they also make such a big plot point about her not being able to have her heart rate increase. So, like, do they just risk death every time they have sex? Or is all that arm-laying purely platonic?

Is there any possible casting besides Parvathy as Valency and Prithviraj as Barney?

No. It’s the only casting that makes any sense.

16 thoughts on “DCIB Book Club: The Blue Castle! How Much Did You Love It?

  1. I just finished the book on this extremely snowy day and what a lovely, cozy read!! So happy that Valancy fought for her real-life Blue Castle 🙂

    I am Team Valancy all the way!! Choosing to fight for love, kindness and respect when she has known nothing of that in her own life is truly awe-inspiring and so how could I not choose her!

    I think the family was just the right amount of cruel particularly in their thoughtlessness and complete lack of consideration for Valancy’s feelings. It seemed true to life, although I think Cousin Georgiana did care for her in her own way given that she was still under the sway of the Stirling family and it doesn’t seem like much of the Stirling clan even knew what a healthy or loving family looked like.

    I love featherlight and ridiculous, so I had no problem getting into this story. If anything The Secret Adversary from a couple weeks ago felt a little like it relied a lot more on coincidences than this book. And I feel like yes they did have sex?? They were doing all of these physical things like snowshoeing and paddling boats and canoes that I have a hard time believing they would have abstained.

    Liked by 1 person

    • First, do you live where I live? Because OH MY GOSH. I could barely get the door open to go out and walk the dog this morning. And I won’t be able to move my car for, like, a week.

      And yes, Valancy’s determination to change her life without any experience or tools for making those changes is awesome.

      I like that Valancy’s family was cruel to her in a way that outsiders wouldn’t even consider cruel. They never hit her, they never starved her, they just didn’t understand her or really even seem to see her.

      Good point! The Secret Adversary was pretty silly, over and over again, while this book just had the one central misunderstanding, and once you get past that, it’s all smooth sailing. And thank you, I am glad you also think they had sex. Although I guess it wasn’t as physical as thinking you are going to die when a train is about to hit you?

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  2. Yeah, I’m in Chicago and it has not stopped snowing since yesterday evening with no snow plows in sight 😦 Brrrrr!! Days like today make staying home so much easier.

    Lol, seeing as how I’ve never been almost hit by a train, I’ll just have to take their word for it!

    Also, forget to mention this above, but I had no problem with Barney being John Foster and a secret millionaire. It just made me chuckle so much when we found that out and of course Valancy’s family would think he was practically descended from God as a result. The about face from Uncle Benjamin was just too funny!

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    • I loved Uncle Benjamin’s about face, and the whole cynicism of her family welcoming him once he was rich. Not even caring that he was rich for an embarrassing reason! Just money, that’s all that matters.

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  3. I really enjoyed the book, but it took me a while to get into it, 8 chapters of 52 pages to be exact. Once Valancy threw that old jar of potpourri out the window I was all in, but before that… HOW could a human live 29 years as a cowed child? It was like she hadn’t progressed mentally from a 14 year old. In fact if I think of it her falling in love with Barney was a little 14 year old ish too. I read a lot of teen books (I used to be the children’s buyer for a small bookstore) and this book read like a teen romance, even though there were no teens.

    And to tie this into Indian films, I have often felt India has (compared to my own culture) has extended time of adolescence. Well Valency fit into that extended adolescence like a glove.

    I actually got kinda pissed at the book when Barney turned out rich. I liked the idea of him being a secret writer. And I liked the plot point of her loving this author who was him and him pretending to hate the same author, (himself). And writing could have been where he got money to buy things like $10 necklaces. Making the necklace $15,000.00 was too much. It rolls into the classic female dream of the beautiful rich knight on the white horse saving the woman from misery, but Valency didn’t need the money. It was the rest of us dreaming of trips to Hawaii that want the money. It was her family that wanted the money. I would have been happy for her to leave her family behind. When she left Barney I was shocked she went back to her family. Why not go cook for the drunk again until something better came along? Her return to her family seemed out of character for me, but it wasn’t totally unbelievable as she did have a broken heart. I would have been happy for her to happily live without her family for the rest of her days, and without money. Making him rich fed into what I hate about society.

    I suspected they did not have sex because she didn’t get pregnant. Given her upbringing I can’t think Valancy would know how to prevent pregnancy. And given her condition he wouldn’t want to create a child. He didn’t love her, he liked her and thought he would enjoy her company for a year, but I’m sure he didn’t want a child who would soon become motherless.

    For characters I’m on team Barney, I like the idea that a man encouraged rumors spread about him that would basically force society to leave him alone. I liked that he cared about the dying girl and her drunken dad. I liked that he bought an island. (My grandfather’s family once had an island in Canada. They had a big furniture company and it was enough to buy an island build numerous bunk houses and pay a couple to live there year round to take care of everything. But then the company started to fail, and one of the first things sold was the island. About a decade later the company went fully under. But I do have memories of the island, not many, but some. Okay most of my memories are of the Canadian candy. I was kid.) I also liked that he didn’t like to listen to his own words read back to him. I’m not a Prithviraj fan. I’ll have to think some more about casting.

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    • I remember that now too, that it takes a while to get into it. But I think that is actually part of the strength of the book? You have to really feel the never ending dullness and emptiness of Valancy’s life to fully appreciate the waking up she experiences when she frees herself. If that section of the book was more interesting we wouldn’t really understand what her life was like, if that makes sense. Like the black and white at the start of The Wizard of Oz.

      Totally agree about the extended adolescence. I think that is a theme that Montgomery weaves through a lot of her books, and I suspect it might have been something she saw a lot in real life. Men or women who never left home, whose lives did not appreciably change from 10 to 40. In terms of Indian culture, I think that is a really good parelal for similar reasons related to marriage. In India, marriage is the sacrament that marks the change from child to adult. Without marriage, society in general will never treat you as fully adult. And I think the community Montgomery writes about has a similar rule. You could be 40 years old, but if you are a single woman living in your parents house, you will have to fight to be considered an adult and you may always be considered as a little not as good as any married woman. For Valency, she clearly internalized that idea, believing that so long a she was living at home, she had no more right to her own life and decisions than a child would.

      I like to think that if Barney hadn’t come for her, Valency would have found another way to leave in about a week. She could have gotten a job, she could have gone for more schooling, she was brave enough now to know there was a world out there and it would have taken her pretty quick to realize anything was better than staying home.

      Glad you agree about Barney being too much! But I liked the super super rich because I felt like the story was kind of commenting on that false value. Her family likes him just because he is rich, but all the richness ever brought him was humiliation and a sense of not belonging. Even the necklace, she thought it was $10 and was happy with it. The actual value was meaningless, he liked the way the real pearls looked around her throat, and she liked that he had given her a thoughtful gift, and that was all that mattered.

      On the other hand, since Barney is the son of the patent medicine king, maybe he was aware of these new things men could wear to prevent pregnancy? And he could certainly have figured out how to send away for them.

      Yaaaaay! I like Barney too!!!! And I really like that he hung out with the drunk Dad and Cissy just because he liked them and it was the decent thing to do. He wasn’t the father of the baby, he owed them nothing, but he didn’t mind if all those rumors started anyway.

      What about Sid M. and Alia? Sid M. like he is in some of the movies where he plays really rough?

      On Sun, Jan 31, 2021 at 3:31 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Your point of his wealth being a false value is a good one. But I still loved the secret author plot line a bit more. I figured out who should play Barney – Sonu Sood. He is too old, but he doesn’t look as old as he is! Anushka Sharma could play Valancy. Alia might be able to as well, but in my mind Anushka would have better chemistry with Sonu. Sid is too obviously sweet to play Barney – I think I saw one movie where he was trying to be a jerk and I didn’t buy it.

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        • Oh, I like Sonu Sood as an option! He’s dashing and tough, but with a super soft heart. And agree, Anushka could play Valency, beaten down and weak and then suddenly sparkling.

          On Tue, Feb 2, 2021 at 3:00 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. Valancy all the way!! Barney is cool, but he’s a love interest – shown exactly by how he is a millionaire and a scoundrel and has amazing taste AND Valancy’s favorite author. He’s the fantasy come to life – but that’s just it, he’s a fantasy with a few details sketched in. Valancy has small irritations and big thoughts as well – she hates the nickname Doss and she loves to read all about nature and poetry. Go Valancy!

    I agree with DilDeewana that her family was just cruel enough, with Cousin Georgiana caring in her own way. And with you! She definitely had ‘privileges’, like being allowed to stay in bed a half hour longer or being cosseted in the house due to a fear of colds. They just never see her or care about her. She’s almost a piece of furniture they have to take care of – “just Doss.”

    About Barney being everything – it’s LMM’s trope, so there’s no way it wasn’t going to happen. I kind of like the whole funny element to it, like that Valancy hates Redfern’s Bitters/Pills etc etc and that her family doesn’t care about her or has any outside interests at all (because otherwise, even if they weren’t interested in reading themselves, they’d be happy for Valancy for marrying her favorite author or proud of having talent in the family. But nope, it’s all about the $$$). It’s also really cool how we see the reason why Valancy and Barney understand each other so completely. Both grew up stifled and mostly unseen and found solace in the same things, attracting them to each other without knowing what they were attracted to. If I HAD to pick, I’d say Barney being a millionaire would be my choice – but he’s also the publisher or agent or editor for a mysterious ‘John Foster’ who is someone we’d never expect (maybe Jane Sterling?? Or even Cissy? Though between the two, I like the idea of it being Jane Sterling better.)

    Did Valancy and Barney have sex? Yes, but with protection. I think Valancy just wants the ‘full experience’ of life – and she did make Barney promise not to remind her that she has a heart condition. But risking pregnancy, especially when that would saddle Barney with a child and possibly cause that child to grow up lonely like her? They would never.

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    • Maybe they assumed she wouldn’t survive pregnancy? If we are risking death by the experience of sex, why not risk death by pregnancy? But no baby, because she would die long before term? Obviously it’s completely possible for a couple to have sex for 6 months and just not get pregnant without using any protection at all, which could be what happened, but they weren’t worried about it because they thought she would die first?

      Yes to Valancy and Barney turning out to have the same life! Valancy sees them as so different, but in fact he is just her for a few more years down the road. He had his own “near death” when his fiancee rejected him and he decided nothing mattered. And that freed him to truly not care any more. If we look at this story from Barney’s side, Valancy is the person he has been waiting for, the one person who can join him in this life of nothing mattering.

      On Sun, Jan 31, 2021 at 3:36 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Oh, I definitely think they assumed she wouldn’t survive pregnancy or at least labor and it’s cruel to do that when one party doesn’t even want a child (and then will be given 100% of the responsibility of raising it). And it’s not necessary that she dies before the term is complete – the doctor says a year but if it’s like 3 months after that, that’s very, very risky.

        Maybe not sex though, because I see your point. 3rd base?

        (I feel like a high schooler, discussing bases – and of fictional characters too!)

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        • I think I am going to do a firm vote for Rhythm Method. Early condoms would be possible (all that mail order he does), but Rhythm Method seems more likely and people actually believed/believe in it so they could pretend they were doing the responsible thing.

          On Sun, Jan 31, 2021 at 7:13 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. First, I loved this book so much. It was such a fun escapist novel with a completely unrealistic plot, spunky heroine, sweet/misunderstood hero, and over-the-top storylines. It was hard to get into it, but once Valancy got the news about her health and started hacking the rose bush, it was amazing!

    Quick, did you like Cissy, Valency, or Barney best as a character?

    I am Valency all the way! I enjoyed her retorts to everyone. Valency’s dialogue was my favorite part of the book. All so clever and honest and funny. I really liked Cissy as a character, but honestly, her storyline, especially about her son was just a little too sad for me. It was the only time I had to stop reading the book for a few minutes.

    Is it too much that Barney is both a secret writer and a secret millionaire? If it could only be one reveal, which would you have picked?

    I have complicated feelings about Barney. I don’t care that he is a writer and also rich, but part of me wishes he had made his money through his writing and then bought Valancy a gift with that money. Not talking to your father for years because you are ashamed of him and then taking out $15K to buy a necklace just annoyed me.

    Was Valency’s family described as too cruel for you, not cruel enough, or just the right amount of cruel?

    To me, the family just felt like a typical family based on other books from that era. Name, status, propriety, “what will others think” meant everything. Everything would be forgiven if the man their daughter is marrying is rich.

    Do you care at all that the premise for the story is featherlight and ridiculous, or are you able to set aside all logic and go “who cares, it’s a romance”?

    I love love love that the premise is ridiculous and light! It was just such a fun happy book to read right now. Which is why I think the Cissy storyline hit harder than it probably would have in other novels.

    Did Valency and Barney actually have sex despite her heart condition?

    YES! They had sex. This quote from Barney sealed the deal for me: “In spite of your ancestry, there is something wild and remote and untamed about you. And you have such a nice, sweet, throaty, summery voice. Such a nice voice for love-making.” They totally were having sex.

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    • Yaaaay, so glad you liked it!!!!

      Yes Valency’s snarky tongue. I completely bought the transition from the quiet woman who just thinks these things and no one knows to the person who actually SAYS them. She was always snarky, just not brave enough to say it.

      Maybe he planned to give the money back? I mean, Valency wasn’t supposed to live that long, he could have been planning to resell the necklace once she was dead and put the money back. Alternatively, it’s a sign of his love for her, since there wasn’t any time to waste, he just took the money for now so he could give her the thing he wanted to give her and who cares about his pride.

      Name, status, and no ability to question your values. If it is what the family thinks, it is the right thing. If it is what you want, that’s not a good enough reason.

      Yes, it is kind of nice that there was no real conflict at all in the end. Everything is made up and all is happy.

      Thank you! I thought they had sex too! Who cares about birth control, live for the moment.

      On Mon, Feb 1, 2021 at 9:27 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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