" I have a confession to make, " says bookstore owner Kathleen Kelly in the charming Pride and Prejudice update, You've Got Mail, " I have read Pride and Prejudice two hundred times !I am always in agony over whether Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett will really get together. Read it. I know you'll love it."
Bad paraphrasing aside, I could say the same ( times eight thousand ) for my favouritist of books, The Blue Castle. Selling it consistently to Muskoka tourists at my bookshop this week, I was forced to ponder my history with this book and possibly my future
Will I give it up? Probably not. Do all of my philosophies on life and my conception of romance somehow stem from the well worn pages of my favourite copy of the book I own many editions of? Probably yes.
I was so excited to do my honour's thesis on it ( partly ) and to filter my passion for this novel into a more scholarly funnel. Sure, every "smart" statement I made pertaining to the work and every symbol I found in its deeply feminist construction have fled now. Oh well, I still have the papers to prove my thoughts were once in that state. Right now, school-less, I could care less whether or not I am reading it with critical eye. I am kicking my feet up in the summer sun in the beautiful landscape that so resembles the setting of the work ( it is set about half hour from my house ) , eating chocolate almonds, and dreaming of my own whimsical and mysterious hero.
"Everyone has a Blue Castle", says consumption-ridden Cissy Gay to her aide, Valancy Stirling. Everyone, I think, has a book like The Blue Castle. They may not know it, but for a reader, it's in their blood.
One cannot help but think of how influential this book has been on the Canadian public consciousness. Not only did it put Bala, Muskoka on the map ( Okay. Bala, Muskoka ISN'T on the map, but if it were , I am sure it would be for this book ), it was rewritten by Colleen McCulloch ( renowned for The Thorn Birds) and the start of a major lawsuit and debate on literary validity ( ie. can you claim that you read a book years ago and subconsciously write it again thinking it is indeed far from plagiarism? If your hero's name is John Foster then let me ding the negative, "Wrong Answer" bell ). It also was, according to some essay in some book I don't have time to look up now, the inspiration behind Atwood's Lady Oracle.
If you search amazon, zillions of readers claim The Blue Castle, one of the least known of Montgomery's works and only in print again in the last decade, to be their absolute favourite book of all time. This book inspires literary passion and imaginative emancipation like no other I have ever read.
I could go on about the plot and why it remains ( with the exception of my bridge to the realm of classic literature, Les Miserables ) my favourite book of all time, but I think it is more important to broach the subject of the one book that turns you on your ear.
Why is it that one book for one person surpasses everyone else's passion for the same work? Why is it I can reread the torn and worn pages of this cheesy little mass market over and over again and never tire of what the tattered binding holds?
I think we choose our books like we choose our friends: some glimpse of personality, humour, warmth, a shard of light that reflects ourselves, a hint of something we want to glean and nurture and hold onto. Something that makes us feel more like "us" than we did before it was part of our daily lives.
If so, The Blue Castle is perfectly me ---with its outlandish fairytale plot and its over-the-top ending and its flowery descriptions, obsession with books and deep lights flickering over harbours.
I always give new acquaintances who I surmise will remain forevermore kindred spirits a copy.... just to wait for their assessment, and to hope they think of it as I do ( maybe not as deeply, but to some extent ).
My aunt always keeps copies of A Room of One's Own around her house, so she can bestow them upon worthy readers if need be.
I keep the Blue Castle nearby.
It is the perfect romance. The perfect read.
IN RELATED NEWS:
oh, dear god. Kevin Sullivan has decided to butcher more Montgomery (as if Lantern Hill and that ghastly third Anne movie were not enough) by making an Anne prequel .
Just because Montgomery mentioned the idea doesn't mean she was actually going to write it, Kevin. You must know that most of the Anne series was written to see her through financial hardships and a car lawsuit. Good lord! She would HATE this!
Oh, and the fact that you are casting on youtube(!!!!!), means I dislike this idea even more.
Have fun 12 year old redheads, there is no way this would be welcomed by Anne's creator.