It’s summer time and for those who live in the Greater Toronto Area, that means heading up north for the weekends. Whether it’s a family cottage, a camping trip, or even just a day trip, Muskoka is the place to be in those sweet summer months. In fact, Lucy Maud Montgomery herself couldn’t resist the magic of Muskoka.
In July of 1922, Maud and her family went on a two week vacation in Bala, Ontario. Their lodge was on the river by the waterfalls of both Lake Muskoka and Lake Rosseau. The breathtaking scenery and peaceful tranquility of the woods and the water inspired Maud to set one of her stories there.
The Blue Castle was subsequently published in 1926. It is one of the few of her works of fiction that centers on an adult heroine, twenty nine year old Valancy Stirling. It’s a romance set against the alluring backdrop of Muskoka. The story is reminiscent of Jane Austen’s social satire with a mixture of fairy tale romance and a predictable yet comforting happily ever after. I would highly recommend adding this book to your summer reading list.
The fictional town, Deerwood, is actually based on Bala, Ontario. Maud and her family ate their meals in the house that is now the Bala Museum. The museum continually attracts AoGG fans with memories associated with Lucy Maud Montgomery. You can find out more about the museum here: http://www.balasmuseum.com/index.php.
The Blue Castle of Montgomery’s tale is not unlike the Blue Castle she dreams up for herself in Muskoka. She was free to daydream and let her imagination run wild. It ran so wild that she envisioned a dramatic tale based on the people closest to her set in Muskoka. Thus, The Blue Castle was born.
She recorded parts of these musings in her journal, and then she set to work on her story. The heroine, Valancy, resembles one of Maud’s closest friends, Beatrice Alberta McIntyre (known as “Bertie”). During the time that Maud was writing The Blue Castle, Bertie was an unmarried school teacher, similar to Valancy being considered an “old maid” at twenty nine.
Maud was also in contact with her pen pal from Scotland, George Boyd MacMillan. He was a fervent nature lover and outdoorsman and the two bonded over their mutual love of wilderness. A certain character by the name of Barney Snaith strongly resembles George’s poetic temperament in Maud’s tale.
Therefore, it came naturally for her to pair George with Bertie in a fantasy world. The love story that unfolds between Valancy Stirling and Barney Snaith is much more than just your average romance. It’s about two individuals coming into their own, breaking free from the oppression of society, and taking their life into their own hands.
In my opinion, this charming story is one of L.M. Montgomery’s most underrated works. She was an incredibly gifted story teller and as much as we love Anne, it’s nice to know that she created so many other strong independent characters as well.
You can find many of her other works at Shop At Sullivan!
By Jessica Young, Sullivan Entertainment