Saturday, July 26, 2008

Smart Remarks: The Blue Castle...

**I want to humbly apologize for the obnoxiousness of my blog music lately. I listened to it last night while I cleaned my office and almost paper-cut myself to death.
I'll clear it and start from scratch.

Here, I'm going to shamelessly bribe you into commenting on this post.

I don't care whether or not you've read the book, or even if you read this whole post (yeah, and please don't pretend that you did if you didn't), just say something smart in the comments. I really want to believe that an online book club will work. So, anyone who comments will be entered in a drawing (a'la Amanda ;) for a $15 amazon gift card. In theory, you could use it to buy the next book, but if you're not a reader-type, it's enough for a scalp tickler. Now, go comment. Go on. WAIT, read this post first, then go.

Ah, the first book choice of the Smart Remarks' book club:
The Blue Castle, by LM Montgomery!

Did you like it? Did you actually read it? Are you gonna blog about it?

And which cover do you think better fits the book? This one:

or this one:

Yeah, me too.

If you didn't read it and want to know what it's about, here's the premise:

The Blue Castle is about an unmarried, 29-year-old woman who is treated horribly by her extended family and never stands up for herself, but then she learns she has less than a year to live, and that gives her the courage to turn the tables on them. She says everything she's ever wanted to say, goes to live-with and work-for the town drunk and his dying daughter, and then asks the "town scoundrel" to marry her. He feels sorry for her (so he's not really a scoundrel) and agrees to marry her, since she's dying anyway. But, see, there was a mix-up at the doctor's office, and the queer little thing isn't really dying...

Was this book plagiarized by Colleen McCullough?

If you've read The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough (one of my favorite books--I know my mom has because she recommended it to me in the first place), the plot similarities between the two books will SHOCK you. So many of the details are EXACTLY the same.

I couldn't help but think that McCullough had plagiarized Montgomery... what do you think?

Although the plot was very similar, there were a few important differences. In The Ladies of Missalonghi, the main character was genuinely sweet, humble, and likable. You were rooting for her from the first page. She lived with a kind mother and aunt who really loved her, and who were also mistreated by the extended family. In fact, their mistreatment seemed a whole lot worse than what Valancy had to go through because it was so calculated. All this made the ending so much more satisfying and sweet. I much prefer The Ladies of Missalonghi, and recommend you give it a try, despite my strong distaste for plagiarism.

So, what did I think of The Blue Castle?

The beginning was painfully slow, and it took a concentrated effort for me to stick with it. I instantly disliked Valancy. She complained about each and every family member, paragraph by paragraph, but she seemed to be "cut from the same cloth," if you know what I mean. I found her thoughts and opinions of her family nasty and rooted in jealousy, and much of it unwarranted.

After hurling a jar of potpourri out of her second story bedroom window in a fit, Valancy says, "I'm sick of the fragrance of dead things."

It's funny because at that point, I was sick of Valancy and wished she was dead.

Mongomery did create some clever dialog.

"People who dislike cats, " said Valancy, attacking her dessert with a reklish, "always seem to think that there is some peculiar virtue in not liking them."

Unfortunately, much of the clever dialog was overshadowed by my dislike for Valancy.

The story picked up about 85 pages into it, when Valancy went to live with Roaring Abel.

I think she lost some of her bitterness and jealousy when she began to care for Abel's dying daughter. She acknowledged that maybe there were people in this world who had been treated worse by society.

Ya think?

Around this time, Barney, the town scoundrel, enters the book. He was a likable fellow and he saved the book for me. I cared what happened to him, and I was curious about his "checkered" past. Although, I knew his past couldn't be as scandalous as the town believed, since he was the kind of man who would agree to marry a "queer little thing" out of pity.

Then came pages 150-174.

What can I say? I dry-heaved, laughed, and rolled my eyes through this whole section. The whole time, I kept thinking about this SNL skit. Please take the time to watch it, you won't regret it.

(Seen through Valancy's eyes, she is Virginia and Barney is Roger)

Then, suddenly, page 175, the story picked up and got interesting. I zipped right through the last 45 pages. The ending was neat and tidy--it might have been a little too neat and tidy for some people, but I was thankful for it. Everything came together beautifully. Valancy's family got what was coming to them, nothing over-the-top, and, for Barney's sake, it was satisfying from the readers point of view.

So, what did you think?

Read what Cristin had to say about it here.

By the way, I don't know if you noticed, but the book was loaded with unintentional, gay innuendos. Here are a few sentences taken out of context.
They're progressively more and more vulgar, so don't read them if you dislike vulgarity.

"Got your rubbers on?" called Cousin Stickles, as Valancy left the house.
("rubbers," meaning rain gear)

But then Valancy had never been queer before.
("queer," meaning behaving oddly)

"Nobody would molest me."
("molest," meaning bother)

And now every day was a gay adventure.
("gay," meaing happy)

It had once been a snug place enough in the days when Abel Gay had been young and prosperous, and the punning, arched sign over the gate--"A. Gay, Carpenter," had been fine and freshly painted.
(she actually admitted the sign was a pun. get it? "gay" means happy. get it?)

"I don't want you to make love to me, but I want you to act like an ordinary human being."
("make love," meaning to be deliberately and insincerely polite)

"She's feverish--she must be feverish," e j a c u l a t e d Cousin Stickles.
(...meaning "exclaimed." sorry about that one)

The Smart Remarks book for August will likely be Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer, as enough people have already declared it so.

It's the fourth in the Twilight series, and I know a few people haven't even read the first three books in that series (Mom and Michelle come to mind). Normally, that would disqualify a book for Smart Remarks book club, BUT I happen to know that both my mom and Michelle would go GOO-GOO-GA-GA for Edward... I mean, for the entire Twilight series.

So I propose that those who haven't read the series, read all four books in a month.
Is that too much to ask?


Amanda said...

Well, I never read the book. Sorry! But I was mildly interested in doing so. Now I don't feel the need to whatsoever. Thanks Jenny for saving me the time. I enjoyed your assessment of it much more than I think I would have enjoyed the actual book.
I definitely agree Breaking Dawn needs to be next. I also know for a fact that anyone and everyone could finish all 4 books in one month without a problem

abutler said...

Oh bother...I didn't read the book either but you have enticed me to comment. I will buy a book with the money that I win from your drawing.

Look at me...assuming I'm actually going to win!

You know what happens when you ASS-U-ME...

Cristin said...

I READ IT!!!! I actually enjoyed it. haha

soooo, am I suppose to blog on my blog about the book or just comment on your blog about the book?

ajesplin said...

If you can, blog about it, Cristin. I bet you have something smart to say about it. Right? This book club thing can work online, right? More thoughts on the book? anyone?

"Me thinks I hear the rhythm of the crickets..."

(curr, curr, make love, curr, curr, make love)<--if you didn't watch the video, this will seem really weird.

I think you should all "make love" to me about the whole book club thing. (<--if you didn't read my post all the way through, you will be really grossed out by this. you should have read my post.)

Cristin said...

OOO sweet! I have so many deep feelings and ideas that came to me while reading this book...but I'm also a very deep person...

I'm gonna have to read the illegal version of the book.

Even though she's annoying, I was able to excuse it considering how long she lived her life with that family...jeesh it would make anyone bitter, angry and just a big whiner. Like I said before I'm a deep person and am able to see beyond the annoying to the core of who the person is...or something.

The ending of course is my favorite and not just because it was the end of the book. :)

Kind of like Anne of Avonlea, after all that time when Anne finally kisses what's his face, it makes all the hours of reading (or watching if your me) worth it. Though it's not as wonderful as that, it made the few hours of reading worth it.

Memzy said...

1.All I know is that Virginia and Roger make me laugh every time. I've seen that SNL skit more than once.

2. I agree with Amanda.....anyone can read those books in a month EASY.

3. Hooray for drawings I say.

ajesplin said...

Those were some smart remarks, Cristin.

You're right, Valancy had reason to be bitter and whinny. I think I disliked her because she made fun of people's physical appearances, which is below the belt since they can't do much about that. I just wanted her to rise above her bitterness.

I also might have been unfairly comparing her to her plagiarized counter-part from the Ladies of Missalonghi.

Valancy did grow on me after a while.

And Barney was hot!

The ending was superb and worth it all.

And, did you just call Gilbert Blithe "whats-his-face"??? Did you know that there are more movies after Anne of Avonlea, that continue Anne and Gil's love story with the same exact characters that played them in the old movies? They air on PBS on Sundays at 2:00.

And did I mention I'm in my own drawing? And that I'm in it twice cause I made two comments?

Cristin said...

Hey stop responding, I want a good chance for the gift card!

OK so, it's not until I published my last message did I remember Gilberts name. I'm the worst person EVER. Especially since I was going to marry him. Please forgive me.

And No I didn't know there's more...frick on a stick, I wish I had cable.

You really thought Barney was hot? I must have a different picture in my head, I mean, I thought he was ok looking but not HOT.

ajesplin said...

You can marry Gilbert if you want to be my sister-wife.

And, she hadn't described Barney as hot, but he became hot in my mind since he was so... nice. Being nice always makes a guy look hot.

Me thinks the odds of winning that amazon gift card are blossoming in my favor.

Cristin said...

OOO It's on, I'm totally going to give you a run for your money..err gift card! That baby is going to mine.

Yeah, I can see how him being nice makes him more attractive...I'd do him.

Mary said...

Read the book. I would comment on my blog if I knew how and since there is no offer of a reward on my blog, I'll but my 2 cents worth here. It was hard for me to judge the book fairly as I was reading it because I had read The Ladies of Missalonghi first and loved Missy's character much better than my image of Valancy. I liked her family better in the L of M, too. But I felt that Montgomery gave us a bit more of the relationship between the main characters and created a more believable relationship. So what I'm trying to say is I liked Missy and her relationship with her family better in The Ladies.. and I preferred Valancy and her relationship with Barney better in The Blue Castle.

ajesplin said...

But what did you think of Roger and Virginia, mom?

sarastrasser said...

So I read the first 5 pages while going number two. I hated it so much that it just sat on my bathroom floor for the entire month. Eventually my kids splashed so much water out of the bath tub that the book was very soaked and wrinkley. At that point I was too grossed out to open it and read it, so I threw it in the back of my bathroom cabinet where I no longer had to look at the extremely groovy cover. Here is my review of the first 5 pages:

I hate this book. I hate her room. I hate the cover of this book. Why is she still talking about her ugly room??!! When is she going to stop obsessing over her ugly room and get out of bed?? I hate this book! I wonder if Bella is going to choose Edward or Jacob.

Then I finished going number two and the rest is history.

For the people out there who have not read the twilght books, you will be able to read all four of them in four days. You will be amazed at how little sleep and food you need when Edward is around.

michelle said...

Okay, now I have to read The Ladies of Missalonghi.

I agree with all Jenny's insightful commentary on the book. Cuz my sis is wicked smart...:)

My additional input is that I wish we could have learned more about Barney's father. He seemed like an interesting old chap and one could write a good 100 pages or so on hair tonic and how one comes up with that idea.

Was anyone else bothered by the whole letter thing - the doctor addressed it to the correct person but Valancy just assumes it was meant for her?? And that she is the one who is going to die. Red flag - maybe she should have asked someone. But, I did like the whole concept of her getting fed up with her family and doing what she wanted to do (FINALLY!!)

I enjoyed it and Valancy definately made me feel good about my life and that I have TOTAL control...:)

michelle said...

And...I have read the three books from the Twilight series. LOVED, LOVED, LOVED them!!

Looking forward to this next one.

Hayley said...

I read all those books. They are really good, they're right up there with Harry Potter.

They are going to be movies soon too. :D

ajesplin said...

Does this mean you're going to join Smart Remarks book club, Hayley?

Amy Thurston said...

I was out of town!!!!! Sara sure spent a long time with her #2. You read 5 pages?!?!? Hope you didn't get hemroids.

ajesplin said...

You snooze, you loose, Amy.

Anonymous said...

The blue castle pwns. End of.

Anonymous said...

The blue castle pwns. End of.

Anonymous said...

The Ladies of Missalonghi has been a favorite of mine for years- if the truth be known, the copy I have I actually pilfered from my grandma- that's how much I loved that book!
Imagine my shock and dissappointment to hear that it is plagiarized from a book by L.M. Montgomery (one of my fave authors). I had never heard of the Blue Castle and knew I just HAD to read it.
I've just finished the Blue Castle and in my opinion, there is no way Colleen McCullough did not shamelessly plagiarize! There are too many similarities to be a coincidence. Almost the entire plot is the same, and there are too many little details that are EXACTLY the same (the main character being sent to her uncle's store to buy the oats they eat for breakfast daily, always having to wear brown, being taken out of her cousin's wedding because she would 'spoil the effect', her love of reading, the list goes on and on).
The ONE thing I like better about McCullough's version is the good relationship the main character has with her mother and aunt. However, this made me feel more compassion towards Valancy; she was really alone. And, as much as I liked the ending of LoM, I admire Valancy for just wanting to live her own life, not taking revenge on her ridiculous relatives. -Erika =)