I did not intend to become a rebel that day.
It was summertime, and I wanted a book to enjoy in the spare moments I found between responsibilities. I remember sitting at a picnic table in the shade at our swim club, oblivious to life around me. I stumbled upon Faërie for the very first time, but had no words to describe what was happening to me. Though I had “escaped” into books before, nothing came close to the magic I felt as I read The Blue Castle. I had discovered a new world.
Perhaps it was simply because I had never found words that bared my soul before. And piercing words I found in abundance. From the very first page, I knew Valency and I were kindred spirits. Though she lived within a book and my existence involved more oxygen, I could see the world through her eyes – because they were like mine. I had never met a heroine as honest as she.
The first chapter of The Blue Castle was saturated with experiences I thought were unique to my life. It was as though L. M. Montgomery had a window into my being and had simply changed a few details to protect my identity. Her name was Valency, not Susanna. She was 29, not 15. She had no siblings, whereas I had more than a handful. But both Valency and I felt we had the same lot in life: an insignificant existence in which the primary ruling factor was fear of offending someone in authority. I never dreamed I would someday be, as Valency was, “twenty-nine and unsought by any man.” Yet I shared her tears then as I do now.
With Valency’s transformation, however, I met someone who found the freedom to be herself – and found love and meaning and purpose in the process.
And I wondered if freedom might be possible for me, too, someday.
I could easily relate to Valency’s hopelessness; her thwarted desire to enjoy a good book or simply be alone with her thoughts. I understand, now more than ever, the longing she had to be desired, loved, and cherished, yet autonomous and purposeful in and of herself. I felt her heart’s cry, for it was mine. It is mine.
Though I was only fifteen and could not hope to foretell the future, I did hope that my future would be akin to Valency’s. So though The Blue Castle was quickly black-listed and I was forbidden to read it, the memory of that hope stayed with me through the years. When I rediscovered the enchantment of Valency’s story ten years later, it was in the throes of discovering true freedom for myself. The rebellion had come full circle. I will never stop reading her story. I can never stop living mine.