Recently I made a startling discovery: Books with the word “castle” in the title are extremely likely to be VERY good books, the kind that I will want to re-read multiple times, keep on my bookshelf, and recommend to my grandchildren.
Example #1: I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith
This is a story about a family living in an ancient castle in England in the 1930’s. They are very poor as the family has virtually no income. They don’t even pay rent anymore, because their landlord died and his sons never showed up to collect rent.
Only, of course eventually the boys do show up and Rose, the older sister of the narrator, tries to make one of them fall in love with her so she’ll have money. Unfortunately, all she knows about flirtation and such is info she gleaned from old novels.
The book is mostly character driven, and I must say it is full of bizarre and fascinating characters who fall in love with the wrong people and don’t do what they’re supposed to do and make life interesting.
However, I have decided that it isn’t as useful for me to try and describe a good book as it is for you to go read an excerpt yourself. Which is why I now give you a link to a place where you can read the first few pages of this fascinating novel.
Example #2: The Blue Castle, by L. M. Montgomery
Valancy doesn’t literally own a blue castle in this book. She actually has a fairly dingy life. But she also has a lively imagination, and “the blue castle” refers to the life she imagines for herself, in which she lives in a castle, and has a handsome man. The story is a humerus and touching account of the dramatic turn of events which helps her find that kind of happiness in real life. I cannot even BEGIN to praise this book enough. I don’t even know what else to say without giving anything away. So instead I googled “The Blue Castle free ebook” and found this. Yep, the whole book is online. I would recommend just reading long enough to get hooked, and then buying the book for yourself.
I will paste the first few paragraphs here, for your convenience.
If it had not rained on a certain May morning Valancy Stirling’s whole life would have been entirely different. She would have gone, with the rest of her clan, to Aunt Wellington’s engagement picnic and Dr. Trent would have gone to Montreal. But it did rain and you shall hear what happened to her because of it.
Valancy wakened early, in the lifeless, hopeless hour just preceding dawn. She had not slept very well. One does not sleep well, sometimes, when one is twenty-nine on the morrow, and unmarried, in a community and connection where the unmarried are simply those who have failed to get a man.
Deerwood and the Stirlings had long since relegated Valancy to hopeless old maidenhood. But Valancy herself had never quite relinquished a certain pitiful, shamed, little hope that Romance would come her way yet–never, until this wet, horrible morning, when she wakened to the fact that she was twenty-nine and unsought by any man.
Ay, there lay the sting. Valancy did not mind so much being an old maid. After all, she thought, being an old maid couldn’t possibly be as dreadful as being married to an Uncle Wellington or an Uncle Benjamin, or even an Uncle Herbert. What hurt her was that she had never had a chance to be anything but an old maid. No man had ever desired her.
The tears came into her eyes as she lay there alone in the faintly greying darkness. She dared not let herself cry as hard as she wanted to, for two reasons. She was afraid that crying might bring on another attack of that pain around the heart. She had had a spell of it after she had got into bed–rather worse than any she had had yet. And she was afraid her mother would notice her red eyes at breakfast and keep at her with minute, persistent, mosquito-like questions regarding the cause thereof.
“Suppose,” thought Valancy with a ghastly grin, “I answered with the plain truth, ‘I am crying because I cannot get married.’ How horrified Mother would be–though she is ashamed every day of her life of her old maid daughter.”
Example #3: Howl’s Moving Castle.
I began reading Howl’s Moving Castle in 2010, while going to Bridgewater College in Virginia. It was in my school’s library. I never checked it out, but if I had downtime at school I would head to the library and continue reading where I had left off.
It was a magical book about a girl named Sophie, the eldest of three sisters, who knew that nothing exciting could ever happen to her because she was the eldest. This alone had me laughing, because any reader of fairy tales has seen the trend of “oldest kid fails, middle kid also fails, youngest kid succeeds” prevalent in them.
Sophie’s life really gets exciting when a terrible witch casts a spell on her, turning her into…an old lady.
I love folklore and fairy tales. I also love cleverness in books, and Howl’s Moving Castle is filled to the brim with cleverness. After I left Bridgewater I wanted to finish the book so bad that I looked for it at second hand stores, used book stores, and every library I could think of. Recently I found a girl on YouTube who is recording her own e-book of it. I listened for a while, and got so hooked again that I couldn’t wait for her to finish. I went and bought the book at Barnes and Nobel. Seven bucks and totally worth it.
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