I know a couple of people who adore 'The Blue Castle' and I loved 'Anne of Green Gables' when I was younger so when I saw a copy I bought it despite the truly horrible cover. Actually a quick look suggests that this poor book has been afflicted with a series of horrible covers over the years which is perhaps why it's not more widely known (the original covers are perfect so I can only hope I turn up a nice copy in a charity shop sometime). It really is a shame about the cover, without the recommendations I wouldn't have picked up a book that looked like this (normally Hesperus have perfectly nice covers too).
So now I've got that out of my system onto the contents. This is basically a Cinderella story. Valency Stirling wakes up to find she's 29, unattractive, unloved, and unhappy. She still lives at home (but as it's 1926 and semi rural Canada it would be odder if she didn't) with an overbearing mother and cousin. She's surrounded by a hidebound family (more of a clan really) where she's the but of every joke and looked down on for her spinster status. Life is about as joyless as it could be for Valency and then she gets some news which should make it worse, but instead it encourages her to throw caution to the winds and start saying what she thinks.
From there it's a short step to a decent haircut, a flattering dress, and emancipation from the family. The end result is that Valency turns out to be something more interesting than beautiful; she's attractive. For the reader the attraction is that she's having fun, saying what comes into her mind, and doing what she thinks is right. Her adventures lead her to a handsome renegade and after some twists and turns it all ends happily (I don't think that's to much of a spoiler). 'The Blue Castle' of the title refers to the imaginary home Valency creates for herself to escape into when real life gets to much.
This was the perfect book to spend a wet afternoon with, and is something I expect I'll read many times again. It's short and charming, (I might also have cried at the sad bit) with plenty of humour, and a generally uplifting vibe and belongs with the select handful of books that I turn to as comfort reading. It really does deserve a better cover though. It's cheap for Kindle's though. I'm also looking forward to seeing what Montgomery's Emily stories are like when Virago re print them in December.