And how does it compare to this one:
Honestly, is this not the CHEESIEST book cover you've ever seen???? (Unless, of course, you are a regular reader of paperback romances, or the illustrator of this cover, in which case I apologize in case I've offended you. )
And my next question is this: I know that book covers will attract readers to books, but have you ever been so put off by a book's cover that you actually refused to read it? I ask this, because I bought this book more than six years ago after reading rave reviews by some of my favorite bloggers. However, I could never bring myself to read it because I was too embarrassed. Seriously!!
I finally decided I'd give it a try the other day -- I honestly wanted something from my TBR shelves that was short, and that was the complete opposite of Moby-Dick, which I had just finished, after six weeks of listening to the audio in the car. I had also started reading a Zola novel which just wasn't doing anything for me.
This is the story of Valancy Stirling, who lives somewhere in Canada with her mother and aunt, and is completely cowed and browbeaten by her entire extended family. At twenty-nine, she is an old maid, and her family will never forget it. When I actually started reading it, I still didn't crack my lousy mass-market paperback -- I read the first chapter or so via the e-book version from Project Gutenberg Australia.
I was pretty much hooked when I read this paragraph in Chapter I:
Aunt Wellington, of whom Valancy stood in abject awe, would tell her about Olive's new chiffon dress and Cecil's last devoted letter. Valancy would have to look as pleased and interested as if the dress and letter had been hers or else Aunt Wellington would be offended. And Valancy had long ago decided that she would rather offend God than Aunt Wellington, because God might forgive her but Aunt Wellington never would.
Things get very interesting when something absolutely life-changing happens to Valancy. Without telling her family why, she decides to take matters into her own hands and live her life the way she wants, without giving a fig about what other people think. This completely shocks her family and most of the population of her small town, and the reactions of her family members are pretty hilarious. I don't want to give too much away, but this part of the book is full of wry observations and some laugh-out loud moments.
This book was written by L. M. Montgomery, the beloved writer of the Anne of Green Gables series. I discovered Anne fairly late in life -- I never read it as a child because I somehow got it confused with Pollyanna, and I assumed Anne would be a sickly-sweet goody two-shoes. I never read Heidi either. Still haven't. (If there are any Heidi and Pollyanna fans out there, please tell me if I should reconsider). The Blue Castle is Montgomery's only book meant for adults, and it does remind me a bit of what Anne would have been like as a grown-up, though I can't for a minute imagine her as browbeaten as Valancy is in the beginning of the book -- so, really, Valancy is like Anne after she takes charge of her own life.
Anyway, this book is funny and charming, and there's a nice little love story, though the ending is a bit unrealistic. But it's a fun fast read, just over 200 pages in most editions. It's a great summer read if you can get past the horrible cover. Clearly, the publishers never actually read it, because the couple on the front look nothing like Valancy and the love interest. I only wish I'd bought a later edition with this cover:
or even this one:
(Also cheesy, but not nearly as bad as the first one.)
Or even this one:
This one's better, but to be fair, Valancy's mother and aunt would faint dead away before they let her near a window with this much skin showing. And don't get me started on the makeup -- this book was published in 1926.
Anyway -- what books repelled you before you even opened the covers? And has anyone actually read Pollyanna and liked her, or does she make your teeth ache?