The Blue Castle: The Original Manuscript by L.M. Montgomery, edited and annotated by Carolyn Strom Collins

As a self-appointed L.M. Montgomery scholar (one semester of Canadian Literature in my undergrad, but someone who’s read nearly all of her works and has many opinions on them, so not really a scholar so much as an educated fan), I was delighted to see that there was another annotated manuscript of one of Montgomery’s works, again ably put together and annotated by Carolyn Strom Collins, who released an annotated version of Anne of Green Gables in 2019. For this second annotated manuscript, Collins has tacked The Blue Castle, one of Montgomery’s few forays into adult fiction. The Blue Castle was originally published in 1926, and it’s a rare piece of Montgomery’s fiction to be set in a place that isn’t Prince Edward Island; The Blue Castle is set in a fictional version of the Muskoka region in Ontario.

These annotated manuscripts are for the diehard Montgomery fans and scholars. If you want to simply read The Blue Castle, you can just go read the published version of The Blue Castle. If you haven’t read The Blue Castle, it’s unlikely you’re going to get anything out of this volume, because the beauty lies in being familiar with what made it to publication, and being able to appreciate the differences Collins highlights and transcribes. This is clearly a labour of love on Collins’ part, with painstaking recreation of Mongomery’s notes, high-quality scans of some of the original manuscript pages, and additional information where a modern reader wouldn’t have any context.

I love the idea of this annotated manuscript and the Anne of Green Gables one. It makes this archival material more accessible to people who are interested in Montgomery’s writing and process, without sparing details. Where things are confusing or unclear, Collins makes note. Where Montgomery’s revisions knocked numbers out of whack, Collins draws your attention to the changes and where she’s preserved these mistakes. This was a very fun read for a Montgomery enthusiast like myself — for example, Montgomery had originally named the main character Miranda, but changed it in the manuscript, crossing out Miranda and writing Valancy, which is how it was published. Seeing shorthand or where things were written and rewritten was delightful.

What also struck me most about reading this annotated manuscript was how apparent Montogmery’s tropes were in it — not just because I’ve read almost all of her work and recognize where she’s borrowed from herself, but because you can see her process in thinking and writing from the words on the page. The Blue Castle: The Original Manuscript is a great read for any Montgomery enthusiast, and a welcome addition to making her archives more open and accessible to the layperson.

Lucy Maud (L. M.) Montgomery, one of Canada’s best-known authors, was born in Prince Edward Island in 1874. Her career spanned fifty years and included twenty-one novels, over five hundred stories, over five hundred poems, many essays and articles, as well as volumes of journals and letters. But it is her first novel, Anne of Green Gables (1908), that is her best-loved work, not only in Canada but all over the world.

Carolyn Strom Collins is the author of The Anne of Green Gables Treasury and other “Anne” companion books; she has also published companion books on Little Women and The Secret Garden. Carolyn helped found The Friends of the L. M. Montgomery Institute at UPEI as well as the L. M. Montgomery Literary Society.

Publisher: Nimbus Publishing (May 28, 2024)
Paperback 8.25″ x 5.75″ | 264 pages
ISBN: 9781774712757

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Alison Manley has ricocheted between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for most of her life. Now in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she is the Cataloguing and Metadata Librarian at Saint Mary's University. Her past life includes a long stint as a hospital librarian on the banks of the mighty Miramichi River. She has an honours BA in political science and English from St. Francis Xavier University, and a Master of Library and Information Studies from Dalhousie University. While she's adamant that her love of reading has nothing to do with her work, her ability to consume large amounts of information very quickly sure is helpful. She is often identified by her very red lipstick, and lives with her partner Brett and cat, Toasted Marshmallow.

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