My Very Own Dust Pile {Book Club}

My Very Own Dust Pile

I read The Blue Castle for the first time in Hong Kong right after my 30th birthday, and I felt like Valancy was a kindred spirit. Fear has been my strongest companion and fiercest motivator through the years (yep, I’m an Enneagram 6 all the way). I definitely did not grow up with family anything like hers, but I have struggled to keep people happy and often change my own desires to please others.

So maybe that’s why I was so utterly delighted to read about Valancy’s courage to start speaking up, to follow her heart wherever that path might lead her, and to make choices solely because it was what she wanted and it sounded fun!

If you found out you had only one year to live, what might change in your life?What would it look like to live freely and purposefully in that year?

The changes Valancy made were pretty drastic! She talked back to her family members, which made her gleeful and brought much consternation on their part. She took a position nursing a young woman on her death bed, and then proposed marriage to someone she barely knew. What a turnaround!

I have never had the privilege of traveling in Canada, but the spot where Barney and Valancy lived sounds like a little piece of heaven. I love that instead of desiring a palace or fancy dishes and furniture or the best of everything in the time she has left, Valancy is perfectly happy with a tidy little house on an island with her cats.

Maybe that’s what I love most of all about this book. Valancy finds that balance between pursuing life, pursuing dreams, but also finding contentment in the little things. She finds delight in relationships with people who truly care about her. She doesn’t completely scorn all worldly goods but enjoys a pretty gown and impractical shoes. She gives space for her family to come around and decide what they will rather than completely giving them up.

She chooses to live.

We each must make those choices, mustn’t we? We can choose to stand strong with firm boundaries while also loving well. We can choose to say yes even when we are afraid, to try something new or make a frivolous and fun purchase. We can take a risk, or learn how to be content right where we are. For sometimes contentment can be a life-filled risk all it’s own.

Let me leave you with a few more questions and then let’s discuss The Blue Castle in the comments!

Which character in the book was your favorite? Have you ever had a “Blue Castle”, a place in your imagination that feels perfectly like home? In what ways did Valancy inspire you or do you find her choices foolish?

Check out what we are reading in July!

In a world with no poverty, no crime, no sickness and no unemployment, and where every family is happy, 12-year-old Jonas is chosen to be the community’s Receiver of Memories. Under the tutelage of the Elders and an old man known as the Giver, he discovers the disturbing truth about his utopian world and struggles against the weight of its hypocrisy. With echoes of Brave New World, in this 1994 Newbery Medal winner, Lowry examines the idea that people might freely choose to give up their humanity in order to create a more stable society. Gradually Jonas learns just how costly this ordered and pain-free society can be, and boldly decides he cannot pay the price.

Here’s the schedule for reading the book:

July 2: Sabbath week, so no Book Club

July 9: Chapters 1-6

July 16: Chapters 7-12

July 23: 13-18

July 30: Chapters 19-23

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

22 Comments

  1. Michele June 24, 2019

    I loved this book! It really struck me as almost a kind of parable for leaving legalism and entering into the true freedom and joy of the Gospel. Obviously, not every aspect of the story fits that metaphor, but much of it did, with Barney as almost a “Jesus figure”, misunderstood and not caring what people think, acting as kind of a savior or redeemer, even the fact that he turned out to be the son of the wealthiest man the community knew. I was just constantly reminded of the best Story in this one, but without it being obviously forced, and I think those kind of stories are my favorites.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann June 25, 2019

      Michele, what a lovely way of thinking about the book! I love seeing redemptive analogies in literature. It helps me think about Gospel truths in a new light. 🙂

    2. Laura June 25, 2019

      Your comment brought me such joy! This book became a favorite a few years ago and I had never quite pinpointed why. I think you just did! Thank you.

  2. Grace L June 25, 2019

    My goodness, I guess I will have to give this book another try after reading your comments. I tried to get into it recently, but found it so depressing. Perhaps I just did not go far enough to find it inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann June 25, 2019

      Grace, yes, I hope you can try the book again! It did take a bit for me to get into as well, even the second time around. Once she actually gets up the courage to break away from her family and old life things get going a little bit faster. 🙂

  3. Rachel Kahindi June 25, 2019

    I wasn’t sure about this book, but in the end I liked it a lot. I found it predictable, but so sweet and refreshing.

    The theme that stood out most to me was the scarcity mindset of the Stirling family – particularly Valancy’s mother, but others as well.

    I loved it when Valancy started getting saucy. How many times have I held my tongue in the name of keeping the peace when someone really needed to be told how it is? Pretty much every day. She’s totally a hero to me.

    1. Rachel Kahindi June 25, 2019

      ** The Stirling’s scarcity mindset stood in contrast to the abundant life that Valancy and Barney had.

    2. Sarah Hilkemann June 25, 2019

      It is amazing how much a scarcity mindset and contentment are in sharp contrast! I agree, I loved Valancy’s sauciness. 😉

  4. Debbie June 26, 2019

    I have never heard of the book before but I’m interested after what I read above. However, I don’t read romance novels anymore. I used to get so involved in the story if I read a romance novel that it was hard to come back to daily life, so I just decided it’s better for me not to read them. I love analogies. I love relaxing fiction books. But I don’t want a romance novel. Can you tell me how much of it is romance and how intense? Or is it mainly about a girl breaking free from legalism and being true to herself and making her own decisions? Thanks for your input.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann June 27, 2019

      Debbie, good questions! The romance part of it is sweet and light, and definitely not the main focus of the book. This Wikipedia article gives a more thorough description of the book: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blue_Castle. You can also look it up on Goodreads to see some different reviews. 🙂 Hope that’s helpful!

  5. Sam June 28, 2019

    I was surprised by how much I loved this book! It was enjoyable from start to finish and I loved the way Valancy chose to live her life free of fear, something I need to do a little bit more of I think!

    1. Sarah Hilkemann July 8, 2019

      Sam, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I love being surprised by a good book. 🙂

  6. Spring June 28, 2019

    This was the first book I truly enjoyed in a while. It is an interesting premise. How would one live differently if perspective changed. The dread of her approaching her house to return at the climax made me want to stop rrading. I am glad i stuck with it!

    My favorite character in the book was the woman whom Valancy nursed.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann July 8, 2019

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it Spring! And stuck with it. I know, I couldn’t imagine going back to a life where I felt stuck after experiencing freedom and love in the way that Valancy did.

  7. Lena June 28, 2019

    I really enjoyed this book as well! I was inspired by the way Valancy delighted in the simple everyday things in her new life. The time at the “Blue Castle” sounded lovely–to spend each day in a beautiful place with your favorite person. Then a day or two after finishing the book I came across Ps 43:3-4 (“…bring me to your holy mountain, to the place that you dwell. Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight). It gave me a slightly new aspect of heaven to look forward to—being in a beautiful place with “my joy and my delight”—which made me appreciate the book even more. 🙂

    1. Sarah Hilkemann July 8, 2019

      What a beautiful Scripture and perspective, Lena! The Blue Castle does sound like a little piece of heaven and how amazing to think of what heaven will really be like.

  8. Missy June 30, 2019

    I didn’t think I would like this book because of the authorize never been able to get through the Anne of Green Gables books. But I was delighted with the lightness of this read! Valency’s sauciness made me laugh out loud, and I thoroughly enjoyed her change.

    I think my favorite character was Barney. Watching him learn to love Valency was beautiful. Of course in the reading we knew that she had fallen in love with him, but to piece together his love for her was entertaining. The fact that he ended up being the richest person she could’ve ever imagined was ironic, seeing as she had so desired the ‘simple’ life. Honestly, I would LOVE their little island, and I hope to find a similar lla e to retire someday, haha.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann July 8, 2019

      I loved Valancy’s sauciness too! 🙂

      I think I let everyone else’s opinion of Barney influence my mental picture of him too much! It took awhile for him to grow on me, but it was sweet to see the way he and Valancy came to truly love each other.

  9. Bayta Schwarz June 30, 2019

    Oh I shall miss Valancy! I really enjoyed journeying with her! Like you, Sarah, I identified with what she said about fear! I highlighted that whole section because it resonated so much. At the same time, I am so grateful to live in a day and age (and part of the world) that allows single women to have a life!
    Did anyone have any inkling that Barney was a Redfern? John Foster, yes, I did think Barney might turn out to be him. But a Redfern – I did not see that coming at all!
    Also, I was intrigued by her comment that she wouldn’t want the rich man’s cottage because she would have to carry it with her everywhere she went. It would own her, body and soul. She wanted a house she could love, cuddle and boss. What a great insight into the power possessions can have over us!

    1. Sarah Hilkemann July 8, 2019

      Bayta, ooh yes, the power things can have over us! That’s a great takeaway from this book. The Redfern part did catch me by surprise, although it seemed like such an important part of the book I figured it would factor in somehow. 🙂

  10. Phyllis July 3, 2019

    I loved this book! I don’t know how I had missed it in my earlier Montgomery binges, but this was the perfect time for me to read it. I haven’t been given a year, or anything specific, but I do have a very serious cancer diagnosis. That makes you think about life a lot. I have had “Blue Castles,” but most of them melted away recently. I’m happier right here, right now without them. I did love that even though she had always dreamed of a castle, a cabin was just right for her.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann July 8, 2019

      Phyllis, what a great perspective! Thank you for sharing and for letting us walk with you from afar in this current journey. I’m so glad The Blue Castle could be a little gift in the midst of it all!

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