Sunday, May 22, 2011

Breakdown of a Heroine: Valancy Stirling

Who is Valancy?
She's a girl who has never lived. The first chapter begins and ends with her crying. Generally speaking I do not like mopey heroines. These emo-chick main characters do not work for me. Valancy has drifted through life, being bossed around by her family, retreat within to her imaginary Blue Castle. Outwardly she's a sickly, silent, old maid.

Strength of Character
At the beginning of the book Valancy is the picture of weakness. She's got nothing going for her and she won't stand up for herself. But that changes (and that's what makes this book so good). By the end of the novel Valancy is barely recognizable.

Valancy's storyline
Valancy thinks she's doomed to live out her life with her overbearing family, a lonesome old maid who is really just a shell of a person. Inwardly, Valancy has a bit of a rebellious streak and a funny sense of humor. In a small act of outward rebellion Valancy secretly goes to see a doctor (*gasp* it's not he family doctor but another one) about her health problems. The doctor is called away immediately after the appointment because his son is in a car accident. A short while later she receives a letter telling her that she has a year or less to live.

This is where the previously weak-minded girl says "To hell with it." Valancy starts smarting off, telling people what she thinks and living by her own rules. What can they hold above her now? There will be no family inheritance, no marriage prospects, no reputation to ruin. Valancy realizes she's going to die never having lived. Rather than give into that fate, Valancy decides to live what life she has left to the fullest.

Romantic Entanglements
To answer this category properly involves spoilers. I know you want to know if Valancy stays an old made but to get those answers you have to read the book. I will say that Valancy doesn't let anyone take away her new found sense of freedom.

What makes Valancy a great heroine is her ability to change. In the beginning of the book there are no pretenses that she's strong and just misunderstood. She's weak. There's no way around that. If you're going to have a main character who is mopey and weak, it's better to embrace it and go from there. The story follows Valancy's progress from pathetic to powerful.

This is a very good book and a pleasant surprise. I read it for the featured author challenge on my goodreads group (LM Montgomery) and would have never picked it up based on the cover. Once Valancy starts telling everyone how it is, she's pretty funny. After reading this book it's rather tempting to follow in Valancy's footsteps and start telling people exactly what I think of them. However, I can't say that I've done that.

Note: Because I am myself, I have to complain about the cover-fail that is this book. I know the book is old and thus I don't expect a fantastic cover. However, I do expect the main characters to somewhat match their description. The man you see in this cover never appears in the book. The main male character in this book rarely shaves and always wears overalls. He is not a preppy country-club kid from the 1980s. That's all I have to say about that.

No comments: