Mary Stewart 1916-2014

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I was very saddened to learn of the passing of one of my very favorite authors, Mary Stewart, on May 9. Here is a link to The Guardian tribute. They’ve said everything I feel about her books so much better than I can say it. I will always treasure her books and read them throughout my life.

If you want to read some of the reviews that people wrote for Mary Stewart Reading Week you can go here.

My favorite of her books that I’ve read so far is Nine Coaches Waiting. What is yours?

Mary Stewart Reading Week Wrap-up

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Well, friends, we’ve come to the end of Mary Stewart Reading Week. I hope you’ve all enjoyed your experiences this week reading her work and if you haven’t, I hope that you would be willing to try her again. I think we’ve seen that, like most authors, Lady Stewart wrote some outstanding suspense novels and some not so stellar, yet still enjoyable, novels. I liked both of the books I read this week and I even found my favorite of her books in Nine Coaches Waiting.

I’ve loved reading your thoughts and I truly thank you all for participating, posting and commenting during this celebration. The event was far more successful than I dreamed it would be and I was pleasantly surprised to meet new-to-me bloggers who joined the reading week when they saw it mentioned on other blogs.

I will keep an index of the reviews posted this week up at the top of the blog under ‘MSRW Posts’. If you didn’t have a chance to read all of the posts yet you can always visit at a later time to see what you missed.

If you entered the giveaway, keep on the lookout to see if you won – I’ll announce the winner in a few days.

Again, thank you so much for participating! Keep reading Mary Stewart – let’s keep her work alive!

If you are looking for books similar to Mary Stewart here is a list of Mary Stewart read-alikes from author Lauren Willig.

Mary Stewart posts so far:

Airs Above the Ground – A Work in Progress

Airs Above the Ground – The Captive Reader

The Crystal Cave – TBR 313

The Gabriel Hounds – bibliolathas

The Little Broomstick – Pining for the West

The Moonspinners – Miss Bibliophile

My Brother Michael – Fleur In Her World

Nine Coaches Waiting – Quixotic Magpie

Stormy Petrel – She Reads Novels

Stormy Petrel – The Worm Hole

Stormy Petrel – Country Girls Read

This Rough Magic – Quixotic Magpie

Touch Not the Cat – The Book Jotter

Touch Not the Cat – The Indextrious Reader

Wildfire at Midnight – TBR 313

Wildfire at Midnight – The Bookworm Chronicles

Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart

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After my slight disappointment with Wildfire at Midnight I chose my next Stewart carefully. I wanted something that I would love as much as I love The Moonspinners or Thornyhold so I read the beginning of several novels to see what would click. As soon as I started reading Nine Coaches Waiting I knew it was the one.

Linda Martin is a young woman who’s been engaged as a governess to the nine-year-old Comte de Valmy, Philippe. She travels to his home, the Chateau Valmy, in the mountains of eastern France not far from Geneva and commences to oversee his education and day-to-day care. Philippe is an orphan and is under the guardianship of his Uncle Leon and Aunt Heloise who are not very affectionate people, but seem to care about his general well-being. The chateau is very isolated so Linda spends most of her time with Philippe with occasional trips into the nearest town where she soon meets a friendly Englishman, William Blake. After several frightening accidents nearly take Philippe’s life, Linda’s sense of security is shattered and she suspects that something is not quite right at the Chateau Valmy. She puts these feelings aside, however, with the arrival of Leon’s gorgeous son Raoul. Will Linda let the distraction of a dark, mysterious man blind her to the truth about Philippe’s accidents?

Nine Coaches Waiting is my new favorite Mary Stewart. It has a stunning setting, a self-contained and courageous heroine (Leon compares her to Jane Eyre), the best love interests, a layered plot and wonderful supporting characters. I think it also has more character development than in any of the other Stewart’s I’ve read. We really get to know them and what makes them tick. As always, it is also very stylish and has fantastic fifties dialogue.

I highly, highly recommend this novel. It embodies everything I love about Stewart’s writing and ensures her status as my favorite comfort read author for years to come.

Mary Stewart posts so far:

Airs Above the Ground – A Work in Progress

The Gabriel Hounds – bibliolathas

The Little Broomstick – Pining for the West

The Moonspinners – Miss Bibliophile

My Brother Michael – Fleur In Her World

Nine Coaches Waiting – Quixotic Magpie

Stormy Petrel – She Reads Novels

Stormy Petrel – The Worm Hole

This Rough Magic – Quixotic Magpie

Wildfire at Midnight – TBR 313

Wildfire at Midnight – The Bookworm Chronicles

Two days to go!

Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart

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Wildfire at Midnight is set on the Isle of Skye during the week leading up to the queen’s coronation. Giannetta Brooke is a successful fashion model and wants to escape London during the festivities in order to take a rest from her busy schedule. She ends up in an isolated hotel in Camasunary, an area that is popular with climbers. Little does she know that she has walked right into the middle of a murder investigation – a few weeks previous a young local woman was killed in an eerie manner that seems almost sacrificial. Added to this is Giannetta’s discovery that her ex-husband is also staying in the hotel. Her relaxing holiday quickly turns tense and even frightening as everyone in the hotel, including her ex-husband, is a suspect. No one can be trusted.

When I began reading this novel I was pleasantly surprised because it seemed that it was going to follow the format of a traditional murder mystery instead of a romantic suspense novel – something a little bit different for Stewart. However, it turned out to be true to her form with all of the signature elements her novels usually embrace. There are the stunning descriptions of the landscape, the plucky yet vulnerable heroine, the two love interests and the fast-paced plot. In this novel, the usual Stewart formula doesn’t quite produce the magic that it usually does for me. The characters seem too wooden and the romance is not very well developed. The effort seems almost half-hearted. I did enjoy the novel, it is just not of the stellar quality of some of her other books. I suppose when you write a book a year for nearly two decades some of them will be better than others. I’d recommend Wildfire at Midnight for true Stewart fans who don’t mind a few misses or for readers who are extremely fond of a Scottish setting.

Mary Stewart posts so far:

The Little Broomstick – Pining for the West

Nine Coaches Waiting – Quixotic Magpie

Stormy Petrel – She Reads Novels

Wildfire at Midnight – TBR 313

Have I missed yours?

 

Mary Stewart Giveaway (Closed)

Happy Birthday to Ms. Stewart! How is everyone getting on with your reading? I finished Wildfire at Midnight and am now reading Nine Coaches Waiting. I’m hoping to post my thoughts on Thursday. Stay tuned for possible excessive gushing!

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Today, in honor of her birthday, I’m giving away two Mary Stewart books. Madam, Will You Talk? is Stewart’s first romantic suspense novel and was published in 1955. The Crystal Cave is the first book in her Merlin series. Anyone is eligible to enter the giveaway – you don’t have to post a review this week in order to enter. You can indicate on the entry form if you’d like both books or you can choose one or the other if you win. The giveaway is open internationally and closes on Sunday, September 22, at 11:59 pm Arizona time. I’ll announce the winner next week.

Click here to enter.

Mary Stewart posts so far:

The Little Broomstick – Pining for the West

Welcome to Mary Stewart Reading Week!

Mary Stewart RW

Mary Stewart Reading Week is finally here! When I first proposed the idea back in March it seemed like such a long way off, but here we are in September(!) and it is time to celebrate the writing of the nonagenarian who first stole my heart with her majorly suspenseful plots featuring feisty heroines and dramatic settings. Of course, she also wrote the popular Merlin series (I hope someone posts about one of these books) and three books for young adults.

Ms. Stewart is alive and well and living in Edinburgh. After her husband Frederick died in 2001 she retired from writing “saying she no longer had any will to write”. She turns 97 on Tuesday and was awarded an honorary degree from Durham University in 2009. You can read a really lovely speech from the ceremony here.

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I’ve planned a few posts for this week and would like to include an index of reviews in these posts that I can add to as the week progresses. I will keep on the lookout for your reviews, but I don’t want to miss anyone so please contact me so that I can read your thoughts and add them to the index. The best ways to let me know about your posts are these:

  • If you are on Twitter, you can use the hashtag #mstewartrw when you tweet about your post
  • You can email me at gudrunstightsatgmaildotcom with a link to your post
  • Leave a comment in this post with a link to your post

I don’t consider myself a giddy or overly excitable person, but I think this event has turned me into both. I want to thank everyone in advance for your posts this week and for your enthusiasm – and thanks to everyone who has mentioned Mary Stewart Reading Week on your blogs. I truly appreciate it.

Let Mary Stewart Reading Week begin!

Mary Stewart Reading Week

Mary Stewart RW

It’s nearly August and time to start planning for Mary Stewart Reading Week! MSRW will be from Sunday, September 15 to Sunday, September 22. Appropriately Ms. Stewart’s 97th birthday falls during this time (on the 17th). What better way to celebrate her birthday than by reading her books?

I envision this as a low key event with any interested bloggers writing a post about any Mary Stewart book of their choosing during the week. I am partial to her romantic suspense novels, but I know many others are interested in reading her Merlin series and that would be wonderful, too. She also wrote a few children’s books.

By now you probably all know how I feel about her writing, but if you’re new to Gudrun’s Tights you can read my thoughts here. You can also consult any of the following resources for more information about her writing, her novels and her life:

Mary Stewart: A Born Storyteller

An Interview with Mary Stewart

Which Mary Stewart Novel Should You Read?

I hope you will join me in September to celebrate the novels of Mary Stewart.

Less Than Angels + My Brother Michael

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Less Than Angels by Barbara Pym –Less Than Angels is the Librarything Virago Group’s Barbara Pym Centenary book for April and my first Pym of the year. I tried to read this sometime last year and didn’t get on with it, but this time I really loved it. The plot centers around a group of anthropology students, professors and their friends and families and their relationships and struggles to make connections with each other. The humor in this novel is particularly striking – I think it is the funniest of Pym’s novels I’ve read so far. The young female characters are really interesting, not as likeable as Wilmet Forsyth or Mildred Lathbury, but intelligent, imaginative and eccentric in a good way, especially Catherine. I liked the ensemble aspect of the novel and the focus on many different characters, all of them richly drawn. I’ve read that some readers don’t like the ending, and I admit it did seem incongruous with the rest of the plot, but Pym is so good at mixing the funny and the serious that it makes both qualities stand out and enhances the humanity of her stories. I’m not sure where I would place this among the other Pym novels I’ve read – probably nearish the top, but not over Excellent Women or A Glass of Blessings.

My Brother Michael by Mary Stewart – This is one of the three Stewart’s set in Greece (The Moonspinners and This Rough Magic are the other two) and it is her ode to the country she loved and where she felt at home.  This love shines through My Brother Michael and makes Greece seem like a magical place despite the murder and mayhem the main character encounters. The book starts with Camilla Haven taking a chance. She takes a hired car that doesn’t belong to her from Athens to Delphi to prove to herself that she is adventurous and spontaneous. When she gets to Delphi she tries to find the person who did hire the car and meets Simon, a British school master who is in the area to discover the truth behind his brother Michael’s death during the war. As Camilla and Simon delve into the mystery, they encounter a dangerous plot that threatens their lives and the fate of some majestic ancient ruins. The descriptions of the Delphi area are stunning – the typical Stewart appreciation for nature and antiquities really works in this book. There is also a tiny supernatural feel to the plot that fits in with the mystical setting. I didn’t like the main male character as well as I have some of her other heroes, but that is my only quibble. My Brother Michael is another great novel by Stewart and makes me even more excited for Mary Stewart Reading Week in September.

 

I really liked these thoughts on yesterday’s tragedy. I pray for the people who were injured in Boston and for them to be healed, physically and emotionally.

Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart

For my fifth Mary Stewart novel I decided to read the very first book she published, in 1955, Madam, Will You Talk? This action-packed thriller is set in the South of France and is the first-person account of Charity Selborne and the trouble she finds herself in just for being nice to a little boy.

Charity and her friend Louise settle in to Avignon, Charity intending to play the tourist and Louise to relax, draw, read and enjoy the sun. When Charity befriends a young boy named David she unknowingly embroils herself in a dangerous murder plot involving his father, his step-mother and some really shady war criminals. This Stewart has a lot more action than her others I’ve read, a lot more trickery and deception. I like Charity’s character – she has gumption and courage, but I love her friend Louise who is described as “unutterably and incurably lazy.” I remember loving the sidekick aunt character in The Moonspinners also – Stewart writes great supporting characters.

Madam, Will You Talk? is very definitely a vintage thriller. It is the first of hers I’ve read that felt a tad dated. But I don’t mind at all because I love the ’50’s and enjoyed reading something that was written during the time period and felt like it.

I think The Moonspinners is still my favorite of the Stewart’s that I’ve read, but Madam, Will You Talk? was hugely entertaining and I loved reading it.

The author Deanna Raybourn discusses Mary Stewart from a writer’s persepective here.

There’s still time to enter my giveaway for The Blank Wall – go here to enter. Entries due by tomorrow at midnight.

Have you seen this video for Penguin’s English Library series? It’s kind of bizarre, but I like it!