Friday, October 13, 2017

Bingeing on Mary Stewart


Mary Stewart was a favorite author of mine in my younger days. And recently I've been delving back into her quite extensive works. I'm beginning with the romantic suspense -- partly in the spirit of wondering how they hold up -- I mean, young women in peril and a hero who always appears at just the right moment . . .


I couldn't resist showing these two covers for the same book. I'm pretty sure the long gown and billowing cloak in the first isn't accurate. Might as well have had her clutching a candelabrum with all the candles aflame. The girl on the second cover is a far better representation of the typical Stewart heroine -- young, attractive, adventurous, intelligent, and very much of her time. (I wonder if these books would appeal to the current crop of young women? Probably not -- far too innocent.)


The books I remember best are from the Fifties and Sixties, though Stewart's books were still coming out in the Nineties. 
Her Arthurian books, a very different and wonderful kettle of fish, came out in the Seventies and I'll get to them when I've had enough of plucky girls in distress.


The thing I'm finding is that, in spite of the sometimes hackneyed  setups, the plots are devious and fascinating, the heroines are charming and independent, taking matters into their own capable hands and not depending on the timely arrival of the hero. Stewart is, indeed, credited with  doing away with the hapless, helpless damsel in distress by making all her heroines intelligent.  

But even if all her heroines were wimps (they're not) and all her plots totally predictable (they're not,) it would still be worth reading Stewart for her absolutely glorious descriptions of places. And what places! Provence, the Isle of Skye, a French chateau, a convent in the French Pyrenees, Greece, Northumberland, Crete, Corfu, Austria, Damascus . . .

I'll be in one of these place for the next little while -- cheering for the plucky girl.

Do any of you remember the Mary Stewart books? If so, did you have a favorite? There are many more I haven't shown -- The Ivy Tree, The Gabriel Hounds, Thornycroft, The Stormy Petrel . . .


12 comments:

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Oh, I loved Mary Stewart novels, and still do. Those heroines were spunky, and you are right: They take things into their own hands and are not the old "damsels in distress." Loved her Arthurian series, too. She was just a marvelous writer. Put a reader right in the scene.

jennyfreckles said...

Used to love all her books when I was a teenager. One had a hero called Raoul, I remember!

Esta said...

I love them all, but especially The Moon Spinners, Nine Coaches Waiting, and This Rough Magic. I loved them for the place descriptions and romance, for reasons you said, but also a little because she made coffee and cigarettes sound *magical.*

Vicki Lane said...

I now find the cigarettes a bit off=putting. But at the time, they were glamourous (more's the pity.)

Esta said...

Vicki: exactly. They never made me WANT to smoke, but it was fascinating to read about, like an anthropological study or something.

Darla said...

Delightful! I remember I read a lot of hers when I was in junior high school, but had no idea she was so prolific. You've inspired me to explore her again. The only book I own is Gabriel Hounds, a HUGE favorite. And all I remember about the Moon Spinners was that I loved the Disney movie of it with Hayley Mills. ;) Gosh, this could be tons of fun. BTW, since you do enjoy her, have you ever read any of Susanna Kiersley's books? I've read several and they do have a sort of similar feel to MS.

Vicki Lane said...

I don't know Kiersley -- will look into this.

Barbara Mountjoy said...

Thanks for the visit to Memory Lane...all those titles...The Gabriel Hounds...I remember that one too. wow.

Misty Barnes said...

You've inspired me to search our shelves and pull a few to read by her. What is your favorite if you can name one?

Vicki Lane said...

Hard to name a favorite -- perhaps This Rough Magic . . . or maybe Wildfire at Midnight . . .

Cyranetta said...

In addition to the intrepid heroines and extraordinary place descriptions, on thing that absolutely charmed me, because it was the first time I had encountered them, was the quotes at the beginning of each chapter (epigraphs??).

She's one of the rare authors whose books I either kept outright or was moved to reacquire.

katy gilmore said...

Oh boy I'm in this fan club! I can't remember specific titles except Nine Coaches Waiting - but really, really remember the ones you will read next (King Arthur) - and you've inspired me to start looking. Souns like they hold up! Specially now I'm looking forward to the descriptions of places. and I wonder if my Thai daughter-in-law might like -- she spent one visit reading a ton of Nancy Drew - perfect language level. Now I'm eager to look for a plucky Stewart heroine and see. Thanks Vicki!