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Mary Stewart

Last October, Sophie Masson, a fellow contributor of mine over at Writer Unboxed, wrote a blog post in praise of Mary Stewart, who wrote romantic suspense–some of the finest and most beautifully written romantic suspense of all time, I would say–during the 1960′s and 70′s. Her books include: This Rough Magic; The Ivy Tree; My Brother Michael; The Moon-spinners; Nine Coaches Waiting; Wildfire at Midnight; Thunder on the Right; The Gabriel Hounds; Touch Not the Cat; Airs Above the Ground. And if you’ve not read them yet, you must MUST pick them up. Since Sophie put it so well, and since I couldn’t agree more with everything she said, I’ll quote from her post:

I was struck by the clarity, beauty and intelligence of her style, and the way it manages to wear its learning so lightly. For there are many, many literary and historical allusions in Mary Stewart’s books; her love of Shakespeare and of Greek and Roman classics and Celtic myth, especially, shines through, enriching the books whilst never being overbearing. Her evocation of place, of landscape and architecture and atmosphere, is superb. She effortlessly bridges the so-called gap between ‘literary’ and ‘genre’ fiction, proving you don’t have to use tortured ‘literary’ constructions to write well, and neither do you need to write ‘down’ in order to tell a rattling good story.

And the books haven’t dated at all, despite or perhaps partly because of, their lack of graphic sexual and violent content. And that’s borne out by teenage girls to whom I’ve introduced the novels; they are immediately captivated by their glamour and excitement and do not care at all that the books are set in the 50?s and 60?s. It’s always fun when you can pass on something you’ve loved to the next generation, but passing on the Mary Stewart bug is sheer delight.

I happen to have been an absolutely devoted Mary Stewart fan since I was 13 or 14. I’ve read all her books more times than I can even begin to count, and have been swept away with them all. So I left a comment on Sophie’s post agreeing one hundred percent. Probably one of the luckiest comments I’ve ever made, too, because a few months ago I received a letter from a publicist at Hodder & Stoughton publishing saying that they were re-issuing Mary Stewarts books, and would I be interested in getting review copies of the new editions to help spread the word? My fingers FLEW over the keyboard to reply something along the lines of, Yes! yes! yes!

You can join me over on Goodreads if you’d like to read my reviews of Mary Stewart’s books. And you can find out more about the re-issues here. Aren’t the vintage-style covers gorgeous? Mostly, though, whether you buy the books new or simply check them out of your local library, please, please give Mary Stewart’s books a try. I can’t think of any author who deserves to have her books endure through generation after generation more.

I’ll close with a passage from The Gabriel Hounds, which I’m choosing almost at random because flip open ANY of Mary Stewart’s books and you will find this kind of lyrical, limpid-clear prose.

The night was warm and scented, the sky black, with that clear blackness that one imagines in outer space. Hanging in it, the clustered stars seemed as large as dog-daisies, and there was a crescent moon. Here and there its light struck a gleam from the surface of the lake. A couple of nightingales sang one against the other in a sort of wild angelic counterpoint.

Don’t you love her? Don’t you? Add wonderful, intelligent, courageous heroines, dreamy, dashing heroes, and romance so timeless and sweet it’s like the fragrance of an old-world rose, and you have to find yourself one of Mary Stewart’s books. You just have to.

This entry was posted Sunday, May 29th, 2011 at 3:08 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Mary Stewart”

  1. Prue Batten Says:
    May 30th, 2011 at 8:14 am

    Years ago, once I discovered my first Mary Stewart (I think it was Airs above the Ground because I had a thing about the Spanish Riding School),I read every single thing she ever had published, one after another. In my early twenties, I thought she was THE best writer I had come across and I love that they are re-issuing. It may be a collection that will have to go into my own little library.

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