A little while back I posted about one of my favourite authors, Anya Seton, all of whose books I read as a teenager and in my early twenties. Many of them are still in print and I have been re-reading them with great enjoyment as not only are they still immensely readable, but they bring back fond memories of happy days.
Somebody recently mentioned Mary Stewart to me and that set me off again down memory lane. This was another author I used to read, many of whom have fallen out of print though some are available, but as they were contemporary stories written in the sixties and seventies I daresay they will have dated, whereas the Seton novels being historical, have not. Trying to think how to describe them, I suppose romantic thrillers is the best way to categorise these stories, though she also wrote a trilogy about Merlin. That passed me by I am afraid, could not get on with them at all and I gather her publishers were not happy about her change of direction - they never are, but they were successful. Just not for me.
I will admit my memories are rather hazy about some of the books but I do remember that the first Mary Stewart I read was The Moonspinners. This was set in Greece, on one of the islands and to this day I remember how much I longed to visit Greece after reading this book. The smells of wild thyme, the description of the countryside, the turquoise sea, the heat of the day and the moonlit evenings - I found it all wildly romantic. I had a job as a Saturday girl in a library at the time and so had access to thousands of books and borrowed this title after I had been to see a film of The Moonspinners. It was made by Walt Disney and was pretty dire, starred Peter McEnary who I rather fancied at the time and Hayley Mills as the heroine. Totally miscast, rather young and silly and the posters billed it as Hayley's First Screen Kiss!!! (the exclamation marks are not mine that was how it was) and I would think Mary Stewart must have cringed after seeing what they made of her story. In the book the heroine is more grown up and mature and it is much more exciting and thriller based than this travesty - it popped up on daytime TV a little while back and out of curiosity I watched it and yes, it was still awful.
Nine Coaches Watiting was another favourite - this one set in France where Linda Martin goes to be an au pair/nanny to a young boy who lives with rather sinister guardians. Phillipe seems to be accident prone with several near misses with death and there is also a dashing cousin, I think, called Raoul but my memory may be faulty. Exciting and great fun.
I think perhaps my favourite out of all the Stewart books is Airs above the Ground. Set in Austria and involving a circus, spies and a lost Lipizzaner stallion from the Vienna Riding School, it is enormously engaging and I remember well a chapter in which this old horse hears far away circus music and remembers his old skills and in a quiet clearing in a wood performs including the celebrated 'airs above the ground'.
Of course all this thinking about Mary Stewart has now made me decide to embark on a re-read and I shall have to start tracking them down. With the autumn and winter not too far ahead and the dark afternoons, Mary Stewart will be perfect to read with the curtains drawn, nice and warm and curled up on the sofa.
Anybody out there remember Mary Stewart? And, if so, what is your favourite title? I am sure there are many women of a certain age, like me, who have fond memories of this delightful writer.