The “Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship”: Mary Stewart’s MADAM, WILL YOU TALK?

Love these Hodder & Stoughton re-issue covers.

As a life-long bookworm, Miss Bates has fallen in love with many a writer. Sometimes, the relationship is long-lasting (hello, Charlotte Brontë); sometimes, not (good-bye, D. H. Lawrence). But the experience has always been love at first sight: it’s rare that an author woos her over several books. Reading the first sentence of Mary Stewart’s Madam, Will You Talk? was like Romeo recognizing Juliet across the ballroom. “The whole affair began so very quietly”: Stewart’s novel and Miss B.’s tumble into amore was as lovely and definitive as reading “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.” A turn of phrase pulling the reader into the writer’s world, a declarative sentence mysterious, question-inducing: What is this “affair”? How was it “quietly” begun? What came next? If a walk wasn’t possible: why not? what happened instead? What other possibilities were explored? Reading further in Madam, Will You Talk?, Miss Bates discovered more similarities to her beloved Jane Eyre: a heroine moral and fearless, standing on principle, defending the vulnerable, showing compassion, and answering to the unknown with firm purpose and stalwart spirit. Moreover, in the midst of danger and a world of corruption and crime, our heroine finds love in confrontation with a man who is hero and possible villain. Our heroine’s moral stance and fortitude set the world aright for herself and her hero, who emerges worthy of her. There were bumps on Miss B’s Mary Stewart ride, discomfiting jolts encountered on rough country roads by the Bentleys and Mercedes her heroines and heroes drive, but oh what a ride, what views and vistas. Stewart’s novel did not have Brontë’s scope or brilliance, but as Stewart claimed, her stories “love and imitate the beautiful and the good,” marvelously so, says Miss Bates.

Still a fairly recent cover.

Madam, Will You Talk? is a novel permeated with the post-WWII ethos, at least for the victors: a war-weary world awakening to the everyday rhythms of life lived in the comfort of peace and security. But shadows linger. Widow Charity Selborne is in Provence, Avignon to be exact, to holiday with her irrepressible friend, Louise. (Charity lost her husband, Johnny, when his plane went down in France during the war.) At the Hôtel Tistet-Védène, Charity befriends David Shelley, a boy vacationing with his indifferent, cold step-mother, Loraine. Sundry unsavory characters surround wicked step-mom and good-humoured, well-mannered English schoolboy. David’s father, for one. Richard Byron was accused, but acquitted, of murder, also possibly assault against David. At first, David appears afraid of him as Richard Byron mysteriously follows Charity and David on their site-seeing forays (Loraine happy to have David off her hands). Loraine is involved in nefarious schemes with suspect men. Richard Byron, worthy of the “byronic” allusion, is broody, dark, piquantly handsome, but lowering and threatening. Is he? A threat? If so, why doesn’t he hurt David, or Charity? Why is Charity drawn to him?

Love pale-pink light at street end.

As mystery, danger, and characters are ever more convoluted, Charity realizes that her initial understanding of David, Loraine, and Richard was erroneous. She quotes Macbeth to Richard, after a day of heart-palpitating car chasing when they make peace, “And nothing is but what is not.” (This may be one of Miss Bates’ favourite lines in literature.) In describing her books, Stewart said she would take:

… conventionally bizarre situations (the car chase, the closed-room murder, the wicked uncle tale) and send real people into them, normal, everyday people with normal, everyday reactions to violence and fear; people not ‘heroic’ in a conventional sense, but averagely intelligent men and women who could be shocked or outraged into defending, if necessary, with great physical bravery, what they held to be right.

This describes Madam, Will You Talk? to a tee and supports what Miss Bates claims. Firstly, that Stewart’s description of her novels is England’s mythic sense of who they were during WWII (hobbits, but better-looking). Her heroines, and heroes once they reveal themselves as such, are caught in a corrupt and deceptive world, a world they must unravel if right is to prevail. What Miss Bates delighted in was that Charity learned to identify the right and good, separate wheat from chaff (Richard from Loraine and company) by using her understanding of right and wrong, intelligence, and courage. To add delirium to delight, Charity did so donning chic, feminine outfits, driving like Michael Schumacher, and quoting Shakespeare. She is never a ninny; confused and troubled by events, yes, but she RATIOCINATES. A most impressive feat: a heroine who thinks. A writer who doesn’t tell us her heroine is smart, she shows us she’s smart.

A ’70s cover, need Miss B. say more?

Miss Bates loved Charity because she led with her heart and her heart, former schoolmarm that she is, gives herself over to a child. Here are her thoughts on the polite, bright David:

… stealing a look down at the childish curve of the thin cheek laid against the dog’s fur, I wasn’t so sure that he could deal with whatever queer situation he was in. And again, I knew that I wanted most desperately to help. It was irrational, and I can’t explain it, even today. It was just the way David made me feel.

(Italics are Miss Bates’s.) Miss Bates loved this passage because it shows the importance of the heart over reason, but not at the cost of reason. Charity understands herself well: she’s considered, thoughtful, and cerebral, but she has the true understanding of what it means to lead the “examined life.” Leading with the heart is not impulse, it is love. Charity knows how to love without losing sight of herself. She knows how to care for another. She cares for David and that makes her all the more endearing and likeable. Very much like the best of Neelsian heroines: her “Juno-esque” nurses, as Gen Turner put it delightfully.

A cover echoing Jane Eyre?

Miss Bates also delights in Charity’s enjoyment of solitude. If not for the scrumptiously dark and handsome Richard, Charity has the makings of a great spinster. She savors her own company and revels in her imagination:

I sat down on a fallen piece of carved stone, leaned back against a pillar, and closed my eyes. I tried not to think of Johnny … it didn’t do any good to think of Johnny … I must just think of nothing except how quiet it was, and how much I like being alone … I wanted, above all things, to be out of Avignon, out of that galère, even for a short time. And I wanted to be alone.

Miss Bates appreciated that Charity remembered, loved, and grieved Johnny, but more so that Charity knew how to be at peace with herself and take pleasure in beauty. Witness her thoughts following the above:

The evening was drawing down, and the light deepened. Away behind me I caught a last glimpse of the towers of Avignon, like torches above the trees. Around me the landscape grew wilder and more beautiful, muted from the white and dusty glare of day to the rose and purple of evening. The sun set, not in one concentrated star of fire, but in a deep diffusion of amber light, till the sharp black spires of the cypresses seemed to be quivering against the glow, and flowing upwards like flames formed of shadows.

As an armchair traveller, Miss Bates loved reading Stewart’s descriptions. They establish one more worthy quality in her heroine, that is, a sensuality and fine sense of aesthetic that is outside of the bedroom. Our contemporary romance writers have much to learn from Stewart and her “sweet,” “kisses-only,” romantic mystery-thrillers. Sensuality trumps sexuality, at least for Miss B.

Miss B’s favourite cover: please note use of “chartreuse.”

Charity’s “educated imagination,” to borrow a phrase from Miss Bates’ favourite literary critic, Northrop Frye, gives her the ability to transport herself aesthetically, but also into the past. Here’s a wonderful passage about the deserted town of Les Beaux that precedes Mr Rochester’s entry to the scene, oops, that’d be Mr. Byron’s:

The prospect is wild enough, and strange enough, to satisfy anyone who, like myself that evening, felt so pressingly the need for quiet and my own company. With faint amusement I perceived slowly creeping over me the mood of melancholy in which the not-quite-romantics of the eighteenth century in England found such gentle pleasure.

I sat near the window of the little inn’s dining-room, watching the evening light on the distant slopes, and enjoying my lonely dinner. I ate slowly, and the light was dying from the land when at length I took my coffee and chartreuse outside onto the little terrace, and prepared to let the past have its way with me.

I got out my book, and read the chanson de toile again, the songs of lovely Isabel, Yolande the beautiful, Aiglentine the fair, who had sat at their embroidery, singing, so very long ago, in this same land. Then I shut the book, and sat dreaming, with my eyes on the broken lines and ghost-filled terraces of the town, trying to pave the streets and cut back the vegetation and fill the empty ways with horses and men and the glint of armour and the scarlet of banners.

This is one of Miss Bates’s favourite passages as it encompasses the many elements that make Charity’s narration, and Stewart’s voice, pleasurable: the narrator’s gentle mood of tristesse, a sense of flowing out of a tradition (England’s 18th century “not-quite-romantics,”) the sensual pleasures of the moment (coffee and chartreuse), the rueful turn of phrase (“to let the past have its way with me”), and the bonding to the past via the imagination that is the delight of a certain heightened sensibility.

The novel’s original 1954 cover.

Lastly, amidst Provençal beauty, many-coursed meals, murder and mayhem, looms the war’s spectre. Once Richard Byron’s heroic status is established, Miss Bates saw how his life and experience had to be reclaimed by Charity’s loving-kindness. At first, Richard Byron is frustrated by Charity’s connection to David and how she foils him, mistakenly identifying him as the villain. In his vexation:

He said savagely: ‘My God, I’d like to try. If I lay hands on you again I’ll not answer for myself. I’d like to wring your lovely neck.’

‘I see. Gestapo stuff.” But my voice shook.

‘And why not? I’ve seen it done, and to women. It works, as often as not.’

In that tiny phrase, Richard Byron reveals bleakness, despair, and a horrific war experience to Charity. If there is a flaw in Madam, Will You Talk?, it is in the hero’s abrupt transformation from lovely-neck-wringer to besotted inamorato. It is all bound up with what Charity (her name, as his is, allegorical) means in a world, in light of the post-war revelations of atrocities, that no longer makes sense for Richard Byron, not in what he witnessed in the war, and not in his personal life. It is Charity who has to lead the way, via memories acknowledged and assimilated into the present, forgiveness, and loving-kindness:

‘ … One ought to build even better the second time, and I can still build. And Johnny – ‘ I said, turning to Richard Byron, ‘why, Johnny would have egged me on.’

He straightened up, and his arms went round me, this time very gently. He was smiling, and his eyes has a little steady flame deep in the grey. He held me a little away from him and looked at me, his lips curving.

‘I love you, Charity,’ he said again. ‘You’re so sweet and you’re so sane. My God, I think you could almost make the world seem a sweet, sane place again, the way it used to be … Am I to take it that you’re telling me to go ahead and kiss you again?’

Though there is a good third of the novel left after this exchange and though Richard Byron’s avowal is abrupt and a tad jarring, for Miss Bates, this marks the HEA. Romance has done its part: now, two people will fight evil, all the stronger and better together than apart. The rest is dénouement. A child will be re-integrated into a loving family and the world will be set aright. Justice will be served; and, out of ugliness, beauty will be revealed triumphant. But that, dearest reader, is for you to discover when you read to the glorious end of this glorious novel. Miss B. cried. In Stewart’s Madam, Will You Talk?, Miss Bates found, in the words of romance’s venerated tradition, Jane Austen’s, “there is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.”

Mary Stewart’s Madam, Will You Talk? is published by Hodder and Stoughton and available in paper and “e” at the usual places. Miss Bates purchased it with her meagre spinster savings and has lined up another thirteen to read.

Miss Bates is indebted to Goodreads and Wikipedia for the cover images.

Stewart, like Betty Neels (who, writing in the 70s and 80s, exhibited a sensibility akin to Stewart’s) and Susanna Kearsley (who’s gifting us with novels that echo Stewart’s) is beloved of many readers. As The Guardian wrote, ” … she was a natural successor to Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë. As The Herald commented in 2004 [they quote], ‘She built the bridge between classic literature and modern popular fiction. She did it first and she did it best.’ ” Miss Bates has endeavoured to point to Stewart’s genius in her humble offering above. This is her first Stewart novel, but by no means her last, God willing. What are your thoughts, ideas, and most importantly, memories, of reading the incomparable Mary Stewart? Where did you encounter and read her? How old were you? What were/are your impressions and responses?

22 thoughts on “The “Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship”: Mary Stewart’s MADAM, WILL YOU TALK?

  1. All this recent Mary Stewart talk means I really need to do a re-read. I devoured her romantic suspense novels as a teen. I’m pretty sure I read my first one when I was 13 or 14 (multiple decades ago). I re-read them repeatedly. This Rough Magic was my favorite, followed closely by Nine Coaches Waiting. Sadly my Mary Stewart collection was destroyed when about a third of my book collection was hit by mold. I never got around to replacing them. Perhaps now I should. Lovely, lovely review.


    1. Miss B. was blown away by Mary Stewart. Thank you for sharing your discovery of her. Miss B. just never expected to be so swept away, nor for the prose to be so fine.

      She’s awfully sorry to hear about the loss of your collection: her basement was flooded many years ago and she lost a lot of books and family photos.

      Stewart is an author who would stand up well to re-reading, so she hopes you will reread and let us know what your response is after “multiple decades.” Miss Bates would say that, thinking of her 13 or 14 year-old self, she wouldn’t have had the patience to read Mary Stewart. Miss B. wasn’t terribly mature and wanted everything to move fast, narratives included. She was ready for Mary Stewart, now that she’s grown older, not wiser, but slower, in a good way, learned to savor. Mary Stewart is a “savoring” kind of writer.

      Thank you for the generous compliment! 🙂


  2. Oh!! I am soooo glad you loved ‘Madam’. I do believe my first Mary Stewart was ‘Nine Coaches Waiting’–quickly followed by ‘The Moonspinners’ (the year it came out)(1962–I would have been 14-ish). From that point I read her backlist and new releases as fast as I could. Mary Stewart’s books are so woven into the fabric of who I am (as a reader), I don’t think I could unravel it. As with any author, she had her ups and downs–but her books left an indelible mark on my reading tastes.
    Her heroines were never, ever, ever TSTL, the heroes were steady without being alpha-holes, the plots were never so over the top that they slipped into WTEery, the locations were usually exotic(ironic statement from a gal who was living in Hawaii at the time!) And her prose was enchanting to me.
    Of the modern authors at work today, Susanna Kearsley definitely comes the closest–especially in ‘The Shadowy Horses’.

    I so wish Miss Bates happy reading as she works her way through Mary Stewart’s oeurve. Besides ‘Madam’ and ‘Moonspinners’, my favorites are ‘Ivy Tree’ and ‘This Rough Magic’.

    Heretical statement follows–while I read all of her Merlin books (Crystal Cave, etc, etc), I did not really care for them. I wanted her romantic suspense–thank you kindly–not more Arthurian re-hash!


    1. “Mary Stewart’s books are so woven into the fabric of who I am (as a reader), I don’t think I could unravel it.” Miss Bates loved this statement: it really encapsulates what an author’s work can mean for us, like a finely woven cloth (let’s make it French silk for the setting of Madam, Will You Talk?) the warp and weft of which is the reader’s identity and the writer’s work: who are we and how that is informed by a beloved author. If unraveled, the pattern, its very being, would be unrecognizable. Which is why I think that reading, thinking about reading, and sharing our reading is what creates and recreates a work.

      Thank you for sharing your discovery of Mary Stewart with Miss Bates: it’s very meaningful to her. She is most looking forward to her 13 other Mary Stewart novels in the TBR. At least that is 116 less than she has to read to complete her reading of Betty Neels. Some aspects of Stewart reminded her of Neels: the post-war ethos in particular, even though Neels didn’t start to write until later in life and way after Stewart had done so. It feels like they’re writing in the same era and with a similar sensibility. (Miss Bates also happily has The Shadowy Horses and The Firebird in her TBR.)

      As for your “heretical” statement, well, Miss Bates will have to stand at the stake with you. She tried to read The Crystal Cave many years ago and DNF-ed it!


  3. I was re-reading ‘Madam Will You Talk’ for the first time since I was a teenager a couple of weeks before you. We are bookfriends! Also, I have yet another cover to add to your collection, I’ll tweet a pic. It’s a 7th impression dating from 1969 and is the book I first read back in the day costing 40 cents at Sale Book Exchange. I glommed Mary Stewart back then and have been looking back to see what the magic was. ‘My Brother Michael’ emerged as somewhat problematical, not least because of conscious stepping back from a more feminist/acting with agency of the heroine which is a contrast with Charity in ‘Madam Will You Talk’ and likely why ‘Madam’ still works for me and for all the lovely reasoning your review shares.


    1. “We are bookfriends!” Then, Miss Bates is in wonderful company! She loved the cover and saved it to her desktop: it’s so lovely to hear about your first encounter with Mary Stewart, but to also be able to visualize it is a particular boon. Miss Bates is really looking forward to the rest of the Stewarts and to how she’ll react to each and every one, especially the ones set in Greece (a country and its people she knows intimately). Thank you for the generous words about the review. 🙂


      1. Miss Bates.
        Re: Mary Stewart’s books set in Greece–please, please keep in mind the actual ‘When’ that Mary Stewart wrote about. She wrote in the late ’50s to early/mid ’60s–so adjust your world view accordingly. This also holds true for ‘The Gabriel Hounds’, set in Lebanon before that part of the Levant went ‘Ka-blooie’!!
        I’ve never traveled to that part of the world, but her descriptions in Moonspinners and My Brother Michael left me yearning (from far away Hawaii, BTW).
        I will be very interested in your take on these stories…


        1. If there’s one thing Miss B. is very much aware of, it’s Greece in the 50s and 60s, as that is when her parents were young adults. And Greece was, in those years, like Patricia Highsmith’s Italy, the place to go, to be young, to be a little wild. Greece came out of the 50s after a five-year civil war, but it’s not what she’d expect to find in Stewart’s books. 😉

          Greece was beautiful, hot, and cheap to visit and live: it’s also always held a certain mystique and romanticism for its visitors, Stewart no less. It’ll be interesting to see how she plays with that mystery and the myths that permeate its hill and shores.

          I’m soooo looking forward to reading more MS and especially because of the wonderful responses Miss B. has received.


  4. Fascinating post, Miss B! I read Mary Stewart when I was 12 or 13, I’d guess. She predated genre romance for me, that I know, and I think I found her even before I read Heyer. I’ve read her periodically over the years and the books always hold up. I reviewed Wildfire at Midnight for DA last year, and even though it’s not her best, I really enjoyed it.

    My sentimental favorite is probably The Ivy Tree, although I also like Airs Above The Ground a great deal. Really, you can’t go wrong with any of them. Just read the synopses and pick the one that strikes your fancy at the moment.


    1. Firstly, thank you for your generous comment!

      Miss B. is fascinated by the number of commentators who discovered Mary Stewart just on the cusp of their teen-age years and a testament to her endurance, and the impression she makes on her readers that, years later, they think of her books with such affection, such attachment. It seems that she’s bound up for so many with those youthful years when one read and read and read. Miss B. doesn’t know if young people, well girls actually, still read with this single-minded obsession and joy. She hopes they do. For those are some of our most pleasurable memories, are they not?

      Miss B. looks forward to all the goodness in the Stewart novels and to reading your DA review too!


  5. thanks for an enjoyable review, Miss Bates. I have not read ‘Madam, will you talk’ but I will now. I read quite a few Mary Stewart books as a teen, along with Josephine Tey, Dorothy Sayers,Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer among others. There was a certain classiness to their writting, an understanding of ‘universal rules’ which were very grounding and reassuring to my teenage mind. In fact, they still are.


    1. You’re most welcome! Thank you for dropping by Miss Bates and sharing your teen reading!

      Miss Bates just loved this book to pieces and she’s planning on reading all of Stewart. Sayers is in her TBR, Austen she’s loved and reread for years and years and Heyer, of the two she’s read, is marvelous too. It’s funny how we respond in our teen-age years because, reading what you’ve written about these authors, Miss Bates can say the same about them read in later life. Maybe even more so, as we feel “time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near.” 😉


  6. I first read Stewart when I was in middle school, so tween age. I started with her Merlin-centric Arthur retellings and then read some of her romantic suspense; I remember The Moon-Spinners and Madam most clearly. (I was also reading a lot of Daphne du Maurier in the same period and they’ve somewhat blended together in my mind.)

    My grandmother gave me Stewart and my memories of her books are tied up with my grandparents, who were really mid-century fabulous. I loved how Stewart’s heroines were sophisticated and adult and the carefully, specifically drawn European settings. I certainly didn’t pick up on all the geopolitical contexts that you write about so beautifully–but it makes such perfect sense. English-ness was going to come to mean something so different in the period in which Stewart was writing. So it’s celebration and elegy and change all at once.

    I’m going to have to track them down and re-read them now!


    1. Miss Bates loved your description of your grandparents as “mid-century fabulous.” They would be now, MissB’s guessing, of Mrs. Bates’ age: hale and hearty and still enjoying pre-dinner drinks and Mary Stewart for your grandmother. You are blessed to have had Stewart’s books to share with her.

      Like so many who’ve commented, it appears that you too discovered Stewart before the “mean reds” of the later teen years. It has been fascinating to Miss B. to see how Mary Stewart is remembered with such love and nostalgia. Miss Bates hopes, however, that she’ll continue to be read and discovered because she really deserves to be. In particular because, as you say, her heroines are “anti-namby-pamby,” her words not Miss B’s, as quoted in The Guardian; she wanted to write a heroine as antidote to the ” ‘silly heroine’ of the conventional, contemporary thriller who is told not to open the door to anybody and immediately opens it to the first person who comes along.” Her heroines are thinkers and quoters, the best kind. And how many recent romantic suspense novels have neglected to learn from Stewart? 😉

      As for the geopolitical “stuff,” well Miss B. is reading them in the twilight years and reads more in them than your young and fresh self at 12 or 13. That being said, however, it is one more reason she encourages you to reread: there’s only more to be discovered in them.


      1. My grandmother is actually 87–quite a bit older than Miss Bates. ; )

        No, they had this fabulous mid 20th century jet setting lifestyle. They’re the inspiration for Parker’s grandparents, but at some point, I’ll write a book about their real milieu (it’s not Congress), which is terribly interesting. But they introduced me to all sorts of interesting books and movies and architecture and music that were quite out of step with my chronological age but very much in line with my personality–Mary Stewart included.


        1. Many years to your grand-mother!

          Miss Bates admits that when she read about Parker’s grand-parents, and those were some of her favourite scenes in Special Interests, she thought they felt very real and most beloved.

          Miss Bates had a similar person in her life when she was still a wee spinster: her Tante Fanny, who introduced her to books and Hollywood films of the 30s and 40s and theatre and bought her many pieces of jewellery, which she still wears. She taught her about romance, and banter, and lovers. She was amazing. And generous.


  7. I too found Mary Stewart in my teen years, while I was in high school in the 80’s. But I’ve never read any of her romantic suspense, only her Arthurian books. I discovered them right around when Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon was published and I became obsessed with Arthurian retellings. Now, of course, MZB has been revealed as a horrible human being, so I’ll just console myself with The Crystal Cave & the rest. I haven’t reread them in twenty-five years or more, and I’m not sure they’d hold up for me now. But I’ll be adding Madam, Will You Talk to my TBR.

    Miss Bates is a dangerous woman to know, it is clear. That TBR is going to require some sort of karmic rebirth as a late night security guard with unlimited reading time in order for me to catch up. 🙂


    1. Miss Bates is tickled spinster’s pink, that would be anique, at the idea that she’s a “dangerous woman.” How delicious! 😉

      It is so disappointing when a favoured author goes down the human tubes in that way: it’s as if with every reading of a book, faith has been broken and it’s difficult to get it back. It is possible for some reconciliation if the author admitted a wrong, showed remorse, tried to redress; then, equilibrium may be reset, even if the first flush of admiration is gone. 😦 Sorry that you were disappointed.

      Miss Bates thinks that, for you, as it was for her: reading Mary Stewart will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship! (Can’t wait to hear what you think of it.)


  8. I read Mary Stewart’s Authrian books as a teenager and still have them on my bookshelf. I borrowed Madam , Will you Talk from the library after reading a recent review prompted by Stewart’s passing. Coincidentally I have also recently returned from 10 days in Provence which included visits to many of the towns featured in Madam , Will you Talk
    , including a hike to from St Remy to Les Baux and as well as enjoying the storyline snd the characters was struck by how well she portrayed the setting. I am looking forward to reading more of her books.


    1. Miss Bates envies you your trip, but how wonderful that you were able to enjoy such a great great outing! And in the heart of Mary Stewart country no less!! Her portrayal of setting is powerful, Miss Bates would say, because she evokes the past while describing, with great immediacy and sensual detail, the present. Miss Bates too looks forward to reading more Mary Stewart and writing about her. Hope to hear what you think of the rest of her books!


  9. Miss Bates,

    Thank you for the post. I read my first Mary Stewart novel when I was 12 years old. It was The Moonspinners. I found it by watching the credits of the movie starring Hayley Mills in 1964. Oh my! The book was s-o-o much better than the movie. While reading, I was there – on a hillside in Crete, discovering a wounded young man, protecting him while he recuperated, and outwitting the villain. Magic…

    Then to find out that my mother had the rest of Stewart’s books in a box in the attic, along with Victoria Holt and others! A wonderful summer. Wonderful memories.

    I recently read The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley. All through it I kept thinking that it felt like something else. It was a Mary Stewart novel. Bless her.

    You hit the nail on the head when you spoke of the sensuality of Stewart’s prose, so rich, so evocative of time and place. Thank you again for inspiring my little trip down memory lane. I have to go into the attic to find the box with Mary’s novels.


    1. And thank you for sharing your wonderful story: Miss Bates loved the image of a girl searching the movie credits to read the novel. And then your attic discovery: what a boon! She’d say she has been so tickled and grateful to read everyone’s Mary Stewart discovery stories. Coming to her as a much … ahem … older woman, such as Miss Bates, is bittersweet. A little sad that she hadn’t read Stewart’s novels when she needed them most, but so thrilled to be reading them for the first now and discovering what so many others have. A beloved author is such a great bond among strangers, though less so now that you’ve told me your wonderful story.

      Miss Bates read Susanna Kearsley’s The Winter Sea just this year, and though it preceded her reading of Stewart’s Madam, Will You Talk?, she did quite a bit of “mmmhmmmm-ing” as she read Stewart, linking Kearsley’s work to hers. She has no doubt that Kearsley would be the first to talk about her love of, and influence by, Stewart.

      Thank you for a great comment! 🙂


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