Judging by all the comments on the post announcing that a Mary Stewart book was to be the group's October title, Lady Stewart seems to have a special place on many readers' shelves, often as a feature of our teenage years but still enjoyed decades on. I found all the remarks very heartening, not having read Mary Stewart since my teens but remembering her books as being very enjoyable and looking forward to a pleasant rediscovery.
Touch Not the Cat was first published in 1976 and set around then, too, and some scenes or details wear their date less well than others (mink eyelashes, anyone?), but it's focus is of course a very old house and its garden, its history, artefacts, and the family which has always lived there, and this gives a solid centre to the book.
I needn't go into the plot here but I was swept along by its twists and turns, though always secure in the knowledge that all would be well in the end, the baddies would be thwarted, the heroine would find happiness, justice of a sort would be done - that, to me, is satisfying, and my sense from the outset was that Mary Stewart could be trusted to deliver in that way. Some readers may find the reliance on telepathy stretched their credulity or tried their patience, though for my part, that was fine; there are some rather melodramatic moments too, and a slight leaning towards the 'rude mechanicals' stereotype (e.g. Mrs. Henderson), but for me it amounted to lovely romantic, escapist stuff, intelligent, very pleasant to read because the voice is right in tone and timbre, and the rhythm and pace are similarly regular and easy to fall in step with. It would certainly be a candidate for our "enchanted armchair", and would have me seeking out other Mary Stewart novels for moments when her blend of well-crafted romance and suspense is just what is needed (and there's a bargain to be had on them here, by the way).
What did you think? Was this a welcome return to an author you hadn't read for years? Was Mary Stewart a happy discovery, and if so are you keen to read more? If you're a Stewart aficionado, where would you rank this book in terms of her others? Did the male readers among us feel she was not for them? Was the supernatural element not to your taste or did it add savour to the tale? Did you feel the plot and its references were unduly tortuous - in keeping with the maze at the garden's heart - or was that relative complexity welcome grist to the mental mill? Do give us your thoughts; and by the way, should this book have had little appeal for you, next month's promises to be very different.
The 'Books and Cakes' post for Touch Not the Cat is here.