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Linda Gillard

I recognised the quote immediately! I shall endeavour to join you for this one.

Has Lady Stewart had to leave the beautiful home that she had in the interview? I think it was near Loch Broom? The garden was so lovely, but I suppose at her great age she probably needed to downshift.

I loved what she said in the interview about not being a writer of romance, but belonging more to the traditon of John Buchan, with a female "hero" in jeopardy.

Pretty as the new retro covers are, I think they're completely unsuitable and a marketing ploy to dumb her down. Stewart's books (and her heroines!) were never about the frocks. Indeed, she very rarely described clothes.


It's not my favourite Mary Stewart but I will be more than happy to join in in October (meant to join in with Bel Canto but my copy has gone awol and I haven't got around to getting another one)
I adored her books in my teens and still have all my 70's editions which have MUCH better covers than the new ones although I am very glad that they are being re-issued.
I am also glad to say that having re read Madam Will You Talk again this year, thirty or so years after I last read it, I enjoyed it just as much this time around! I have fished all the others out and plan to work my way through them over the next few months.


Funnily enough I have just bought a set of ten Mary Stewart books from The Book People for just £5. Unfortunately Touch Not the Cat isn't one of them. It's on my neverending list though.


I'll try to come in on this one with you! I think my ancient copy is in my parents' house somewhere... Would have loved to join in with Bel Canto but somehow this month became messy and unproductive. Sigh. Still, the next will be better.


I saw they had a set at a bargain price and I'm very tempted! Pity our book is not included.


I hope next month's better, Litlove!


I think my copies with the old style covers are somewhere in my parents' house - I must look next time I'm there.
Glad to hear that Madam Will You Talk stood the test of time.


I'm very interested in what you say about the covers, Linda - it's so long since I read Mary Stewart that I don't think I could begin to place her on any literary 'scale'.
I, too, noted that point she made about being in the Buchan tradition, and I wonder about her lovely country house (her publisher's website gives her location as Argyll, while Wikipedia says she lives in Edinburgh). She would be a fascinating person to talk to, I should think.


TypePad HTML Email

Hello Cornflower
I have just watched and very much enjoyed
the Mary Stewart interview. Thanks for the link – it was lovely to see and hear

From: TypePad


It is lovely, isn't it? I'm so glad I found it, and all thanks to the Mary Stewart blog: which is itself connected to this site:


Is that the MacPherson motto?


Mackintosh and MacPherson (both septs of Clan Chattan, my ancient book on such matters tells me).
Are you of that ilk, Lindsay?

Dark Puss

I am (on my mother's side somewhat distantly). "Touch not the cat" sounds like a great motto for me! Never heard of this author.


My first Mary Stewart, and favourite, was Madam Will You Talk, which I read in my teens. It was the first book that I remember having quotations at the start of each chapter, and I loved it. I read all of the other titles in the library at the time and bought Touch Not The Cat (I lent it to someone and no longer have a copy)
Quite by coincidence I recently started to read them again, I am enjoying Thunder On the Right at the moment and still enjoy them - they are rather dated!!
I don't like the new covers either, although at least they show whole women and not just legs - actually, just looked again at the above cover and my book and the legs are in fact missing on both!


Yes, v. good motto!
It occurred to me that your parents may have known Mary Stewart - or more likely her husband, Sir Frederick Stewart, Regius Professor of Geology and Dean of Science at Edinburgh:


Funny that so many of us first read Mary Stewart in our teens, and great that she still appeals years later.

Julie Fredericksen

Oh, my goodness!! I first read MS at the age of 16 - "The Moonspinners". I was hooked. I looked for her books the few yearly trips we made to Minot, ND (nearest bookstore - 100 miles away). Those were paperbacks. Later I joined book clubs and received the hard covers. I then lost all my books in a fire in 1982 but Imade sure I tracked down all the MS books via thrift shops, used book stores, etc.

I think her early books were superb. My favorite will probably always be "The Moonspinners" but there are so many others: "The Ivy Tree", "Thunder on the Right", "My Brother Michael", "Touch Not the Cat", "Wildfire at Midnight", "Airs Above the Ground", "This Rough Magic" - I probably missed some.

Not long ago I read and loved her Merlin saga (except I could not bear to read the last one because I knew it would be too sad). I do believe her later books deteriorated in quality ("The Stormy Petrel", "The Rose Cottage")but there are so many wonderful ones to re-read it doesn't matter.


I'm in! My library has a copy. I really look forward to this. I have only previously read MS' Arthurian trilogy (also as a teen many, many years ago) and I remember them fondly.


I absolutely adore Mary Stewart! I've read five of her books this year and am so pleased to see you've chosen one of her books to read in October. I read Touch Not the cat back in January and really enjoyed it. Thanks for bringing more attention to her works!


Thank you for the interesting video link. I love Airs Above the Ground, which Mary Stewart mentioned in the interview.

I also have the cheap Book People set of her books and am now cross to find that Touch Not the Cat isn't included!


Glad to hear such a ringing endorsement!




With every positive comment I'm looking forward to this more and more.


Yes, it's a pity the book isn't part of that bargain set. I feel a purchase coming on ...

Dark Puss

Resistance is useless!

Dark Puss

How interesting, almost certainly yes. I'll ask. P


I fear so.


I am looking forward to reading it. I had forgotten about Mary Steward and I did love the Moonspinners. Thanks for the link.

Margaret Powling

Just happened on this post, and (a) will try and read the book as it's sitting on the shelf (an original edition, no less, says she, showing off!) and (b) I agree with Linda (Gillard) that the Retro covers are very pretty but don't really do the books justice.
I will now watch the interview.


I'm with Julie F--growing up in a small town in Maine, my sister and I devoured the Mary Stewarts, and I have found them still favorites upon rereading as an adult, tho the two Julie named as weaker works I also found disappointing. I do also remember not quite understanding some aspects of some of the books--maybe I'll set myself the goal of rereading the whole early collection this winter, just to see if (for example) The Ivy Tree is as inconclusive as I thought. I don't remember Touch Not the Cat well, so this will be fun!


I'm so happy to see a Mary Stewart as one of your Cornflower Book Group Reads--I'm going to look for a copy of this so I can read along! I think the comparison to John Buchan is an apt one--her heroines are smart and independent and while there is a dash of romance, it really is backseat to the rest of the story. Thanks to the link for the interview--I'm off to check that out now as well.


I am, on my maternal grandmother's side, part Mackintosh - but Scots friends tell me that ilk has nothing to do with it, merely meaning "place" (ie, Karen Howlett of that ilk" would mean you came from the town called Howlett). Is that right?

Incidentally, don't you think "touch not the cat but with a glove" is a speldid motto for a grumpy,combative old codger like myself?


Ilk does indeed mean place, but that's not all. As I used it it means "such a one" or "that"/"the same".
As for grumpy, combative old codgers - why so? Come up and have some Scottish hospitality, Lindsay, and we'll de-grump you!


I was very glad to come across that interview. It lets us have a clear image of the writer herself as we read her.


Good to be forewarned about the weaker books!


That's the joy of having a large collection of books - something is mentioned and you can turn to your shelves and take down your copy!


The Moonspinners was one of the ones I read way back. I can't remember a thing about it now!

Dark Puss

The intersection of these collections to which you refer and my library (even adding in the one in D) and those still with my mother in both London & Edinburgh is a rather small set thus I do not tend to be able to take down a copy of almost anything mentioned here.

Margaret Powling

Watched both the Mary Steward and the Dorothy Dunnett interviews, they were great. Wouldn't it have been great to have shared afternoon tea with them and been able to discuss their writing? The interviewer looked just a teeny weeny bit star-struck to ask really searching questions, but overall, super interviews.

Julie Fredericksen

I have re-read The Ivy Tree several times and still can't figure out if what's her name (Annabelle?) was an imposter or not! Inconclusive - that's a good description. But I still liked the book.

Julie Fredericksen

If the new covers are like the one Cornflower shows at the top of the post, they are awful!


Yes, very enjoyable, and lovely to put faces - and 'characters' - to the names.
The interviewer, Jenny Brown, is a former director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival and now a literary agent.


I love Mary Stewart and recognised the quote immediately, but unfortunately Touch not the Cat is one of my least favourites, and not one i re read very often (i re-read the others every 3 or 4 years). My first was 'My Brother Michael' which i got as a birthday present from my grandmother when I was 14. It was her old copy, as i think she'd mislaid the present she had actually bought me (she was always doing that so it makes for a fond memory). I loved it and tracked down the rest gradually and so have a strange variety of covers.

Dark Puss

Finally got my paws on a library copy (including three other novels by her in a huge compendium). It was stored in the "reserve" stock in the basement!


I hope someone sees sense and brings MS out of the basement and into 'general circulation' pronto!

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