Happy Friday, all!
I fell down a reading rabbit hole this week. A BookBub sale reminded me that it’s been some years since I’ve reread Mary Stewart’s This Rough Magic, which has never been my favorite Mary Stewart (that would be Nine Coaches Waiting or Thornyhold) but has always been well up there in my own private Stewart pantheon. For those who haven’t read it, it’s classic Stewart. Our heroine, an actress whose play has folded, joins her older sister on holiday in Corfu and finds herself enmired in skullduggery– and, of course, romance and travelogue. Also Shakespeare.
Naturally, once I’d finished This Rough Magic, I wasn’t ready to leave Stewart’s world of plucky English heroines in exotic places, so it was an easy hop from Corfu to Crete with The Moon-Spinners, in which another heroine on holiday (this one a junior secretary at the British Embassy in Athens) stumbles on a wounded man and from there into, yes, skullduggery. And romance. And travelogue. With somewhat less Shakespeare.
After that, I followed Mary Stewart back to England with The Ivy Tree, which is one of those books I didn’t have much use for as a teenager but came to love in later life. (Those who have read both The Ivy Tree and my The English Wife will recognize the profound effect that Ivy Tree had on that book, much as Georgette Heyer’s The Quiet Gentleman is responsible for The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla.) Ivy Tree is rather different from Stewart’s other suspense novels. It’s set in England, around a rather improbable imposture, as a young woman agrees to impersonate a missing heiress to a prosperous farm.
I’d forgotten just how much Mary Stewart’s The Ivy Tree owes to Josephine Tey’s Brat Farrar— and how much it says so straight out in the text! So, of course, I had to reread Brat Farrar. (It’s quite a rabbit hole, isn’t it?) When the look alike to a boy presumed dead eight years ago turns up in England, a destitute aristocrat discovers him and primes him to take the place of the missing heir. It’s the sort of plot that should never work, but, in Tey’s hands, absolutely does, thanks to her keen observation of human nature and whip smart prose. She’s the sort of writer who can tell you everything you need to know about a character in two lines of dialogue– and that’s a rare gift.
So that’s my reading rabbit hole! What rabbit holes did you fall down this week? And what have you been reading?