My Brother Michael, by Mary Stewart

>> Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Some weekend reads...

I've been hearing about Mary Stewart for ages, but I was never really motivated to read one of her books. Finally, a few weeks ago, after hearing her books compared to MM Kaye's and reading the AAR review of Named of the Dragon, where the reviewer states that Kearsley reminds her of Stewart, I made up my mind and bought one of her books to try, My Brother Michael.

Camilla Haven is on holiday in Greece, trying to put a broken relationship behind her. An accident of mistaken identity leaves her in possession of a hired car with instructions to deliver it to Delphi. Her decision to drive it there and save the coach fare leads her into a mystery of a murder set against the background of the ancient Oracle. Camilla discovers that the past is never far behind as she helps to reveal the secrets behind the murder of a British agent in war-time Greece.
Loved it, it was a B+. It was wonderfully atmospheric, just like Kaye's and Kearsley's, and I was fascinated by both the characters and the plot.

I must mention this was a 1959 book, but it didn't feel like a dated contemp, but like a historical, which is exactly what it is, really. What I noticed especially was how much these people smoked! Chain-smokers, the lot of them!

In spite of this being set in the 50s, I found the mindset less consevative than that in many comtemporary romance novels. The heroine was human and fallible, but she was also pretty self-sufficient, and the hero didn't go all overprotective, "we should protect our womenfolk". He respected her abilities and understood that she needed to feel she was acting, not reacting. OTOH, though, the promiscuous girl is demonized, so it wasn't that liberal ;-)

Simon was great, a nice beta schoolteacher, with hidden depths, always courteous to the heroine. I would have liked for the romance to be more developed, but I accept that's just the way these books go.

To summarize, a lovely book. I'll definitely be looking for the rest of Stewart's backlist.

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