Friday, September 10, 2010

Mary Stewart: My Brother Michael


With this novel, I finally, truly get what all the Mary Stewart fuss is about. I felt like I was in Greece-- in the ruins of Delphi, driving through the small towns and villages, and I fell in love with Simon myself, just as Camilla did. I have not warmed to other heroes of Stewart's making (the hero in Thunder on the Right or in Nine Coaches Waiting, for example), but this novel changed that for me.

What is not to love? Camilla takes someone's rental car-- not hers-- to Delphi after a mix-up. She is looking for Simon and his girl-- the ones who should have the rental car. She quickly finds Simon and gets involved with his search for his brother Michael's killer. The novel is suspenseful, but it is the kind of suspense you want to live in for a while. If you are a WWII history buff, you will love this one as well since Michael died during war time in a deft tale of intrigue.

I do have to say that this novel has some Gothic elements, but it is not the ancestral castle type of Gothic. It is a Gothic romance. It has a hero (and his dead brother) with secrets, murder, buried treasure, mysterious letters, villains, Greek tragedy, exotic locales... and more.

Characterization: 5/5 [I loved Camilla; she is modern yet demure while still being sassy when it counts. Simon, as I mentioned before, I fell in love with. He is intelligent and wise as well as kind. Stephanos, Niko, Danielle, and Nigel were also round characters.]

Plot: 4/5 [I only have one plot issue: the car mishaps that went on for pages to show readers that Camilla cannot drive. They were a little funny, but they went on for too long. Otherwise, the plot moves steadily, inexorably to its brilliant conclusion.]

Atmosphere/spooky elements: 4/5 [The ruins themselves were ghostly; I felt removed from the here and now as I read. Of course, quoting from tragedies and dramas also lends to that atmosphere. When Stewart mentioned the "wine-dark sea," she had me at Homer.]

Literary? 5/5 [Oh my yes. Homer, Euripides, John Donne, the gods-- especially Apollo-- and more are  invoked, and there is a particularly arresting philosophical discussion between Nigel, Camilla, and Simon about whether the means justify the ends and how no man is an island ala Donne. I would even argue that Camilla fulfills the role of the heroine on a Homeric sort of journey, and Simon fulfills his role of avenger of his brother's blood. The novel is just brilliant that way.]

Romance? Yes, and it felt so believable. I suspended my disbelief throughout this novel and found it credible that Camilla and Simon would be together.


Rating: 4+ stars ****+

** I recommend this one. If you have struggled with Stewart, give this one a try (though I doubt many of you have struggled with her). I bow to her genius... :)

9 comments:

jwade19 said...

I totally agree with your review. MBM has to be one of Stewart's best. The ending was so shocking and graphic and barbaric to me (i.e. in the cave).

The one thing I love the most about Stewart's writing is her ability to convey a sense of place. She can put the reader right there with her heroine - I'm glad to found that to be so.

Funny you should mention that you struggled with warming up to the hero in Thunder on the Right. I read on a Mary Stewart website that TotR was her least favorite book she wrote. She considered it inferior and silly. I haven't gotten a hold of it yet, but plan on doing so one of these days to see if I agree.

lisalgreer said...

Perhaps I'll never finish TotR, then. :) I want to get my hands on 'The Ivy Tree.' That one isn't in my library, and it's hard to find in the secondhand store, too. I'll probably break down and buy it off of Amazon.

The ending was graphic. I think she is a surprising author, though, now that I've completed two of her novels. LOL....

jwade19 said...

The Ivy Tree is so cleverly written - you should read it next for sure!

Carolannkg said...

Yep, this is definitely one of my favourites as well. Like you Lisa, I really felt I was in Greece with the characters and fell in love with the area. Definitely one of her best gothic romances.

Can't remember the Ivy Tree, will have to see if I've read it.

Sandy said...

I'm so glad you gave this a good review because I own this book but I've never read it yet. Now I will put a little priority on it! I rat holed a couple hundred of these gothic romance books over the years because I was so attracted to the cover art. I just knew the books had to be good but yet I procrastinated reading them. I'm glad I hung on to them! Thanks again for the reviews. Clark Brady (I share my wife's Google Account that's why it shows up as Sandy. Sandy reads generally what normal guys read and I read the gothic romance and the general romance novels. She also is into NFL football. Need I say more? :)

lisalgreer said...

HA! That's hilarious, Clark. There are quite a few guys that like Gothic Romance novels and certainly Gothic Novels in general-- and one or two post here as well. I love that these novels appeal so much to both genders! :) It says a lot about their quality.

susied said...

I just visited a Mary Stewart blog and a post reveals new book covers. Here is the link in case you want to check it out:

http://marystewartnovels.blogspot.com/2011/01/new-uk-covers.html

I think I like them!

Fiddlette said...

This is the first Mary Stewart novel I ever read, and it was recommended to me by my great grandaunt who loved it and also lent me her copy of Sea Jade...these were her fave books back "in the day"...

I liked it, but wasn't blown away...I also feel the same about her Greece locale books The Moon Spinners and This Rough Magic...Definitely my favorites so far have been Madam Will You Talk, The Ivy Tree, and Wildfires At Midnight...I also have Thunder on the Right, Airs Above the Ground, and the Gabriel Hounds all recently purchased used from Ebay waiting for me...I'll be interested to hear what you think of those!

Gothic Writer said...

Yeah, Mary Stewart is not my favorite, though no other gothic romance novelist can write description like she does IMHO. :) I am reading The Ivy Tree right now, and around page 60, it got me. I don't want to put it down. lol

 
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