Friday, September 10, 2010
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... :)