Airs Above the Ground by Mary Stewart

Airs Above the Ground cover

Airs Above the Ground was first published in 1965 but my paperback copy is from 1967, I really like the cover and I found the book to be a great read. In fact I’m sure that if this book had been written by a man it would have had a much higher profile and might have been made into a film. A lot of it is full of suspense, it’s much more of an adventure/mystery than for instance – John Buchan’s books, in my opinion.

On page one the Guardian newspaper is mentioned as the main character Vanessa March is a Guardian reader. Presumably Mary Stewart was also one as she incorporated a classic Guardian misprint in an article from the newspaper. The word ‘churned’ appears when it should have been ‘burned’. In case you don’t know, the Guardian is affectionately called the Grauniad as the typesetters were always making mistakes. Of course nowadays it’s all done on computers so that isn’t such a problem – or feature.

Anyway, back to the book. Chapter one begins in Harrod’s tearoom where Vanessa March is having tea with her mother’s old friend Carmel. Vanessa has only been married for a few years and she’s had a bit of a ‘domestic’ with her husband Lewis as he has had to change their holiday plans at short notice. From something that Carmel says – it seems that Lewis might not be where he says he is and so follows the adventure with Vanessa travelling to Austria in search of the truth and Lewis, with help from Tim – Carmel’s seventeen year old son who is in need of time away from his suffocating mother.

Tim’s a huge fan of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna and the Lipizzaner horses, and he’s very impressed that Vanessa is in fact a trained vet. With the storyline moving on to a travelling circus featuring animals (a pet hate of mine) it was a bit of a wonder that I wasn’t put off by that, although circus acts don’t feature too much.

I read this one for the Read Scotland 2017 Challenge. Sadly I don’t have too many of Mary Stewart’s books still to read now, I think I’ve read them all except My Brother Michael and maybe Madam Will You Talk.

8 thoughts on “Airs Above the Ground by Mary Stewart

  1. I don’t think I’ve actually read anything by Mary Stewart but I do have The Moon Spinners on hold and though it’s in transit it may take forever to get here (military libraries just send crates to different bases when they’ve filled up, it can take ages). I am intrigued by the Lipizzaner Horses which I saw as a child.

    I like your point about how much more attention this might have gotten if the author were a man. Mary Stewart is seen as very retro but John Buchan’s works are still being reworked on BBC/PBS. I read The 39 Steps a few years ago and it was fun but relied heavily on amazing coincidences.

    • Karen K,
      Yes I read quite a few of Buchan’s books some years ago and I seem to remember they all rely on coincidences. I think his Greenmantle is better than The 39 Steps. Sadly if the main character in a book was/is a woman, then it’s unlikely to be read by lots of men so it’s going to be labelled ‘domestic’. Things might have changed in recent years I suppose.
      I hope you enjoy The Moonspinners – when it turns up.

  2. Gosh, Katrina, I do in fact remember this one. I read it during my teenage years, but how I’d love to read it again. Thanks so much for reminding me. I’ve just added it to my “Wannareads List.” The only problem is the vast number of wonderful books I discover from fellow bloggers. I wish I had a Priority List for this year, but here it is–in less than a week it will be spring, and I’m no closer to making such a list.

    • Judith,
      I can’t believe how fast this year is going, I suppose that means I’m getting old! I really must start concentrating on my own books but as you say, people keep recommending books and I keep requesting them from the library, it’s never ending.

  3. I think that’s an excellent point, about how her book would have been received if it had been written by a man. It certainly would have made an exciting film!

    I enjoyed this one very much. And I’m not a fan of circuses, or even stories with circuses in them.

    • Lisa,
      I was thinking that too, it would have made a good film, better than anything by Buchan because Hitchcock added the climbing around on the Forth Bridge scenes, in The 39 Steps, that doesn’t appear in the book. Buchan lived close to that bridge too so he should have thought of that bit of drama himself!

  4. Mary Stewart is one of the best, in my opinion. I have them all (from my dewy youth) and still reread my favourites. A few are rather so-so, but most are excellent. (Those you have still to read are in the upper levels.)

    Airs Above the Ground is good value, but I always took issue with Vanessa being “just a housewife.” Even in 1965, profoessional women without children (or even with children) didn’t drop it all to stay home when they got married. And in her case, her husband’s never there anyway. What IS she doing with her time, after years of education (and no doubt years of fighting the system) to become a vet?

    Okay, rant over. Enjoy those last two books.

    • Susan D,
      I agree completely with you on that. I suppose that Mary Stewart chose to make Vanessa a housewife despite her vet qualifications, so that she could just scoot off in search of her husband – and adventure. I’m really looking forward to the few that I still have to read now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.