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.

Recent book purchases – Mary Stewart

I’ve been looking for these Mary Stewart books and although I had been hoping to find hardbacks in a secondhand bookshop, I decided to settle for the copies in the photo below when I found them in a Stockbridge, Edinburgh bookshop. The covers are so of their time. Airs Above the Ground is a 1967 reprint, it was originally published in 1965. Mr Brother Michael was published in 1959 but this reprint was published in 1971 – the eighth impression.
Mary Stewart
I did read a lot of Mary Stewart’s books way back in the 1970s but I think that I missed Airs Above the Ground and My Brother Michael back then, so I’m really looking forward to reading them soon – for the Read Scotland 2017 Challenge of course.

If you are a regular visitor to ‘Pining’ then you’ll realise that Stockbridge in Edinburgh is my favourite stamping ground for books, but when I’m there I never take any photos of the place, I’m too busy perusing book and charity shops and also it’s quite a busy area so it would be impossible to take photos without getting a lot of people in them. So if you want to know what Stockbridge looks like have a keek here.

Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart

Nine Coaches Waiting cover

Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart was first published in 1958.

The book is a mixture of mystery and romance and has an almost Victorian feel to it as Linda is a young English woman, alone in the world and in need of some way of supporting herself. Linda’s mother had been French and Linda had lived in France in the past so she is a fluent French speaker but when a job opportunity comes up for her and it seems that it is only open to an English woman she decides to hide her ability to speak French.

Linda becomes governess to a young boy Phillippe whose parents have died recently. It means that Phillippe has inherited the family estate as his father was the eldest of three brothers. But Phillippe’s uncle had been in control of the estate for some years as Phillippe’s father had been more interested in his archaeology career which kept him away from the chateau that should have been his home.

It isn’t long before Linda realises that Phillippe’s life is in danger and she picks up various interesting pieces of information as her employers think that she doesn’t speak French.

I always enjoy Mary Stewart’s writing and I found this one to be a page turner, full of suspense and great holiday reading.

The title Nine Coaches Waiting was taken from a Renaissance play by Cyril Tourneur – The Revenger’s Tragedy and although there are twenty-one chapters in the Stewart book nine of them are headed by a coach number with Ninth Coach appearing as the name of the last chapter. The coach chapters all deal with car journeys that are important to the storyline.

I know that someone who reviewed Nine Coaches Waiting on Goodreads was perplexed as to why the book was titled as it is. My copy of the book is a very old paperback so maybe later versions of the book had those chapter headings removed, or maybe that reviewer just didn’t read the book very closely.

I read this one for the Read Scotland 2016 Challenge.

Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart

Touch not the Cat cover

Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart was published in 1976 and it must have been around about then that I first read it. I couldn’t remember an awful lot about the book (it was a long time ago after all) but I did remember that the family crest had something to do with the storyline. Judith @ Reader in the Wilderness and I decided to read this one at the same time and she plans to get her post up about it soon.

This is a light read, you might call it a comfort read, perfect holiday or summertime reading. The setting is mainly Herefordshire in England in the 1970s although the book does begin in Madeira where Bryony Ashley is working at a hotel that is owned by her father’s friend, it’s just a holiday job for her but tragedy strikes when Bryony’s father is knocked down and killed by a hit and run car in Germany. Her father wasn’t killed outright and his last words have been written down for Bryony, as the doctors know that she won’t get to his bedside before he dies. There is a tradition of a sort of telepathy within the Ashley family and Bryony has it as has one of her male relatives, but she doesn’t know which one it is that communicates with her through thought.

Bryony is now an orphan and even worse than that her family home Ashley Court is entailed meaning that it has to be passed on down the male line in the family. Ashley Court is practically a ruin, an ancient moated house which has suffered from a lack of maintenance for years. It’ll be a millstone around the neck of the eldest Ashley cousin Emory, even more than Bryony realises because she discovers that that branch of the family is equally skint when she and her father had believed them to be very well off.

The police have never been able to track down whoever killed Bryony’s father and she begins to think that it wasn’t a simple accident. Did her cousins have something to do with it? Which of her cousins is it that she has a mental link with, being able to communicate through telepathy.

Bryony is suspicious of her cousins, would they have killed her father to get their hands on Ashley Court and the land around it?

With romance thrown in and some lovely descriptions of the surroundings, something always expected in a Mary Stewart book, this was an enjoyable read. Mind you I always compare any of her books with her Merlin/Arthurian trilogy, that ended up being a series of five books. Those books are still my favourites.

I read this one for the Read Scotland 2016 Challenge, I’ve now read thirteen Scottish books so far this year.

Recent Book Purchases

More Old Books

These are some of the books that I’ve bought over the last few weeks. The Naomi Mitchison and Mary Stewart books will obviously be featuring in my Read Scotland 2016 Challenge. The others are all authors that I’ve enjoyed reading in the past.

1. The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen
2. Kingfishers Catch Fire by Rumer Godden
3. The Land the Ravens Found by Naomi Mitchison
4. A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor
5. The Gabriel Hounds by Mary Stewart
6. An Episode of Sparrows by Rumer Godden

At the moment I’m in a hotel room in Ypres (Wipers) – a place I never thought we would get around to visiting, but here we are. Strangely we’re in a lovely hotel with a beautiful view of bomb craters that have become a small lake. At the moment I’m about 30 yards from where the Germans used flame-throwers for the very first time, a sobering thought.

We’ve already visited the Menin Gate and witnessed The Last Post ceremony which takes place at 8 pm every night. It was very well attended.

Photos will be forthcoming at a later date.

Reading My Own Damn Books – in March

I decided to join in the Reading My Own Books Challenge at Estella’s Revenge in the hope that it would make me concentrate on my books rather than books from the library. It sort of worked, although I did request some books from the library because other bloggers had loved them. Anyway, in March I read eleven books and of those eight were my own. They were:

1. The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
2. Murder of a Lady by Anthony Wynne
3. The Edge of the Cloud by K.M.Peyton
4. Crossriggs by Jane and Mary Findlater
5. Introduction to Sally by Elizabeth von Arnim
6. Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart
7. Cork on the Water by McDonald Hastings
8. The Winds of Heaven by Monica Dickens

I had been aiming to read at least six of my own books so I’m very happy with eight although I didn’t manage to read Murder in Piccadilly by Charles Kingston as I had planned, that one will be carried forward to be read in April. I’m hoping to read at least six of my own books in April, I’ll definitely be reading Oblamov by Goncharov because I got that one in the Classics Club Spin.

I have a horrible feeling that I actually bought more than eight books in March though, so the TBR pile is still increasing!

Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart

Wildfire at Midnight cover

Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart was first published in 1956 but the story begins in 1953, just a few days before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. London is rapidly filling up with people who have come to get a view of the proceedings. Gianetta Drury is a model for Montefior a famous designer, and she could have a grandstand view from his premises above Regent Street, but perversely she wants to have a holiday away from the heaving city. At her mother’s suggestion she ends up going to the Isle of Skye and booking into a hotel recommended by her mother.

Gianetta is divorced and she’s shocked to discover that her ex-husband is also a resident at the hotel, but there’s an even bigger shock for her as she’s told that there has been a murder in the neighbourhood, and everyone except Gianetta is under suspicion.

The hotel is full of the usual hill walkers and anglers and in no time a couple of female hill walkers/mountaineers fail to return from their hike. With a murderer on the loose there’s even more than the usual worry in case they have been done to death, rather than just got lost in the mountains.

I really like Mary Stewart’s books. Apart from anything else you never know what you’re going to get when you open one of them, her books are never predictable. This one has plenty of mystery along the lines of Christie but also beautifully descriptive passages and just a wee bit of romance of course.

This is another one which counts towards the Read Scotland 2016 Challenge.

Pitlochry Bookshop

We had a close look at the weather forecast this morning and decided it was good enough to sashay up to the wee Highland town of Aberfeldy to go for a good walk up the Birks of Aberfeldy, more about that at a later date, but you can see images of it here.

It ended up being a gorgeous day up there and on the way back we decided to veer off to Pitlochry, mainly because I had heard that there was a bookshop in one of the railway station buildings. In fact we discovered that you have to go on to the station platform to get into the shop which presumably used to be offices or a waiting room or some such thing. You really have to know that it’s there as you will never stumble across it, unless you’re getting off a train.

There was a display of hardback books from the Reprint Society right at the door so I wasn’t even in there two seconds before I had a couple of books in my hands and in the end I took books to the counter to pay for them. The sales assistant called me ‘madam’ – I’m never sure if that’s a good or a bad thing, it makes me feel old anyway.

However, he was very impressed with my haul of books and he gave me a discount despite them already being ridiculously cheap compared with other secondhand bookshops. I felt quite bad about that as I think the proceeds go to a local charity.

So what did I buy this time?

1. The Edge of the Cloud by K.M Peyton
2. Flambards in Summer by K.M.Peyton
3. Flambards Divided by K.M. Peyton
I loved the first Flambards book, they were published by Puffin aimed at older children I suppose but I only got to know about the books after watching Flambards on TV in 1979 and that was not a children’s programme. I’ve already read the first book in the series.

4. The Rider of the White Horse by Rosemary Sutcliff
5. The Willow Cabin by Pamela Frankau
6. The Battle of the Villa Fiorita by Rumer Godden
7. This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart
8. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster
9. Peak Country by Joseph E. Morris which is an A&C Black book from their Beautiful Britain series. 1914.

Not a bad haul I think you’ll agree. I really do have to concentrate on my own books now!

books

Mary Stewart – auctions

I watched the lunchtime Scottish news today and there was a bit about sales of the author Mary Stewart’s jewellery, books, jade and such which will be held at Lyon and Turnbull auctioneers over the next few months. You can read about it here. Apparently she treated herself to a gorgeous piece of jewellery whenever she had a new book published. It would be nice to think that her ‘stuff’ will end up with people who were fans of her books, but sadly I won’t be bidding! You can have a snoop at the online catalogue here though.

The newspaper article calls her Lady Mary throughout which drives me nuts as of course she was NOT Lady Mary she was Lady Stewart. She would have had to be born a lady to have that title, instead of which she became Lady Stewart when her husband was knighted.

A Walk in Wolf Wood by Mary Stewart

A Walk in Wolf Wood cover

A Walk in Wolf Wood is one of Mary Stewart’s children’s books and features some of the themes which often turn up in her adult books, magical fantasy and mystery. It was first published in 1980 and this paperback in 1981. I don’t know about you but I like the fairy tale castle on the cover. I read this as part of the Scotland 2014 challenge. This has been my sixteenth book.

John and Margaret Begbie were having a picnic in the Black Forest with their parents. The parents were drowsy after their meal and when a weeping man walked past John and Margaret they decided to follow him to see if they could help him. So begins an adventure into the past, featuring a duke and his household and a werewolf.

It reads like an updated fairy tale and is an enjoyable story, I think I would have loved it if I had read it as a 10 year old but it wasn’t bad reading as an adult.