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1.0 out of 5 starsA far-fetched story
Reviewed in Canada on July 18, 2019
This book had such a hard to believe story line that I just had to force myself to read it. Then I wondered why I even bothered. I really did not like this book at all. Just too incredible to be seriously believed,just too many coincidental things happening, to make it interesting.
I just love the Mary Stewart's mysteries with classic strong female leads. She is way ahead of her time. I also enjoy the setting she uses and it make me want to travel to these places. This one is set in the Pyrennes.
Jennifer Silver (22, blonde, beautiful and carefully brought up to meet and marry Mr. Conventionally Suitable) arrives in a small French village near the Spanish border to meet her cousin Gillian who, recently widowed, is planning to enter a convent. Gillian, orphaned as a child, lived with the Silver family during her teens and consequently the two girls are very close. At the convent, Jennifer is told that Gillian was recently involved in a car accident and has just died. Shocked and grief-stricken, Jenny cannot believe that her injured cousin would not even attempt to contact her and soon other odd circumstances arouse her suspicions and her enquiries lead her into a web of intrigue and danger. What follows is an engrossing and satisfying mystery that develops into a page-turner of a book.
The typical Mary Stewart heroine is young, very beautiful, strong-minded, courageous but feminine and ultimately happy to let her man take over … Jennifer is all of those things but her sheltered upbringing has made her a little childish, and seemingly fragile. The story is really all about her growing up and how her placid, previously unchallenged character responds to extreme situations. However, this novel also features one of Stewart's most romantic male characters, a passionate and sensitive musician who is prepared to do whatever it takes to achieve his heart's desire. The villains are suitably evil but, because of the third-person narrative, we get to see them in all their complexities. Even the smaller incidental characters are beautifully drawn (Sister Maria Louisa, Celeste) and the descriptions of places and events are mesmerizing. The pacing follows Stewart's usual pattern: a sense of place is slowly developed, then clues and red herrings are introduced until the reader is properly confused and then the suspense builds in tandem with a formidable thunderstorm and we are swept along for a wild ride.
I had reservations about this book, having read that it is Lady Stewart's least favourite of her works, and she once judged it to be “overwritten” and “splurged with adjectives, all coloured purple”. It was, in fact, the second she wrote (although published third) and it is obvious that she is still experimenting and searching for her writer's “voice”, but to me this harsh self-criticism is totally unjustified. The plot is beautifully constructed and always interesting and her characteristic humour very much in evidence in how she gently mocks the scholarly fraternity with which she must have been very familiar in her real-life teaching and lecturing career. Classy and elegant, her prose is completely to my taste and, if there is the odd over-egging, it never really disrupts the flow of a very enjoyable tale. Ideal to take on holiday when you can indulge in long reading sessions. I could hardly put it down and am sure will be happy to read it again.
I read this book when I was younger and it was not one of my favourite Mary Stewart novels, however, having re-read recently I have to say that it was a very enjoyable easy read. The plot revolves around the usual Mary Stewart formula - a young woman, a young man, a mystery and fabulous scenery, but it is very well written and evokes the atmosphere not only of the turbulent landscape but also the rising tension in the storyline. It is obviously dated in its character's language, thoughts and actions but nevertheless I enjoyed reading the novel second time around and would recommend it.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 27, 2017
I first starting reading Mary Stewart books when I was a lot younger, and wanted to read one just to see what it meant to me know. It is a classic, so some in its time moments, but it was still full of suspense. It was set in a foreign land (a plus for me), but didn't reflex much of the atmosphere of that country. I enjoyed reading a Mary Stewart book that I hadn't read before, and still enjoyed her great control of suspense.
4.0 out of 5 starsFairly dated but an excellent story
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 25, 2017
Great story ... a bit dated but it was written a good number of years ago. The story of Jennifer rattles along at a fair rate with lots a description of places and people... with the threat of menace building throughout. I first read this book around 40 years ago and, although tame by comparison to today's 'girl in peril' thrillers, I was as taken in by the story now as I was back then. A Mary Stewart classic...
5.0 out of 5 starsNot my favorite but still very good
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 4, 2018
Apparently Mary Stewart herself considered this one 'overwritten' and it does have the odd melodramatic momet, like the demise of the villainess, but I'd. rather read a slightly less than perfect novel by her than any other romantic thriller.