Adventures in History and Romance

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mary Stewart and Memory Lane

The recent reissues of Mary Stewart books by Hodder and Stoughton got me thinking again about one of my favorite all-time authors.

I discovered Mary Stewart books in high school and was instantly enthralled, working my way through every one.  They were the perfect blend of adventure and romance.  She was also ahead of her time when she added a paranormal element in Touch Not the Cat.  Years later, as I am now trying my own hand at writing, her books are uppermost in my mind as the standard for quality and style.

Her gorgeous and evocative descriptions of the locations in her books made me want to get to France, Greece, England and Scotland. Still working on that list, but I did get to France in 2007.  While in Provence, I toured the places around Avignon, Nimes, and Marseilles mentioned in Madam, Will You Talk. Although the landscape has changed over the years, it was still so easy to imagine the events of the book. I especially loved the Temple of Diana in Nimes, the spot where the hero and heroine meet. Here is a photo of me and my hubby at that very spot:

Also loved, loved, loved the Pont du Gard:

The ruins of Les Baux, which were wild and lonely at the time Mary Stewart wrote about them, are now a bustling tourist attraction, but they are marvelous nonetheless.

From the vantage point at the top, you can look in one direction and see the wilds that inspired Van Gogh:

On the other side, green and manicured farmland and grapevines, with a hint of the Mediterranean Sea in the distance:

Last fall as I was touring the lush and beautiful countryside in England, I kept remembering the opening line of The Ivy Tree: "I might have been alone on a painted landscape..."

Her books are so lovely and intelligent as well as filled with action and suspense. I hope these reissues will garner a new legion of fans.

PS: Many thanks to Vanessa Kelly, who inspired my trip down memory lane with her own wonderful blog post last week about Mary Stewart!