I have a confession to make: I don’t have any Mary Stewart books on my bookshelf.
I was astonished to discover this. As a teenager, I devoured her books. I blame my mother: she introduced them to me. The mix of romance and mystery had me gripped from the very first page, as I travelled with the writer (nearly all the books were written in the first person), through her highs and lows, fearing for my life and falling in love with the most marvellous men.
I remember choosing a passage from “Airs Above the Ground” to read aloud in an English lesson, trying to express the plot-twisting moment with all the drama that Mary had put on paper. Presumably I lost half the class as the only question I was asked at the end was from the teacher, questioning whether I thought the book was aimed at girls. Still, for me, this was a crucial, gripping and exciting moment in my reading life.
Quite simply, I loved to be engrossed in one of her books, ignoring as much as possible of my homework/family/duties in the process. While I am surprised that I don’t have any of her books any more, I assume that they were all Mum’s and were left with her… and now my father will have disposed of them (see earlier comments on ‘books for girls’!)
Sadly, Mary Stewart died this week at the grand age of 97. Looking up her Wikipedia entry (is there any other source of info?) I was surprised to discover how long ago the books were written. That I, a teenager in the 1980s, had such an affiliation with these books published in the 1960s is quite remarkable. They may not be literary classics, but books that can continue to be read and enjoyed decades after they have been written definitely have one definition of ‘classic’. There is so much rubbish written that will never be read again, yet these are some of the greatest re-readable page-turners.
But perhaps my favourite discovery was that she was born Mary Rainbow. Now there’s a name to regret losing on marriage! Born a spectrum of colour, that she shared through the written word throughout her life.
So now I must scour the charity shops for some old copies of her books, to satisfy my reminiscences if nothing else. Thank you, Mary.
Mary Stewart, 1916-2014