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Source: (consider it) Thread: August Book Club - Mary Stewart's My Brother Michael
Curiosity killed ...

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This month's book club is reading something lightweight for August, the traditional holiday month, Mary Stewart's My Brother Michael.

It's set in 1950s Greece, and is one of her romantic suspense stories, written in
quote:
her "anti-namby-pamby" reaction, as she called it, to the "silly heroine" of the conventional contemporary thriller who "is told not to open the door to anybody and immediately opens it to the first person who comes along".
(from her 2014 autobiography)

Anyone interested is welcome to post below. The usual starter questions will be posted on or around 20 August.

(Sarasa, I have already read it, so don't panic.)

[ 01. August 2017, 07:37: Message edited by: Curiosity killed ... ]

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Athrawes
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This is one of my favourite Mary Stewart books. I'll enjoy the re-read.

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Explaining why is going to need a moment, since along the way we must take in the Ancient Greeks, the study of birds, witchcraft, 19thC Vaudeville and the history of baseball. Michael Quinion.

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Sparrow
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Me too. I love her novels set in Greece.

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For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life,nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Curiosity killed ...

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quote:
Originally posted by Curiosity killed ...:
[QB] (from her 2014 autobiography)

Bleugh - meant obituary ...

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Sarasa
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I just started it last night, and I'm really enjoying it so far. A total contrast to last month's book, which is what I love about the SOF's Book Club.

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'I guess things didn't go so well tonight, but I'm trying. Lord, I'm trying.' Charlie (Harvey Keitel) in Mean Streets.

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ArachnidinElmet
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I'm going to try and get my hands of a copy of this, hopefully in time to read it for the bookclub.

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'If a pleasant, straight-forward life is not possible then one must try to wriggle through by subtle manoeuvres' - Kafka

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Tree Bee

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I've put in my library reservation. Look forward to reading this again.

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Marama
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I've just downloaded it.
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Scots lass
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I've been rattling through a re-read of several of her other novels recently (99p on Kindle has a lot to answer for). I might add this to my list, it's a long time* since I read it!


*my early-mid teens, so, er, hardly any time really.

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Jane R
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I'll join in if I have time after 20th. I can reread it in an evening, if I manage to remember where I put our copy.
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Jane R
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*bump* This is a tangent, but has anyone else read her novella 'The wind from the small isles'? If so, what did you think?
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Curiosity killed ...

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Apologies, I may not be able to post questions until tomorrow night as I only have a phone with me, which limits the length and complexity of posts I am prepared to hunt and peck all thumbs. But don't let that prevent anyone else from starting the discussion.

JaneR I read a number of her books recently - the lure of 99p books on Kindle - and may have that one waiting for me to read.

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Curiosity killed ...

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OK, so I need to ask questions:

Did you find the descriptions of the setting evocative?

How realistic did the story feel (now, 50 plus years after it was written)?

Do you find Mary Stewart's heroines to be able to stand up for themselves?

If you like Mary Stewart books, what do you enjoy about them?

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Curiosity killed ...

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Did you find the descriptions of the setting evocative?
The settings are one of the things I enjoy about Mary Stewart books, the way she conjures up places - and times. I suspect in this book she's writing about a world that is now lost and this stretch of coast is now full of tourists.

How realistic did the story feel (now, 50 plus years after it was written)?
This book is very much set in a time and place, not long after WW2, with historical details that felt possible, but it's almost like reading a historical novel.

Do you find Mary Stewart's heroines to be able to stand up for themselves?
Relatively able to stand up for herself. She struggled with the driving, but took it on. More a realistic fallible human than some of the modern heroines can be.

If you like Mary Stewart books, what do you enjoy about them?
I enjoy these books which are writing about forgotten times and places, and almost read them as historical fiction, opening a window to the past, with added adventure.

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Mugs - Keep the Ship afloat

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Jane R
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Here are my initial thoughts:

Did you find the descriptions of the setting evocative?

Yes, I did. I love the way she describes the settings of her novels - the heat, the flowers, the light, and then suddenly you turn a corner and the landscape is much more desolate and threatening.

How realistic did the story feel (now, 50 plus years after it was written)?

I am not an expert on 1950s Greece, but it felt realistic to me. I suspect that the hotels and some of the local colour are based on her own travels in Greece.

Do you find Mary Stewart's heroines to be able to stand up for themselves?

Mostly, but it does vary - and sometimes they do things that a modern heroine wouldn't consider for a moment, e.g. the heroine of 'Airs above the ground' who is a qualified vet but seems perfectly happy to give up her job when she gets married.

If you like Mary Stewart books, what do you enjoy about them?

Partly because the heroines are usually intelligent, capable women (within the limitations of their time).

Partly it's the historical aspect; reading about places like Greece and Italy and southern France as they were before mass tourism.

Last week I read her novella 'The wind from the small isles' for the first time - I think it's just been published to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of her birth (or something). The interesting thing about it was the setting; Lanzarote when it was still an undiscovered backwater.

[ 24. August 2017, 15:49: Message edited by: Jane R ]

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Tree Bee

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Did you find the descriptions of the setting evocative?

Absolutely. The landscape is described in such vivid detail that it's easy to imagine it.

How realistic did the story feel (now, 50 plus years after it was written)?

The way the characters behave, react and judge each other feel realistic. The only thing that seemed strange and jarred with me , reading in 2017, was the constant cigarette smoking. I wanted to shout the danger of it to them.

Do you find Mary Stewart's heroines to be able to stand up for themselves?

Well, it's at least a couple of decades ago ,maybe three, when I happily read my way through her adventure œuvre. So I've forgotten much. In fact I'd just retained an image of this book of our heroine on a hot rocky hillside hiding from some peril. But one of the main aspects I enjoyed was the intelligent independent main female character.

If you like Mary Stewart books, what do you enjoy about them?

See above. Having said that I appreciate the romantic interest too.

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"Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple."
— Woody Guthrie
http://saysaysay54.wordpress.com

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Marama
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Did you find the descriptions of the setting evocative?
Yes, not that I know Greece - though I did live for a while in Brisbane’s main Greek suburb, so heard a fair bit about it! The description of Greece in the 1950s (when most of my erstwhile neighbours emigrated) was certainly as I imagined it and as they described it – heat, limited development, natural beauty, a male world

How realistic did the story feel (now, 50 plus years after it was written)?
Realistic for its time. The theme of treasure left for/by partisans, the complexity of loyalties and collaboration (or not, and who with) has been a fairly common one in European fiction written shortly after the 2nd World war – or about the period. This was a good example of the genre.

Do you find Mary Stewart's heroines to be able to stand up for themselves?
Yes in the main. She’s a professional woman, she makes her own decisions, drives that car (even if reluctantly – and with more courage than I have in Sydney traffic!), is game to go on the trek to find the cave. Of course she falls in love – but that’s expected.


If you like Mary Stewart books, what do you enjoy about them?
I read some when I was young, but don’t remember this one. But I enjoyed the romantic adventure genre of this – a romance but not silly, I guess sums it up.

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Sarasa
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Did you find the descriptions of the setting evocative? 
I’ve only been to Greece once, and not to the mainland, but this story certainly evoked the heat and stony landscape I remember. I liked reading about somewhere before it was that easy for tourists to visit, the bit about building a tourist road was interesting. The hostel for artists and the descriptions of the hotel and the area round Delphi were so exact I’m sure they were all just like that in the 1950s.


How realistic did the story feel (now, 50 plus years after it was written)? 
It was a romantic thriller, so it wasn’t that realistic, though I enjoyed the initial set-up, being lumbered with a car you hadn’t hired and deciding to use it. The car journey sounded all to realistic, however she’d come by the car, I certainly have had trouble reversing down narrow roads and needed help to do so! The characters were distinctive, even if they were 1950s stereotypes, the French vamp in particular.

Do you find Mary Stewart's heroines to be able to stand up for themselves? 
I’ve been reading a lot of Patricia Wentworth at the moment and she too has female characters that do bold and dangerous things, but in the end they always need a man to bail them out as did Camilla in this story, so I didn’t think she was that good at standing up for herself.

If you like Mary Stewart books, what do you enjoy about them? 
I enjoyed this book in the same way I enjoy any light thriller. Stewart can write though which means you do feel in a safe pair of hands while reading. I’ve just started on The Crystal Cave, that I read in my teens and enjoyed then. I’m enjoying it again now.

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'I guess things didn't go so well tonight, but I'm trying. Lord, I'm trying.' Charlie (Harvey Keitel) in Mean Streets.

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Palimpsest
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They certainly conjured Athens and the temple at Delphi for me. The sites not completely overrrun by tourists seem a snapshot of another time in the same way her books about Ancient Greece did.


How realistic did the story feel (now, 50 plus years after it was written)?
It's sort of plausible, although the coincidence factor is high. Having the guns and the gold and then having a priceless statue seemed unrealistic. The statue itself did seem realistic in a way that transcended the characters.

Do you find Mary Stewart's heroines to be able to stand up for themselves?

They have an irritating habit of shutting their eyes when things get dangerous. But they are self aware and also aware of the pressure of those they suspect.

I was mildly curious, since I've read most of the Alexander books and the earlier books about how homosexuality would be portrayed here. It was commented that she felt considerable freedon writing the ancient books to include Homosexuality because it was not as dangerous to do so as it would have been in England.

THat said, there's an interesting attitude toward Nico and Danielle doesn't fare well with heterosexual affairs. I didn't see much to predict future books.

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Sparrow
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quote:
Originally posted by Palimpsest:
They certainly conjured Athens and the temple at Delphi for me. The sites not completely overrrun by tourists seem a snapshot of another time in the same way her books about Ancient Greece did.


How realistic did the story feel (now, 50 plus years after it was written)?
It's sort of plausible, although the coincidence factor is high. Having the guns and the gold and then having a priceless statue seemed unrealistic. The statue itself did seem realistic in a way that transcended the characters.

Do you find Mary Stewart's heroines to be able to stand up for themselves?

They have an irritating habit of shutting their eyes when things get dangerous. But they are self aware and also aware of the pressure of those they suspect.

I was mildly curious, since I've read most of the Alexander books and the earlier books about how homosexuality would be portrayed here. It was commented that she felt considerable freedon writing the ancient books to include Homosexuality because it was not as dangerous to do so as it would have been in England.

THat said, there's an interesting attitude toward Nico and Danielle doesn't fare well with heterosexual affairs. I didn't see much to predict future books.

The Alexander books you mention were I think by Mary Renault not Mary Stewart.

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For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life,nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Caissa
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I picked up a copy of the book on Friday. I have read the first 20%. Reads like a period piece, as expected. Stewart does an excellent job of painting the scenery.
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Jane R
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Yes, the Alexander books were written by Mary Renault.

Thinking a bit more about it...

Michael comes across as quite a strong character, despite being dead for fourteen years. (Nearly) everything that happens is because of him and the manner of his death.

I liked the bits about 'no man is an island'. There's one quote in particular that stuck in my mind: "Don't go on hating yourself because there are some things you can't do and can't face on your own. None of us can." And that did work out in the final Grand Confrontation Scene, where Simon did kill Angelo (with his bare hands in the approved Neanderthal fashion), but would have been shot dead if Camilla hadn't managed to knock the gun out of Angelo's reach first. So they really saved each other.

I agree with Palimpsest that the statue seems more realistic than the guns and gold... but perhaps that's just because Mary Stewart (and her characters) get more excited about the statue than they do about the other stuff (supplies for the partisans, meh; undiscovered Greek statue, woot). I don't agree with their decision to leave it hidden. In real life, as opposed to fiction, I would expect them to notify the Greek authorities so the hidden shrine could be properly investigated and the statue preserved for Posterity in some museum or other, as the other artefacts from Delphi are. Not so romantic as hiding it again, of course, but much more practical. Who's to say it will stay hidden after the next earthquake, or that the next people to find it will be classical scholars and not criminals who melt it down for the bronze?

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Curiosity killed ...

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I meant to come back and agree with JaneR about the w00t, Greek antiquity, let's keep this amazing secret to ourselves. And not being entirely convinced that was the best action.

I'm in the middle of reading The Ivy Tree, another 99p Kindle book. It reads like her response to Brat Farrar, which is referenced. It's very different to any of the other Mary Stewart books I've read, I haven't so far spotted the romantic interest.

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Sarasa
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I'm readign Stewart's Merlin books at the moment. I last read them when they first came out, and I'd forgotten how much I'd enjoyed them. I might get The Ivy Tree . I enjoyed Brat Farrar , so an answer book to that would be interesting.

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'I guess things didn't go so well tonight, but I'm trying. Lord, I'm trying.' Charlie (Harvey Keitel) in Mean Streets.

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