Death of a Storyteller

May 19, 2014

I just learned that one of my all-time favorite writers, Mary Stewart, passed away May 9 at age 97. My copies of her books are practically falling apart, mostly because I’ve had them since I was a teenager, but also because I’ve reread them many times. My mom introduced me to her books, and she is still one of my favorite writers. I often turn to her when I need a comfort read.

Mary Florence Elinor Rainbow (!) was born Sept. 17, 1916 in the town of Sunderland, England. She attended Durham University and received a First Class Honours B.A. in English. In 1941, she accepted a post at Durham where she lectured on English Language and Literature. It was here she later met the man who would become her husband, Frederick Henry Stewart (later Sir Frederick). They married in 1945, and eventually moved to Edinburgh, Scotland in 1956, where he became the chairman of the geology department at Edinburgh University.

According to her obituary in The Guardian, Mary Stewart began writing novels “in the mid-1950s [because of] an ectopic pregnancy and consequent operation which meant she could not have children.” Her first book, Madam, Will You Talk?, was published in 1954. She was most popular in the late 60s, 70s and 80s, and one of her books, The Moon-Spinners, was made into a Disney movie (the movie is quite different from the book).

In addition to her novels, she also wrote several children’s books and one book of poetry.  My favorites have always been her “superior romantic thrillers,” especially This Rough Magic, My Brother Michael, and The Moon-Spinners, but she is also well-known for her Merlin/Arthur books, The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills and The Last Enchantment. I’ve never read any of these, because I’ve never been much interested in the King Arthur legend, but I think I’ll pick up at least The Crystal Cave to see what these are like. (She later wrote two more books in the series, The Wicked Day and The Prince and the Pilgrim.)

I love her books for the writing itself, but also because of her heroines. They’re ordinary young women, often traveling alone in places I’d love to visit, who prove themselves when they’re thrown into adventure. They leave their comfort zones, and through their courage and fortitude solve the mystery and win the heart of the hero. The stories are just plain fun.

One of the biggest thrills of my life was visiting Delphi in Greece, with my copy of My Brother Michael as company. I even saw the statue of the Charioteer mentioned in the book in the museum there. Here he is:

If you’re a Mary Stewart fan, I’m sure you don’t need any urging to read or re-read one of her books. If you’ve never read her, I hope you’ll give her a try. To learn more about Mary Stewart and her books, check out

Everyday adventures

This 'N That

September 20, 2013

My brain is shooting off every which way today—so you’re going to get that kind of blog post: a hodge podge of thoughts and information. Often times I clear my head by talking or writing things out, so here goes. (Thanks for putting up with me.)

1. My horse is a doofus. On Wednesday, when I went to ride Tank, I found that his lips were stiff and swollen. His tongue, gums and the roof of his mouth were unaffected. None of us had ever seen anything like it, and as we pondered what could have caused such an affliction (Ant bites? An insect sting? Allergic reaction to something he ate?), it occurred to me that the horses have a new salt and mineral block in their paddock—could he have been a bit overenthusiastic in his consumption? We don’t know for sure, but it seems the most likely explanation.  We’ll be keeping an eye on him and on the other horses to see if any of them develop the same problem. He’s eating normally and doesn’t seem distressed by it, so I’m not worried—only puzzled because he’s never done that before.

2. It’s Mary Stewart Reading Week until the 22nd (sorry for the late notice). I’m reading Nine Coaches Waiting, a favorite of mine. I’ve mentioned Mary Stewart in a number of posts, most notably this one. I love her romantic suspense novels and just found out that Lady Stewart recently celebrated her 97th birthday! (She shares a birthday with my mom—cool!) If you’re looking for a lighthearted, interesting read, I recommend one of her books. This unofficial fan site has more information about her, and lots of fun extras such as the quiz “Which Mary Stewart novel is right for you?” and a map showing the settings of her books.

3. How did it get to be Sept. 20? It seems like just yesterday that it was the first of September and now we’re nearly through the month. I’m not complaining—that means that October with its cooler weather is quickly approaching. I can’t believe the year is three-quarters of the way done. I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished much this year. Better get a move on!

4. Pumpkin is taking over the world. Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie milkshakes, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin waffles, even pumpkin dog biscuits. (I’m going to make these for Scout—I even bought a dog biscuit-shaped cookie cutter!)

5. I’ve just discovered Brenda Lee Johnson, Kyra Sedgwick’s character in The Closer after checking out the series from the library. I love her toughness, barely disguised by a southern drawl, and how she refuses to be intimidated by the many people who attempt to intimidate her. I’ve found that channeling Brenda helps me stiffen my spine when dealing with people trying to trample on me. Who says TV is a waste of time?

Wow—I feel better. Now it’s your turn: what’s on your mind today?