Melissa McShane's Reviews > Madam, Will You Talk?

Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary  Stewart
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really liked it
bookshelves: suspense, contemporary-fiction, romance

Personally, I think it's astonishing I'm still reading Mary Stewart's books after our very rocky first date, Thornyhold, left me unimpressed. (I don't count the Arthurian trilogy, which I read as a teen and liked--it's just too different from her suspense novels.) But a friend really loves Nine Coaches Waiting, so I gave that one a try and absolutely loved it. Which led to my buying a handful of others. Not all of them. I'm not crazy.

Anyway, I had an afternoon to kill and was sick of looking at my own writing, and this one caught my eye, and not just because of the vivid cover. I was immediately drawn in by the author's lovely, evocative prose, as well as the hints at the mystery to follow. Stewart has a real knack for characterization in just a few swift strokes, not to mention misdirection with the same. The main character, Charity, combines cleverness and a kind heart with being just enough of an innocent that the story can unfold around her, keeping both her and the reader in the dark.

And I would really like to know which writer's god Stewart sold her soul to that she can make the romantic plot work! Instalove almost always turns me off, but in both this book and Nine Coaches Waiting she has me convinced that it's not only plausible, but emotionally satisfying. I don't know if every reader feels this way, and maybe some of it was seeing through Richard Byron's surly exterior early on, but it was impressive.

And this was her first book.

I have two other Stewart novels that also came highly recommended, and I hope they're as good as this one. I'm beginning to think between this and The Talented Mr. Ripley, also first published in 1955, I have a fondness for '50s suspense fiction. Or maybe it's just Stewart and Highsmith. Either way, I'll put the next books higher on my TBR list.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
September 25, 2019 – Finished Reading
October 2, 2019 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-9 of 9 (9 new)

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message 1: by Sherwood (new) - added it

Sherwood Smith I first read this one when I was thirteen, and I fell in love with her description of the south of France, the medieval ruins, and especially the art.


message 2: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Gascoyne I love her romances - not the later ones, which are mostly forgettable, but her mid-career ones are terrific. My personal faves were always This Rough Magic, The Moonspinners (so much better than the Disney movie), and Touch Not the Cat. I know exactly what you mean about the "insta-love" but she does make it work! She also does slow-burn in Touch Not the Cat (plus psychic communication!)


message 3: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Gascoyne She also does boys as supporting characters REALLY well.


Melissa McShane Sherwood wrote: "I first read this one when I was thirteen, and I fell in love with her description of the south of France, the medieval ruins, and especially the art."

Yes. This. It's a different perspective on a place I fell in love with in French Impressions, which is a memoir of a year in the south of France, but by a mother of two small children. I would never want to live there, I think, but I feel from Stewart's descriptions as if I've already been.


Melissa McShane Debbie wrote: "I love her romances - not the later ones, which are mostly forgettable, but her mid-career ones are terrific. My personal faves were always This Rough Magic, The Moonspinners (so much better than t..."

I have This Rough Magic and Touch Not the Cat, but not The Moonspinners--shades of that old movie! I didn't know about the psychic communication, so maybe that one will have to be next.


Erin Love this! Nine Coaches Waiting, Airs Above the Ground, Thunder on the Right, This Rough Magic and The Gabriel Hounds shapped my childhood. I found my first Mary Stewart book at my grandmother's house around 12 or 13 years old. It was my mom's old book. I can still smell it.


message 7: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Gascoyne Oh! And The Gabriel Hounds, yes! I loved that one. (some might be put off by the cousin relationship - not me, since my parents were also 1st cousins, and it was not uncommon in the UK certainly at that time).


Melissa McShane Erin wrote: "I found my first Mary Stewart book at my grandmother's house around 12 or 13 years old. It was my mom's old book. I can still smell it"

That is amazing. Such a wonderful memory! I have virtually no sense of smell, so your experience makes me wish I did.


Melissa McShane Debbie wrote: "Oh! And The Gabriel Hounds, yes! I loved that one. (some might be put off by the cousin relationship - not me, since my parents were also 1st cousins, and it was not uncommon in the UK certainly at..."

The 1st cousin relationship doesn't squick me out, so likely not a problem. I'll put that one on my list.


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