Madam, want to talk about author Mary Stewart? discussion

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Buddy Reads > MWYT Chapters 1-5

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message 1: by Misfit, Moderator (new)

Misfit | 587 comments Please discuss chapters 1-5 here. Remember to use the spoiler tag as needed, and mention what chapter your spoiler comes from.


message 2: by CLM (new)

CLM | 11 comments My niece (15) is doing an exchange to Provence in June so I started reading MWYT to her last week. I was struck, as always, with how beautifully MS sets the scene - landscape, history, people, even a description of the hotel. And travel seems to have been so much more affordable! Charity and Louise can afford not to share a room. Drinks in the hotel courtyard are expected before dinner there (whereas many travelers today would be dashing about trying as many local restaurants as possible; admittedly the concept of cuisine is relatively recent). I had to tell my nieces that smoking was very common as they were astonished how often cigarettes were mentioned. Having spent their early years in NYC, they were surprised David would go sightseeing with a stranger (Charity). Modern norms would spoil lots of plot devices!


message 3: by Hannah (new)

Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments The things I notice immediately are the use of phrases or words I do not personally know and must look up - lol! I mean, "Nidhug" and "Yggdrasil" aren't words that feature greatly in my daily conversation (although perhaps others know their meaning well). That's one of the things I like about Stewart - she doesn't dumb down her writing to the lowest demoninator, which I often find in more recent books of the same genre. At least that's my experience.


message 4: by Hannah (new)

Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments CLM,
What an incredible experience your niece is in for!

haha - yes, I always chuckle over the copius amounts of cigarette smoking these oldies reveal. That Helen MacInnes's book Above Suspicion also comes to mind (I remember you're a fan of hers) - the hero and heroine are young and fit and do alot of outdoor exercise, but smoke like chimneystacks!


message 5: by Misfit, Moderator (new)

Misfit | 587 comments The public smoking in these older books is quite a shocker at times. I've had a book or two where a character lights up in the hospital. Can you even imagine?


message 6: by Hannah (last edited Jan 01, 2013 08:06AM) (new)

Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments Misfit wrote: "The public smoking in these older books is quite a shocker at times. I've had a book or two where a character lights up in the hospital. Can you even imagine?"

:O
I was watching some old family movies over the holidays. My mother and dad both smoked. Watching the movies made on a 1960's Christmas morning was like looking through a fog!


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Hannah wrote: "The things I notice immediately are the use of phrases or words I do not personally know and must look up - lol! I mean, "Nidhug" and "Yggdrasil" aren't words that feature greatly in my daily conv..."

I know Yggdrasil, but not Nidhug. ;)

I have a minor nit to pick, with a narrator who looks back upon the story, so that the reader knows that the narrator survives in the end. Rebecca was told that way, and it took the edge off of Danvers' threatening behaviour for me.


message 8: by Hannah (last edited Jan 01, 2013 08:14AM) (new)

Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments Jeannette wrote: "I have a minor nit to pick, with a narrator who looks back upon the story, so that the reader knows that the narrator survives in the end. Rebecca was told that way, and it took the edge off of Danvers' threatening behaviour for me..."

I think she does this alot in her books from what I remember. I suppose it follows that in every romantic suspense book the heroine is going to live to tell the tale - I can't ever remember one where she didn't, although I've read a few (not by Stewart), where there was a twist near the end and the supposed "hero" turned out to be the -gasp- killer!


message 9: by Willow (new)

Willow That's so true about the smoking. Everybody is lighting up. LOL

I keep having 1950s movies running through my mind. It's great. The narrator sounds like Jean Simmons for some reason. LOL

I've only just started but the set up makes me think of an Agatha Christie novel.


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

I just finished Chapter 2, where David's terrible secret is revealed.


message 11: by CLM (new)

CLM | 11 comments I must admit that there are a lot of books where the beginning reveals that the heroine survives - in some instances that prevented me from being terrified when she is in danger. In others, I was reading so fast that I forgot that I knew she survived!


message 12: by Joanne (new)

Joanne | 27 comments Misfit wrote: "The public smoking in these older books is quite a shocker at times. I've had a book or two where a character lights up in the hospital. Can you even imagine?"

Yes, smoking and drinking alcohol every time someone is ill, suffering from shock, or needing a pick-me-up!


message 13: by Misfit, Moderator (new)

Misfit | 587 comments I finished chapter 5 last night just before nodding off.


message 14: by Diane Lynn (new)

Diane Lynn | 481 comments Bumping this one as well.


message 15: by Linda (new)

Linda (lindacbugg) | 64 comments Just starting and David's father is so horrible! He had better be the true villain of this story because I so dislike him. (view spoiler)
He is just an ugly brute.


message 16: by Willow (new)

Willow Linda wrote: "Just starting and David's father is so horrible! He had better be the true villain of this story because I so dislike him. [spoilers removed]
He is just an ugly brute."


Yay! So you're reading this now. So far this is my favorite Mary Stewart book. I think it's because I had the theme of North by Northwest running through the back of my head.


message 17: by Linda (last edited Jun 03, 2013 07:33PM) (new)

Linda (lindacbugg) | 64 comments Willowfaerie wrote: "Linda wrote: "Just starting and David's father is so horrible! He had better be the true villain of this story because I so dislike him. [spoilers removed]
He is just an ugly brute."

Yay! So you..."


Diane Lynn and Hj are doing a buddy read with me.
I thought I felt bad for Philippe but poor David-his father is a monster so far. At least for Philippe it was just an Uncle.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

Linda wrote: "Just starting and David's father is so horrible! He had better be the true villain of this story because I so dislike him. [spoilers removed]
He is just an ugly brute."


He certainly does not win any prizes for being nice, does he?


message 19: by Diane Lynn (new)

Diane Lynn | 481 comments End of chapter 5
A few thoughts. The frequent smoking really does stick out. I think Louise had 2 cigarettes in the first 2 pages.
We have heard about David's "mad" father and the whole story from Mrs. Palmer. Right now she seems like the busy body gossip of the bunch.
I liked learning about all of the guests at the hotel through Louise relating to Charity what the patronne had told her.
Louise drinks vermouth- yuk
Just met David's father, does not seem like a nice man.


message 20: by Diane Lynn (new)

Diane Lynn | 481 comments Linda wrote: "Just starting and David's father is so horrible! He had better be the true villain of this story because I so dislike him. [spoilers removed]
He is just an ugly brute."


I agree with everything you said in your spoiler. And when Charity thought to herself (view spoiler)


message 21: by Misfit, Moderator (new)

Misfit | 587 comments Diane Lynn wrote: "End of chapter 5
A few thoughts. The frequent smoking really does stick out. I think Louise had 2 cigarettes in the first 2 pages.
We have heard about David's "mad" father and the whole story from..."


The smoking is really OTT, isn't it? Times sure have changed.


message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

A real shocker in 9 Coaches Waiting when Linda did not smoke!


message 23: by Linda (new)

Linda (lindacbugg) | 64 comments Diane Lynn wrote: "Linda wrote: "Just starting and David's father is so horrible! He had better be the true villain of this story because I so dislike him. [spoilers removed]
He is just an ugly brute."

I agree with..."


Very of the time-wasn't it. She so should have gone to the police or at least told Louise what had happened but instead she hides it.


message 24: by HJ (new)

HJ | 300 comments Some of these comments seem to relate to a later chapter - in my book chapter 5 ends with Richard Byron approaching Charity in the Temple of Diana and realising that she's seen his son.

On the smoking - yes, the book is very much of its time! They didn't know it was dangerous, and almost everyone smoked. You just have to see films from that period - so much "business' with the cigarettes, allowing for dramatic pauses and touches and glances.

Another aspect which shows the date (mid 1950s) is the appreciation of the food; rationing had only ended in Britain in 1954 and the quality of the food was still poor. Hence the discussion between Charity and Louise in which Louise says she wouldn't know what to do with a steak, a couple of pages into the book.

I love the description of Charity overtaking the bus on the way to Nimes. You learn a lot about her character by the way she refuses to be intimidated by the bus even when it veers over onto her side of the road, but just keeps going with her hand on the horn.

I think the way the various characters are introduced is very clever - first by Charity watching them from her balcony, and then through her eyes as she sees them in the courtyard before dinner and tries to identify their nationalities and stories, and then as Diane Lynne says by Louise from the patronne. The description of the three men falling over themselves to light Mrs Bristol's cigarette is brilliant! As was the description of Charity's first sight of her. (But the opportunity to gaze into a man's eyes as he lit your cigarette is one we're now deprived of...)

The way we get to know David is clever, too - he comes across as such a likeable boy, and we can see why Charity falls for him. It's just as well she and David had a chance to talk before she saw him being sullen with his step-mother.

I was reminded how children used to have so much more freedom for a private life in those days. Can you imagine anyone these days letting their son go off by himself in a strange place to play by a fast-flowing river?

And then - that scene with David's father at the end of chapter 5. It's almost all dialogue, and there's absolutely no description of him at all, beyond the fact that he has David's eyes. Charity is caught off-balance remembering her dead husband, and Richard comes across as rather brusque, and as being a bit wary of her trying to establish a romantic connection: "his look over [the cigarette] was sardonic. 'Don't tell me you feel a bond between us already?'" And when she says there's something familiar about him he interrupts her, "his voice rough again".

It's not a good beginning to their relationship!


message 25: by HJ (new)

HJ | 300 comments So, do we comment on chapters 6-10 in a new thread, or in the other Madam, Will YouTalk thread? And when shall we do so?


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

All the threads are still there, they just need to be bumped up. I'll do that. :)


message 27: by Misfit, Moderator (new)

Misfit | 587 comments Jeannette wrote: "All the threads are still there, they just need to be bumped up. I'll do that. :)"

Thanks for bumping.


message 28: by Diane Lynn (new)

Diane Lynn | 481 comments Jeannette wrote: "All the threads are still there, they just need to be bumped up. I'll do that. :)"

Yes, thanks, I meant to do that before I left but somehow forgot. We are in central NY Jeanette, Utica to be exact. I saw you asked on my profile.


message 29: by Diane Lynn (new)

Diane Lynn | 481 comments Hj wrote: "Some of these comments seem to relate to a later chapter - in my book chapter 5 ends with Richard Byron approaching Charity in the Temple of Diana and realising that she's seen his son.

On the ..."


You are correct Hj, my spoiler was from chapter 6. I hope it didn't interfere with your reading. I will go stand in the corner, I deserve it:(

I didn't pick up on the line about the steak, how observant you are. I never would have tied that into food rationing. Thanks for pointing it out.

David is so like able from the start and I love watching him interact with Rommel.


message 30: by HJ (new)

HJ | 300 comments Sorry if I seemed to be telling you off!

As I read on into the book I wonder if it's meant to be set as late as 1954 or 1955 (usually Mary S's contemporary books were set at the time she was writing them). Certain things make me wonder if it was actually meant to be less that 9 or 10 years after WWII. I think it was actually submitted to the publishers in 1953, and it was her first book so may well have been written some time before that. (So in fact when she wrote it there was still some food rationing in England, including meat.)

To me, it seems that the war had only ended two, three or four years before the time of the novel. What does anyone else think, reading it?


message 31: by Diane Lynn (new)

Diane Lynn | 481 comments Hj wrote: "Sorry if I seemed to be telling you off!

As I read on into the book I wonder if it's meant to be set as late as 1954 or 1955 (usually Mary S's contemporary books were set at the time she was wri..."


Oh, I didn't think you were telling me off. I sometimes read on and then go back to previous sections to comment and I need to be more careful.

I also think this book takes place about 2-4 years after the war ended, actually I will say 2. The reason has to do with a line from chapter 6, will post in next section.


message 32: by Linda (last edited Jun 06, 2013 04:45PM) (new)

Linda (lindacbugg) | 64 comments Hj wrote: "Sorry if I seemed to be telling you off!

As I read on into the book I wonder if it's meant to be set as late as 1954 or 1955 (usually Mary S's contemporary books were set at the time she was wri..."


I never thought about it being so close to the end of the war. Maybe that can explain some of the "Insta-love" that goes on in the Mary Stewart books. When people have lived through a time when they weren't sure if they were going to see someone again it might lead to more instant attachments. So many old movies had people getting married while the solder was on leave after only knowing each other a few hours or a few days. I wonder how these marriages fared in real life over the long haul.


message 33: by Misfit, Moderator (new)

Misfit | 587 comments I really am enjoying these buddy reads - everyone of you bring something new to the discussion that might have flown by the rest of us.


message 34: by Willow (new)

Willow Linda wrote: "As I read on into the book I wonder if it's meant to be set as late as 1954 or 1955 (usually Mary S's contemporary books were set at the time ..."

You make an excellent point there. :D
Wow, can you imagine being swept off your feet like that? We're probably too cynical now.


message 35: by Linda (new)

Linda (lindacbugg) | 64 comments Willowfaerie wrote: "Linda wrote: "As I read on into the book I wonder if it's meant to be set as late as 1954 or 1955 (usually Mary S's contemporary books were set at the time ..."

You make an excellent point there. ..."


Face it-nowadays we look at people who marry quickly a little sideways, don't we?! How could they possibly know what they feel so quickly.


message 36: by Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽, Moderator (last edited Mar 18, 2015 07:54PM) (new)

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1080 comments Avignon, France, where the action begins:

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MWYT was first published in 1955, but from the discussion of Charity's late husband, I'm getting the impression that this book is set in the late 1940's, maybe three years after the end of WWII? That's just my gut feeling, though. I'll have to keep an eye out for any clues in the text as to a more exact time frame.

ETA: I read somewhere in Chapter 1 or 2 that Charity is 28, which jibes with my sense that it hasn't been too long since the war ended.


message 37: by Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽, Moderator (last edited Mar 18, 2015 08:03PM) (new)

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1080 comments Chapter 5: Here's a picture of the amazing Roman aqueduct in Nimes, mentioned at the beginning of Ch. 5:

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And pics of the Roman arena in Nimes, still in use today for public events, like concerts and bullfighting:

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message 38: by Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽, Moderator (last edited Mar 18, 2015 09:07PM) (new)

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1080 comments Temple of Diana in Nimes:

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End of Ch. 5: "I knew now. I was alone in that quiet temple with (view spoiler)and who was looking at me now as if he would like to choke me.

"He threw away his cigarette and took a step toward me."

EEK!


message 39: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Zapata I can't stand it anymore, Tadiana...I've ordered a copy of MWYT from ThriftBooks. I won't get it until May when I head north, but that's okay, seeing these pictures convinced me I NEED this book. =))


message 40: by Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽, Moderator (new)

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1080 comments Debbie wrote: "I can't stand it anymore, Tadiana...I've ordered a copy of MWYT from ThriftBooks. I won't get it until May when I head north, but that's okay, seeing these pictures convinced me I NEED this book. =))"

Oh, yay! I have done my work well! ;) You won't regret it.


message 41: by Mary Beth (new)

Mary Beth  | 82 comments Tadiana I love your pictures! They are so cool. I will be reading this in April.


message 42: by Janetje (new)

Janetje | 86 comments I agree with you that this is set not long after the war, Tadiana.
There were even mules in Avignon. (Chapter 1).


message 43: by Hana (new)

Hana | 316 comments Stunning pictures, Tadiana! I did not realize how magnificently well-preserved everything is. On the other hand the pont d'Avignon, seems to have been badly damaged--one of several things that points to a time fairly soon after the war. Also the comments about meat rationing that HJ mentions--Post WW2 rationing ended in Britain in 1954.

The dialog between Louise and Charity was very amusing. Louise wonders, "how I shall stand up to a beefsteak?" and Charity answers, "You have to do these things gradually....Probably the waiter will just introduce you at first, like Alice--Louise, biftek; biftek, Louise. Then you both bow and the steak is ushered out."


message 44: by Hana (last edited Mar 19, 2015 07:23AM) (new)

Hana | 316 comments I'm trying to track down some of the literary references. When Louise, who teaches at a girls school with a rather elderly faculty, begs off touring the ruins she says "I've had quite enough of ruins and remains, in the Gilbertian sense." She's referring to a scene in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikaido.
Koko: Are you old enough to marry, do you think?
Won't you wait till you are eighty in the shade?
There's a fascination frantic
In a ruin that's romantic;
Do you think you are sufficiently decayed?

Katisha: To the matter that you mention
I have given some attention,
And I think I am sufficiently decayed.



message 45: by Hana (last edited Mar 19, 2015 06:08AM) (new)

Hana | 316 comments As Hannah was saying @2, Mary Stewart never dumbs it down. The cat curled around the base of the spindly tree in the courtyard reminds Charity of Nidhug at the root of Yggdrasil.

"In Norse mythology, Níðhöggr (translated as "Malice Striker", often anglicized Nidhogg) is a dragon who gnaws at a root of the world tree, Yggdrasil." The arrival of Nidhogg (carrying dead bodies in her teeth) heralded Ragnarök, a series of future events, including a great battle foretold to ultimately result in the death of a number of major figures.

Clever foreshadowing, I presume!

Thank you Google and Wikipedia.


message 46: by Hana (new)

Hana | 316 comments HJ wrote: "I love the description of Charity overtaking the bus on the way to Nimes. You learn a lot about her character by the way she refuses to be intimidated by the bus even when it veers over onto her side of the road, but just keeps going with her hand on the horn. "

Yes! That takes a lot of courage. I like HJ's comments @24 on how well the characters are introduced. I, too, liked David immediately and I'm finding the swirl of emotions just under the surface very well portrayed.


message 47: by Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽, Moderator (new)

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1080 comments Hana wrote: "Stunning pictures, Tadiana! I did not realize how magnificently well-preserved everything is. On the other hand the pont d'Avignon, seems to have been badly damaged--one of several things that poin..."

That part about "Louise, biftek; biftek, Louise. Then you both bow, and the steak is ushered out." (p. 2) is delightful. For anyone who's not familiar with Through the Looking-Glass, here's the original quote:
At last the Red Queen began. 'You've missed the soup and fish,' she said. 'Put on the joint!' And the waiters set a leg of mutton before Alice, who looked at it rather anxiously, as she had never had to carve a joint before.

'You look a little shy: let me introduce you to that leg of mutton,' said the Red Queen. 'Alice—Mutton: Mutton—Alice.' The leg of mutton got up in the dish and made a little bow to Alice; and Alice returned the bow, not knowing whether to be frightened or amused.

'May I give you a slice?' she said, taking up the knife and fork, and looking from one Queen to the other.

'Certainly not,' the Red Queen said, very decidedly: 'it isn't etiquette to cut anyone you've been introduced to. Remove the joint!' And the waiters carried it off, and brought a large plum-pudding in its place.

'I won't be introduced to the pudding, please,' Alice said, rather hastily, 'or we shall get no dinner at all. May I give you some?'

But the Red Queen looked sulky, and growled 'Pudding—Alice: Alice—Pudding. Remove the pudding!' and the waiters took it away so quickly that Alice couldn't return its bow.

However, she didn't see why the Red Queen should be the only one to give orders; so, as an experiment, she called out 'Waiter! Bring back the pudding!' and there it was again in a moment, like a conjuring trick. It was so large that she couldn't help feeling a little shy with it, as she had been with the mutton; however, she conquered her shyness by a great effort, and cut a slice and handed it to the Red Queen.

'What impertinence!' said the Pudding. 'I wonder how you'd like it, if I were to cut a slice out of you, you creature!'

It spoke in a thick, suety sort of voice, and Alice hadn't a word to say in reply: she could only sit and look at it and gasp.

'Make a remark,' said the Red Queen: 'it's ridiculous to leave all the conversation to the pudding!'



message 48: by Hana (new)

Hana | 316 comments "It spoke in a thick, suety sort of voice, and Alice hadn't a word to say in reply: she could only sit and look at it and gasp. I love the suety voice. Thank you for coming up with that classic, Tadiana!


message 49: by Jaima (new)

Jaima | 71 comments Reading everyone's comments and seeing the beautiful photographs is so wonderful! Thanks everyone!
I was wondering...where Louise says "I couldn't care less if Julius Caesar used to fling his auxilliaries round the town, and throw moles across the harbour mouth."
Is there an allusion I'm missing here? I googled throwing moles in connection with Julius Caesar but came up with nothing. Then thought perhaps the moles was Alice in Wonderland again (croquet with the Red Queen using moles for balls), but I don't remember anything about throwing them across the harbour. Maybe there was a water hazard I'm forgetting?


message 50: by Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽, Moderator (new)

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1080 comments I never noticed the moles before! What chapter was that in?

I just looked it up, and here's a definition that looks right, that I've never heard of before:

Mole: (1) a large solid structure on a shore serving as a pier, breakwater, or causeway. (2) a harbor formed or protected by a mole.


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