Madam, want to talk about author Mary Stewart? discussion

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Buddy Reads > The Gabriel Hounds -- SPOILERLAND

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

This is the thread to discuss anything about the book. SPOILERS are expected/permitted here, but as a courtesy to those who are still reading please do the following:

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I just finished, and except for Mary Stewarts wonderful descriptions of place, I am rather underwhelmed by the whole thing. Christy came across, to me, as one of Stewart's weakest heroines. She seemed to be in need of rescue for most of the book, even relying on the salukis to get her out at the end. She had very little street savvy, taking a ride with a strange man, blithely smoking weed laced with who knows what (for smoking 2 cigarettes, she seemed to be under the influence for quite a long time).

And, pretty much zero chemistry between these two, or at least very little sexual tension. :(


message 3: by Judith (new)

Judith (judithgrace) | 322 comments I agree with you Jeannette. It could have been a lot better, Christy is not my favorite heroine for sure. I did like Charles though, wish we could have seen more of him. The best parts were the descriptions of the country, the culture, and the castle. MS has a gift for making us feel we are there. I also enjoyed taking a look back at the Middle East from the mid 20th century perspective and it seems that times have not changed that much....sadly drugs, political unrest, etc. are still alive and well in that part of the world.


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

I think it came across a bit too loud and clear what Stewart thought of the Arabs, particularly at the end.

And, I wonder where she got her info about drugs? I'm sure it wasn't first-hand. ;)


message 5: by ToniS (new)

ToniS | 18 comments Aw, see, I loved the book. And I thought the bit at the end with the insulting tourists was a slam on white tourists, not Arabs.

I liked all the descriptions and the slow burning plot.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

I was thinking more of the descriptions of the Arabs looting the palace as it burned, and the joking remark made by Charles that they would likely rape Christy if they were to be caught.

I think, for me, there was too much telling and not enough showing. I missed the car chases, and the romantic tension that are key to many of her other books.


message 7: by HJ (new)

HJ | 300 comments Jeannette wrote: "I was thinking more of the descriptions of the Arabs looting the palace as it burned..."

I didn't read that as particularly aimed at Arabs, so much as a note that the very poor took advantage of an opportunity.


message 8: by Misfit, Moderator (new)

Misfit | 587 comments ToniS wrote: "Aw, see, I loved the book. And I thought the bit at the end with the insulting tourists was a slam on white tourists, not Arabs.

I liked all the descriptions and the slow burning plot."


I liked it a lot too. I agree things were slow to develop, but what a finish with the Fire and all the animals on the small island for safety.

I do wish there'd been more chemistry between the two, but it really did come through at the end. Christy wasn't my favorite MS heroine, but I liked Charles a lot.


message 9: by Minz (new)

Minz | 6 comments I didn't find Christy as strong as some of the other heroines, and the relationship with Charles just creeped me out. I just couldn't buy it, first cousins and all. This was also the only book where I didn't get a real feel for the country it was set in. I have never been there, but it just didn't ring true for me. Funnily enough though, I first read this book as a young teen, and since I have had my license, I have always hung a blue bead in my car because of the scene where she first sees Charles.


message 10: by Janetje (new)

Janetje | 86 comments I just finished it, and I must say it was better than I remembered from reading it years ago. In my memory, there were several very unlikely coincidental meetings. It turned out there was only one, Christy with Dr. Grafton, and that was later explained to be planned. However, he just happened to overhear where she was going? And why go through all that trouble to get her back to the castle? Further, Charles just happened to hear where she was in the castle by her screaming when she saw a cat, and conveniently later something similar.
Although the plot wasn't great, I still enjoyed reading the book, the atmosphere, the descriptions, especially some scenes with animals. Especially the one of Christy with the stray dog at the border crossing, and of course the island scene. Last but not least the reappearance of Samson at the end!


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Minz wrote: "Funnily enough though, I first read this book as a young teen, and since I have had my license, I have always hung a blue bead in my car because of the scene where she first sees Charles. "

I like this idea. I don't have anything hanging from the mirror in my new car. I'll have to see what I can get past my husband.


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Janetje wrote: "I just finished it, and I must say it was better than I remembered from reading it years ago. In my memory, there were several very unlikely coincidental meetings. It turned out there was only one,..."

I was looking for Samson every time she fed a stray.


message 13: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (dandelion_cottage) | 50 comments I'm a little late in finishing; I thought I'd read this before, but it didn't seem at all familiar. I found the Lady Hester Stanhope/Aunt Harriet idea fascinating--I'd like to read a biography of the real Lady Hester.

As usual, I loved MS's descriptions (though I'm not sure about "jittery as a snake"). My favorite scene was Christy and all the animals escaping the fire--MS made me really feel as though I were there.


message 14: by Hannah (new)

Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments I liked the fire scene as well Peggy. All the action seemed to concentrate at the very end. It took a long time to get there!


message 15: by Misfit, Moderator (new)

Misfit | 587 comments Hannah wrote: "I liked the fire scene as well Peggy. All the action seemed to concentrate at the very end. It took a long time to get there!"

That really was well done, I would love to see that on the big screen or television.


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 271 comments I liked this one very much but it wasn't quite 5★ for me.

With the cousins/almost brother & sister/hey waddayaknow, we're in love I'm glad they didn't have many scenes together in the book.

At least the smoking cigarettes was cut down on.

I've never heard of anyone reacting to hashish like Christy did. I'm going to just assume that the hemp grown in the Lebanon is waaay stronger than what is available over here. I did a quick Google but found nothing conclusive.

Still a great story, but for me was carried mostly by Christy's appeal as a character.


message 17: by Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽, Moderator (new)

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1048 comments Lol, Carol, I was also googling, trying to figure out if a reefer could do that to a person, and how Christy could smoke three without realizing they weren't regular cigarettes. Maybe they were some blend of tobacco and hashish or hashish oil?

I agree with the comments above that the fire scene was excellent, as was the showdown with the good doctor and Halide, and the aftermath.


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 271 comments Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ wrote: "Lol, Carol, I was also googling, trying to figure out if a reefer could do that to a person, and how Christy could smoke three without realizing they weren't regular cigarettes. Maybe they were som..."

I would think tobacco would cut down the strength of the drug.

The other thing I really liked was their motivation was only a love of adventure & concern for an aunt they hardly knew.

& I loved that Samson survived!


message 19: by Helen (new)

Helen (helenma) | 28 comments HJ wrote: "Jeannette wrote: "I was thinking more of the descriptions of the Arabs looting the palace as it burned..."

I didn't read that as particularly aimed at Arabs, so much as a note that the very poor t..."


I saw it that way also. I have noticed in other books that Stewart is very sensitive to the plight of the poor.


message 20: by Helen (new)

Helen (helenma) | 28 comments About the hashish, I wondered when I read it if Stewart just did not know how that drug would affect a person. I am actually rather ignorant but is hashish marijauna? I do not think so but Stewart's description sounds a little like it, I am thinking of the "not careish feeling" and the relaxation.


message 21: by Judith (new)

Judith (judithgrace) | 322 comments From I read, pot and hashish both come from the cannabis plant, but pot comes from the flower and hashish is made from the resin. Also hashish is supposedly stronger, but mixing it with tabacco makes it weaker and a person becomes more "relaxed" and compliant. Christy was probably unable to think clearly even early on into that cigarette.


message 22: by Sara (last edited May 13, 2016 10:35AM) (new)

Sara (phantomswife) | 104 comments This is not one of Stewart's strongest books for me, nor is Christy as strong a heroine as is typical for her. I did love the descriptions, and the creepy aunt scene was terrific. I don't know how she could bear to spend the night in the castle. Maybe there was a little too much that felt contrived for me--like watching a Bond movie, you gotta just believe and go with it.

I am enjoying re-reading all Stewart's books. With some of the others I have very specific memories, but this one was like reading it for the first time. I think there is a reason it did not stand out in my memory the way the others did.

BTW, hash is a very concentrated form of the marijuana plant apparently and much stronger in its effect. (internet info--not personal experience).


Susan in Perthshire (susanageofaquarius) | 194 comments Helen wrote: "About the hashish, I wondered when I read it if Stewart just did not know how that drug would affect a person. I am actually rather ignorant but is hashish marijauna? I do not think so but Stewart'..."

Hashish and cannabis resin are in fact one and the same. Usually it would be mixed with tobacco and rolled into a cigarette and smoked. I seriously doubt anyone would smoke 3 without realising the effect and guessing they were adulterated; but I have known (in the dim and distant past and " honest I personally never inhaled" - the odd person who would smoke a little and not realise there was anything extra in it. (I hasten to add that I would never connive in letting someone take drugs without their knowledge - that is just "not on!"). I imagine Mary Stewart would be diligent in her research and her description of the relaxation and not caring feelings seem very accurate. Of course the geography adds another dimension as well to the use of hashish.


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 271 comments I think Stewart had Christy as less of a cigarette smoker than her other heroines so that Christy wouldn't recognise the difference? A bit weak though.

I do have vague memories of people saying they were used to New Zealand marijuana, then went to Country X & their dope knocked them for six.


message 25: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1107 comments Carol ♔ Type, Oh Queen! ♔ wrote: "I think Stewart had Christy as less of a cigarette smoker than her other heroines so that Christy wouldn't recognise the difference? A bit weak though.

I do have vague memories of people saying th..."


That makes total sense, Carol! After all, terroir is vitally important in wines, for instance, and there are probably different types of pot! Wait! I even seem to remember people discussing the differences in smoothness, etc.? I wasn't paying much attention because I've always been afraid to put fire in my mouth...


message 26: by Helen (new)

Helen (helenma) | 28 comments Susan in Perthshire wrote: "Helen wrote: "About the hashish, I wondered when I read it if Stewart just did not know how that drug would affect a person. I am actually rather ignorant but is hashish marijauna? I do not think s..."

Susan, I just could not remember for sure. Thanks! I am surprised it would have actually made Christy sleep for so long but Carol suggests that pot from different places can affect you in different ways.


message 27: by HJ (new)

HJ | 300 comments Helen wrote: "I am surprised it would have actually made Christy sleep for so long but Carol suggests that pot from different places can affect you in different ways. ..."

Don't forget that as well as giving her the hashish cigarettes the doctor injected Christy with pentothal (a sleeping drug).


message 28: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) | 104 comments Excellent observation, HJ.


message 29: by Hana (new)

Hana | 316 comments Good points on the hashish and pentothal, HJ. lol I do think Mary Stewart got her info on drugs from the classic 1936 film Reefer Madness !

It's also interesting that the publication date in the US was 1967. That was a time of wide-spread marijuana and other drug use among the Woodstock generation and there were also studies showing that a lot of Vietnam vets were coming back with heroine addictions. I don't know what was going on in Britain, but concerns about drug use were a big issue in the US.


message 30: by Helen (new)

Helen (helenma) | 28 comments I also remembered about Reefer Madness! Also considering that Christy lived in Los Angeles for 3 years and worked in the TV industry, I am surprised she did not recognize the smell of pot, it is very distinctive. I do not think tobacco would be sufficient to mask it? Maybe 1965 & 1966 would be too early and it only became commonly available later? Charles seemed to recognize it, remember he pretended to get stoned. On another part of this I was thinking about drugs and thought about what was going on in the novel and I think the smuggling was for the product of the opium poppy which grows in the area. That would be a money maker which it would be worth a lot to protect!


message 31: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1107 comments I think pot smoking was still fairly circumspect in the mid '60s and the average person, even kids, wouldn't have had much acquaintanceship with it. There was a huge gap of what seemed to be more than four years between 1965 and 1969 (Woodstock)!


message 32: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1107 comments I just finished this, and I think the ending has to be one of Stewart's sweetest and gently funniest of all. After the blood and guts and mayhem and murder and garish scenery, it's very fitting!


message 33: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1107 comments And, after three years, I still agree with myself!


message 34: by Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽, Moderator (new)

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1048 comments Cheers!


message 35: by Jackie (last edited Jul 09, 2019 07:47PM) (new)

Jackie | 125 comments Karlyne wrote: "And, after three years, I still agree with myself!"

LOL

I really enjoyed the entire book, even though the build up to the action took a long time.

I liked Christie as a heroine even if she did need rescuing a lot. She was a good sport about whatever she got herself into; I felt she was pretty brave. Much more so than I would have been, although it's difficult to remember being that young!

I thought the descriptions of Christie getting high and then stoned were excellent: while it was happening I had no idea any more than she did but once I learned she was drugged I went back to re-read and thought it was very well done.

so much of getting high - especially if it's new to you - is about expectation. With Christie not being a regular smoker and totally distracted, I totally believed she might not have noticed what was happening. Only at the end does she start really feeling it, and by then it's too late.

the romance was, of course, incredibly subtle/almost non-existent but I'm OK with that.

this book was about Christie's travels and her visit to her Great Aunt's palace and the adventure that followed.

the scene with all the animals in the lake during the fire was awesome and I'm so glad Samson survived.


message 36: by Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽, Moderator (new)

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1048 comments the scene with all the animals in the lake during the fire was awesome and I'm so glad Samson survived.

I wholeheartedly agree!


message 37: by Annabel (new)

Annabel Frazer | 99 comments I must admit I find Christy insufferably spoiled. So young, so pretty, being bankrolled to travel the world by her father - there is nothing here to relate to like the hard-working heroines of Nine Coaches Waiting and er... fails to think of another MS heroine who is not a schoolteacher or a wealthy widow or sponging off her relatives. But schoolteachers work hard, right??

So yes, this one failed to grab me. I also find Charles similarly spoiled and then patronising for good measure- only a couple years older than the heroine but somehow so much more of an expert on Middle Eastern affairs than her. Pfft. Overall I think the shift away from locations where she felt comfortable (the UK, France, Greece) did MS no favours.


message 38: by Jackie (new)

Jackie | 125 comments LOL, I haven't read Nine Coaches yet but look forward to the hard-working heroine.
and for sure school teachers work very hard!


message 39: by Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽, Moderator (new)

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1048 comments I do like this book fairly well, but Nine Coaches Waiting is my favorite! We’ll have to do another group read of it sometime soon.


message 40: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1107 comments It's hard for people stuck in 9-5 jobs to have adventures, but most of Stewart's heroines did work or were between jobs. Even Christy worked at ST.inc! The only one I can remember who probably didn't was the young, rather wet heroine of Thunder on the Right (I always remember Gillian as the better heroine of it, btw, and can't remember the actual one's name.😁)

But, anyway, at least Christy was out being intrepid and not hanging out in her parents' basement, so I give her points for that!


message 41: by Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽, Moderator (new)

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1048 comments It was Jennifer Silver, with the silver-blond hair, IIRC. 😊


message 42: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1107 comments Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ wrote: "It was Jennifer Silver, with the silver-blond hair, IIRC. 😊"

Of course! (And I still laugh over our poetry on that thread. So brilliant.)


message 43: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 83 comments I've also read this before but not remembered it well, so it felt new. Pretty much all I remembered was that Great Aunt Harriet wasn't really Great Aunt Harriet and Halide was mean (though I forgot killed) and one of the fathers shows up at the end. I found Christy relatively passive too, and it annoyed me that Charles did that whole "something important is going on but I won't tell you what"--and then I figured it was a plot device so she wouldn't be able to spill the beans when she was drugged, and then I discovered it didn't matter because her captives knew everything anyway. Such strange plotting.

But I liked both Charles and Christy and their mutual snide arrogance, even though it made them seem a bit un-Stewart-like to me: Stewart's people are usually so forthright, especially the heroines. But they had a sense of adventure, and wordplay, and camaraderie, and all of these made them Stewart enough. Also (and it helped that my edition has them 2nd, not 1st cousins), I found the family/friends-to-lovers transition believable and satisfying, and I thought their chemistry was great. That scene where she sees the cat and he just kind of rests his head on her hair and says her name was understatedly lovely, and the scene where he swims across to the island and then climbs out in nothing but shorts and reflected firelight--I guess that was overstatedly lovely. I probably won't read this one again soon, but I liked it more the second time than the first.


message 44: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1107 comments There were a lot of scenes that could be gorgeous cinematography. If only a really brilliant producer would find the perfect director and then have Emma Thompson write the screenplay and all of us cast it, what a lovely movie it would make. Sigh.


message 45: by Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽, Moderator (new)

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1048 comments Emma Thompson would do an amazing job making any Mary Stewart novel into a screenplay. Now I'm mourning that it'll never happen. ):


message 46: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1107 comments She's the only person I can think of who respects and understands her authors. Again, sigh...


message 47: by Jackie (new)

Jackie | 125 comments Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ wrote: "Emma Thompson would do an amazing job making any Mary Stewart novel into a screenplay. Now I'm mourning that it'll never happen. ):"

why couldn't it? Emma isn't dead so far (I had to google it when I read your comment)


message 48: by Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽, Moderator (new)

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1048 comments Well, it’s always possible, I just think it’s highly, highly unlikely. But, from your lips to Emma’s ears!


message 49: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1107 comments I'll write her a letter if someone will get her address for me...


message 50: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 83 comments Cinematography with that river in flood would be especially nice. And the fire.


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Madam, want to talk about author Mary Stewart?

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