Madam, want to talk about author Mary Stewart? discussion

Thornyhold
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Buddy Reads > Thornyhold -- Actively Reading

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Because this book is rather short, we'll divide the read into two sections. In this thread, feel free to comment as you read, but please note the chapter, and put your comment in a spoiler tag.


Diane Lynn | 481 comments I just finished chapter 3. I love the descriptions and the setup has me wanting to read more. I am curious about Cousin Geillis (view spoiler). I also feel sad for Jilly (view spoiler) The discussions Jilly and Cousin Geillis have on flora and fauna are wonderful, Jilly is a very sharp girl. I can't wait to find out more about this (view spoiler)


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

I can't wait to get started! I watched ice skating last night....


Joanne | 27 comments I love when Cousin Geillis describes Thornyhold to Jilly....sounds like heaven to me! (Chapter 3). "A good house, deep in the woods, with a garden all around it and a river flowing past it. Fruit trees, and flowers planted for the bees. A place to grow my herbs. Silence in winter, and in summer nothing but the birds."


Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments Bliss! I could happily live there.


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1080 comments Chapter 1: It's a little hard to read about Jilly's childhood. Her mother is so cold-hearted for a person married to a "saintly clergyman." I'm hoping her strictness and attitude toward her daughter owe something to the pre-WWII era location and time and that this is not so likely to happen now (at least in a vicar's family). Or maybe I'm just being hopeful. I'm almost as angry with her saintly vicar father for being such an absentee parent, nearly useless to Jilly.

Beginning and end of book (Chapters 1 & 25): I like the bookends to the story:(view spoiler)


Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments Interesting point, Tadiana. Stewart does showcase the differences between Jilly's upright, unemotional and competent mother and her cousin Geillis, who has an earthier, more pagan, healing personality. And while not outright making the more traditional religion total anathema, she does present white magic as a comforting presence to an emotionally starved child.


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1080 comments Traditional religion, as practiced by Jilly's parents, is to all appearances a total failure in bringing Jilly any love or comfort in life. Any real love and joy in Jilly's life is brought to her by or through Cousin Geillis and her white magic(view spoiler).


Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments The first three chapters are so heartbreaking to read, what with (view spoiler)


Joanne | 27 comments Tadiana wrote: "Chapter 1: It's a little hard to read about Jilly's childhood. Her mother is so cold-hearted for a person married to a "saintly clergyman." I'm hoping her strictness and attitude toward her daughte..."

Yes, I agree it is hard, but (view spoiler).


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1080 comments Good point, Joanne, which makes me think again of the nymph imagery in Chapter 1, who "lives at the bottom of the pond in the dark, and feeds on whatever it can get [wow--isn't that the truth?], till one day it finds it can climb out into the light, and grow its wings, and fly. ... Another nymph, another way, another day." Maybe not the most subtle foreshadowing in the world, but I like it.


Joanne | 27 comments Tadiana wrote: "Good point, Joanne, which makes me think again of the nymph imagery in Chapter 1, who "lives at the bottom of the pond in the dark, and feeds on whatever it can get [wow--isn't that the truth?], ti..."

Yes, I felt an immediate relief after reading that quote, as I thought surely this was going to be a most important metaphor.


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Tadiana wrote: "Traditional religion, as practiced by Jilly's parents, is to all appearances a total failure in bringing Jilly any love or comfort in life. Any real love and joy in Jilly's life is brought to her b..."

Interesting thought! Somehow I didn't get the idea Gilly's mother was at all religious -- just that she married a man who was. ("I suppose that my mother could have been a witch if she had chosen to. But she met my father, who was a rather saintly clergyman, and he cancelled her out.") Her father seemed to be a kind man; his fault was being to quick to bend to his wife's iron hand because he'd put her on a pedestal. After (view spoiler) in Chapter 4, she seems so much happier. As she puts it, (view spoiler)


Joanne | 27 comments As Tadiana pointed out, Jilly is seeming to be happier by Chapter 4, (view spoiler)

As Cousin Geillis often does, she seems to materialize out of thin air just when Jilly needs her most. This time, (Chapter 4) she comes to her in a different way.........(view spoiler) The first time I read this, I couldn't wait to get to Thornyhold to see if it was some magnificent old home or an enchanting little cottage....I wasn't quite sure what we would find.


message 15: by Hannah (last edited Feb 14, 2014 04:34PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments The wonderful thing about Cousin Geillis (view spoiler)


Laura (laura_anne) | 21 comments First, how is Geillis pronounced?

Second, when Cousin Geillis "told me about the places she had seen, so vividly that now, when I remember that day, I can see some of those exotic landscapes..." I imagine her telling being much like Mary Stewart's writing gift. She has the power to take her readers to exotic landscapes.


message 17: by Hannah (last edited Feb 14, 2014 07:31PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments I don't know for a fact, but I say "Jill-isss" when I pronounce Geillis, mainly because the shortened version is Jilly. Would love to know if that's right or if there's a different pronounciation (although I'll probably still say Jill-isss!)

Agree about the exotic locals. I'd like to imagine Cousin Geillis having visited Crete (The Moonspinners), Damascus (The Gabriel Hounds), Corfu (This Rough Magic), France (Madam, Will You Talk and Nine Coaches Waiting), etc.


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1080 comments Laura wrote: "First, how is Geillis pronounced?"

I've always said "Jill-iss" in my head too, but I've been wondering, so I went on a Google search. The most popular answer is GUY-leesh. Diana Galbadon (who uses the name in Outlander) says you can choose between GAY-liss, GUY-liss and GEE-liss, or even leave the "s" sound off (e.g., GAY-lie).


message 19: by Hannah (last edited Feb 14, 2014 07:26PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments Thanks for finding that out Tadiana. I should probably put that in a post-it note in my copy so I'll pronounce it the correct way for future readings (although to be honest I still prefer "Jill-isss" to any of the "correct" pronounciations- lol!) Although maybe GEE-liss.


Janetje | 86 comments Chapter 1. Although the descriptions are just as vivid as on the earlier books, the tone is quite different and I find the story of an unhappy childhood really heart wrenching! I'm very curious about the story this woman over 70 has to tell. I don't remember any of it after one reading 25 years ago.


Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments The first 3 chapters ARE very heart wrenching Janetje, but then things lighten up. Look forward to your thoughts!


Judith (judithgrace) | 322 comments Hannah wrote: "I don't know for a fact, but I say "Jill-isss" when I pronounce Geillis, mainly because the shortened version is Jilly. Would love to know if that's right or if there's a different pronounciation ..."

I thought it was Jill...les also, because of the Jilly nickname.


Judith (judithgrace) | 322 comments I am in love with the house! and the setting. Nobody does setting like Lady Mary.
Don't you know that Thornyholcd is a haven for Geillis after the childhood she had and then taking care of her father. I am worried about Hodge. I hope he comes back.


Judith (judithgrace) | 322 comments Tadiana wrote: "Chapter 1: It's a little hard to read about Jilly's childhood. Her mother is so cold-hearted for a person married to a "saintly clergyman." I'm hoping her strictness and attitude toward her daughte..."

That mother is something else, but her parents did love each other very much as Geillis discovered when she over heard them speaking to each other.


Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments Yes, the house and environs sound like heaven, don't they?

I've promised myself that if I ever win the lotto, I'm going to build a cottage, grow lavender, have a medieval herb knot garden, and make all kinds of homemade decoctions for home and body :D

Oh, and of course I'll have a cat named Hodge...


Judith (judithgrace) | 322 comments Hannah, we will all end up coming to visit you in your cottage, we'll have tea and scones as we sniff the heavenly lavender you have everywhere. Your Hodge will purr loudly in front of the fire, and we'll discuss all of our favorite MS books. Bliss!!


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1080 comments Hodge was the name of Samuel Johnson's favorite cat. I suppose that might be where Mary Stewart got the name. Johnson was a famous English writer and critic who lived in the 1700's, and a devout Anglican, which makes the name a little more of an interesting choice for Cousin Geillis. :)


Judith (judithgrace) | 322 comments Waiting for the instant love!


message 29: by Janetje (last edited Feb 15, 2014 01:13PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Janetje | 86 comments Chapter 3. So aunt Geillis really is a witch! At least, she can see the future. Whether she can also "make things happen" remains to be seen, but I doubt it. It's interesting how in the later MS novels (Touch Not The Cat and the Merlin series) the supernatural plays a role, but it's restricted to mindreading and knowing the future, even with Merlin the great sorcerer.


Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments Judith wrote: "Hannah, we will all end up coming to visit you in your cottage, we'll have tea and scones as we sniff the heavenly lavender you have everywhere. Your Hodge will purr loudly in front of the fire, an..."

It's a date! You're all invited.

...Just let me buy that winning lotto card :O


Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments Tadiana wrote: "Hodge was the name of Samuel Johnson's favorite cat. I suppose that might be where Mary Stewart got the name. Johnson was a famous English writer and critic who lived in the 1700's, and a devout An..."

How interesting! The things you learn when you do a group read :)


Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments Judith wrote: "Waiting for the instant love!"

Wait for it....wait.for.it...


message 33: by Hannah (last edited Feb 14, 2014 08:39PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments Janetje wrote: "Chapter 3. So aunt Geillis really is a witch! At least, see can see the future. Whether she can also "make things happen" remains to be seen, but I doubt it. It's interesting how in the later MS no..."

Stewart did seem to want to explore these concepts in her later novels. In Touch Not the Cat, I figured it was just a reaction to being trendy for the 70's reader: ESP was a fairly popular concept back then.


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1080 comments Judith wrote: "Waiting for the instant love!"

On the insta-love topic: (view spoiler)


message 35: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 14, 2014 11:22PM) (new)

What exactly is a "working ferret"? And how much can one expect them to do with those tiny little paws, anyway? ;)


message 36: by Janetje (last edited Feb 15, 2014 12:38AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Janetje | 86 comments Ashley wrote: "What exactly is a "working ferret"? And how much can one expect them to do with those tiny little paws, anyway? ;)"

My question exactly! What on earth is a working ferret? Shows my ignorance of country matters, I suppose. Anyone English among us?!


Janetje | 86 comments Janetje wrote: "Ashley wrote: "What exactly is a "working ferret"? And how much can one expect them to do with those tiny little paws, anyway? ;)"

My question exactly! What on earth is a working ferret? Shows my ..."


Stupid question, who is English? My boyfriend. And from the country too. A working ferret is used for hunting badgers and rabbits, by chasing them down their holes and then shooting the animals that come out. They're also good at catching rats.


Janetje | 86 comments Chapter 10. I'm also waiting for the romantic interest to show up, and males keep turning up. But the one in chapter 9 was 10-year-old William, and the next candidate turns out to be 16! The third one should be it, surely??!


Janetje | 86 comments Janetje wrote: "Chapter 10. I'm also waiting for the romantic interest to show up, and males keep turning up. But the one in chapter 9 was 10-year-old William, and the next candidate turns out to be 16! The third ..."

Wrong again. The next male to arrive is the long-awaited Hodge. First things first! I would be purring myself now if I could.


Diane Lynn | 481 comments Your cottage sounds nice, Hannah, perfect spot for tea. :)

I also wondered about a "working ferret". That makes so much sense now that we have the scoop on it.

I finished chapter 9. I loved the tour around the property, I can really see it in my mind. We have had a couple glimpses of Gilly's ability to "see" things. That aspect of the story is intriguing.


Judith (judithgrace) | 322 comments I love William.
Chapter 11
Hodge! Welcome back. Poor kitty he is not in good shape.

Chapter 12
Hmmm, flying?


Judith (judithgrace) | 322 comments Chapter 15/16
At last! I do like the name Christopher John. : (view spoiler)


Judith (judithgrace) | 322 comments Hannah wrote: "I don't know for a fact, but I say "Jill-isss" when I pronounce Geillis, mainly because the shortened version is Jilly. Would love to know if that's right or if there's a different pronounciation ..."

This site has the oral pronunciation.
http://www.pronouncehow.com/english/g...


Janetje | 86 comments So what is a still-room exactly? My English boyfriend has never heard of it!


Joanne | 27 comments Janetje wrote: "So what is a still-room exactly? My English boyfriend has never heard of it!"

A still-room in a large manor or castle was where ingredients for making special drinks or concoctions were prepared. I imagine it was like a small laboratory separate from the kitchen.


Joanne | 27 comments Tadiana wrote: "Judith wrote: "Waiting for the instant love!"

On the insta-love topic: [spoilers removed]"


I chuckled at that line, too, Tadiana. It was almost as if Mary Stewart was poking fun at herself saying, "Well, I do it all my other books, so why not this one, too!"


message 47: by [deleted user] (new)

Janetje wrote: "... who is English? My boyfriend. And from the country too. A working ferret is used for hunting badgers and rabbits, by chasing them down their holes and then shooting the animals that come out. They're also good at catching rats."

Aha! That kind of work makes more sense. I was picturing something like a small monkey trained to be a pickpocket. In which case, Gilly should not help him. ;)


message 48: by [deleted user] (new)

Diane Lynn wrote: "I finished chapter 9. I loved the tour around the property, I can really see it in my mind..."

Hannah nailed it when she called this a comfort read. I can totally see why! Gilly's meandering walk through the lovely house and gardens exuded tranquility.


message 49: by Shelley (new)

Shelley | 34 comments I think it's wonderful that Stewart can show the cold, harsh life of the times,the countryside and the people, including Jilly's parents, the vicar and wife, and then transports us to to such a magical haven. You can tell by the responses above that she wrote both places in a way that they both really resonate with the reader.
I'm enjoying this little book again,


Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments You know, I have completely passed over the phrase "working ferret" each time I've read this, but now that y'all have brought it up, I'm glad to know what it does. (haha Ashley - I shot some drink out of my mouth while reading your comment about a pickpocketing ferret! Great visual :D)

Thank you Janetje (and English boyfriend) for explaining what one does!


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