Madam, want to talk about author Mary Stewart? discussion

Thornyhold
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Buddy Reads > Thornyhold -- Spoilerland

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message 1: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 13, 2014 09:25AM) (new)

This thread is for an open discussion after you have finished reading the book. Spoilers are expected here, but please uncheck the box next to "Add to my Update Feed" to avoid posting spoilers to your feed.


message 2: by Hannah (last edited Feb 14, 2014 07:28PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments So I've just finished my 6th re-reading of one of my favorite books, and it's just as good as my first reading back in 2009.

There are so many things I love about this book it's impossible to put them all in words, but what I think I enjoy most is the simple, humble life journey Jilly makes to heal herself and live the life she always longed for. I appreciate that while Stewart gave her a fairy godmother as good as Cousin Geillis, it was ultimately up to Jilly to lay her childhood disappointments and hurts to rest and recognize that her parents were only human. Only then could she truely go forward in making the kind of life she wanted for herself.

I also loved (once again) Stewart's characterization of children and animals. She has such a deft way of illustrating dogs, cats and small boys. And this time around, we got a ferret and some carrier pigeons, no less :D

The "insta-love" aspect of most Stewart novels is one in which I can finally embrace here without too much of a problem. After all, I simply recognize that Cousin Geillis had fore-knowledge, shared it with Christopher, and Jilly - well, Jilly was ready for love (with or without Agnes' spiked fudge!).

Thornyhold is an interesting little novelette. Part human journey, part romance, part magic realism, part fantasy. There is on one hand nothing much to sink your teeth into with this story yet on the other hand it's a simple, stunning story of small everyday miracles played out in a few pages.

Already looking forward to my next re-read in Feb, 2015 :)


Joanne | 27 comments This was my third time reading Thornyhold and still want to hug this book.......it's my " warm blanket with a cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows" kind of book. I find it charming and comforting and up-lifting.

Stewart managed to combine so many elements that I adore in one book, and that is what makes Thornyhold such a favorite of mine. It does not have the exotic locales or heart-pounding thrill of a chase as some of her other novels, and I hope this doesn't come as a disappointment. But what Stewart does create in this young woman's journey is a reflection of how some of life most ordinary things can actually be quite extraordinary.......creating a place of your own, being kind to all creatures great and small, opening your heart and mind to possibilities, and looking forward with hope.

I particularly enjoyed the touch of magic (real or coincidental) throughout the book, and I wish more time had been spent in the still -room. I can actually close my eyes and inhale the scent of the potpourri which hid the cupboard key. Rose petals, lavender, geranium, and

"trefoil, John's wort, Vervain, Dill,
hinder witches of their will."

I would love to know more of the story of Goody Gostelow at Thornyhold! I can just imagine her in the still-room concocting her witch's brews and receipts and recording them in her book.

Coincidentally, as I write this post, it is Valentine's Day, so if anyone is in need of a Love Philtre, you might just find one in Goody Gostelow's Own Home Remedies and Receipts, but please don't harm any animals! (wink)


Joanne | 27 comments Hannah wrote: "So I've just finished my 6th re-reading of one of my favorite books, and it's just as good as my first reading back in 2009.

There are so many things I love about this book it's impossible to put ..."


Agree 100% !! Let's do another buddy read in 2015!!


message 5: by Hannah (last edited Feb 14, 2014 07:16PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments Well said Joanne. I think some readers are disappointed in Thornyhold because it isn't like her earlier, more popular, romantic suspense novels. But to me this seemed more like Stewart's love story to the past. Maybe not her personal past per se (I think I read that she thought she had a wonderful childhood and great parents), but perhaps the England of her youth. She was in her 70's when she wrote this. In 1948, when the book was set, Stewart would have been around 29 years old (close to Jilly's age)..




Who wants some fudge?


Judith (judithgrace) | 322 comments Hannah wrote: "So I've just finished my 6th re-reading of one of my favorite books, and it's just as good as my first reading back in 2009.

There are so many things I love about this book it's impossible to put ..."


Wow, Hannah. 6th reading, I'm so impressed. I'm loving Thornyhold.


Joanne | 27 comments @Hannah -- I'll take a pass on the fudge!


message 8: by Hannah (last edited Feb 15, 2014 08:45AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments Joanne wrote: "@Hannah -- I'll take a pass on the fudge!"

:(
You think I "doctored" it?


Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments Judith wrote: "I'm loving Thornyhold."

I'm so glad, Judith! It's one of those comfort books that, if you fall in love with it, you might just find yourself coming back to it again and again. Look forward to your final thoughts upon completion.


Judith (judithgrace) | 322 comments Loved it!, just zipped right through it, couldn't put it down. Review is posted.


Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments It's a short, sweet little read isn't it Judith? I can usually read it in one day (if I pick the right day!).


message 12: by HJ (last edited Feb 15, 2014 11:49AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

HJ | 300 comments Hannah wrote: "Thornyhold is an interesting little novelette. Part human journey, part romance, part magic realism, part fantasy. There is on one hand nothing much to sink your teeth into with this story yet on the other hand it's a simple, stunning story of small everyday miracles played out in a few pages.
..."


I think you and Joanne describe Thornyhold well. I do enjoy it very much, but it is very different from, say, Madam, Will You Talk? and Nine Coaches Waiting.

I usually divide Mary Stewart's books into two groups, her Athurian books (which I've never been able to get into) and the rest. However, on reflection I think it is more accurate to use three groups, the third being the books she wrote later in life: Thornyhold, Stormy Petrel and Rose Cottage. They have a similar feel, quite unlike the romantic suspense books from earlier. Of the three, my favourite is Stormy Petrel, which I adore, I think because it's set in one of my favourite places (the west coast of Scotland).


message 13: by Hannah (last edited Feb 15, 2014 03:08PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments You make an excellent point Hj, and I do agree that her body of work should be split into those three groups (possibly even 4 if you separate out her children's books).

In addition, when I occasionally get new GR members who ask which Stewart to try first, I usually tell them:

A. Thornyhold is my favorite
and
B. Read one of her earlier, romantic suspense novels like the two you mentioned.

Thornyhold (or any of her 3 cottage novels) aren't, IMO, the ones to direct a new Stewart reader to, but as some of us will attest, her cottage books are good in their own special way.


message 14: by HJ (new) - rated it 3 stars

HJ | 300 comments I agree - her children's books are another category.


message 15: by Misfit, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Misfit | 587 comments Joanne wrote: "@Hannah -- I'll take a pass on the fudge!"

I just finished. I loved the twist on the love potion :D

Definitely a comforting read, a book you want to hug as Joanne said.


message 16: by HJ (new) - rated it 3 stars

HJ | 300 comments Misfit wrote: "I just finished. I loved the twist on the love potion :D

Definitely a comforting read, a book you want to hug as Joanne said."


That twist is good, isn't it? A nice happy ending, just when it didn't seem possible.


message 17: by Misfit, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Misfit | 587 comments True love, and among the flock of sheep at that. Really nice twist.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

I finished last night, and really enjoyed the ending. I think this is a book I will probably enjoy more on a second read, when I can just read for the lovely descriptive prose, without trying to figure out what's going on with Agnes Trapp and the coven. I'm glad that everyone, including Jessamy, got a happy ending. :)


Diane Lynn | 481 comments I finished this morning and loved it. I was convinced that Agnes was evil and I was truly afraid for Gilly and then William (when it looked like he may have eaten doctored fudge), but as it turns out Agnes was rather harmless, if you don't count the dog hair.

This story really is a sweet, gentle love story. Not just of love between Gilly and Christopher John, but also love of the land and Thornyhold. What an enchanting place! We also get to see, over time and through ups and downs, how Gilly comes into her own. She blossoms right before our eyes.

I agree that Mary Stewart's books can be divided into 4 categories, each category quite different but running through them all is her lovely descriptive prose. What a talented woman! :)


message 20: by Hannah (last edited Feb 17, 2014 01:38PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments What a talented woman indeed, Diane Lynn. Re-reading Mary Stewart with this group over the past year makes me appreciate her all the more, and makes me wish we had more current authors out there with her skill. Most of the current crop of "romantic suspense" I read usually rates between "meh" and dreck. I have to keep going back 30-50 years to find my fit in the genre.

The only writer I've found that comes close is Susanna Kearsley.


message 21: by Misfit, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Misfit | 587 comments Hannah wrote: "What a talented woman, indeed Diane Lynn. Re-reading Mary Stewart with this group over the past year makes me appreciate her all the more, and makes me wish we had more current authors out there w..."

She's the best. I wish her US publishers would get off their duffs and reissue her books.

I love Kearsley, and IIRC she gives MS the nod for her fondness of the genre.


Joanne | 27 comments Misfit wrote: "Hannah wrote: "What a talented woman, indeed Diane Lynn. Re-reading Mary Stewart with this group over the past year makes me appreciate her all the more, and makes me wish we had more current auth..."

Here's an interesting post where Susanna Kearsley talks about her love of Mary Stewart's writing, and also reveals that her mother was reading a Mary Stewart novel while she was pregnant for Susanna!
http://freshfiction.com/page.php?id=5618


message 23: by Misfit, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Misfit | 587 comments I love her comments!


Diane Lynn | 481 comments That was a great post, Joanne!


message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks, Joanne! You can certainly see glimpses of Mary Stewart in some of Kearsley's novels.


message 26: by Shelley (new)

Shelley | 34 comments I feel the same way about Kearsley. She touches that same place that Stewart does, though in a different way. I really enjoyed her section on sitting in at an outside cafe´ in Chinon.


Judith (judithgrace) | 322 comments Ha, I was pregnant with my daughter when I read This Rough Magic. Still my favorite MS book.
Here is the SK quote:

"Which is why THE SPLENDOUR FALLS, which I wrote back in 1994 when I was 28, will always hold a special place within my heart. Because in the autumn of 1993, when I travelled to Chinon in France to do all of the research I needed for writing that book, I found myself sitting alone at a small table outside my hotel, right next to a fountain and under the shade of acacia trees with a medieval castle straight out of a fairy tale spread on the cliffs just above me, and I sat with the sun on my shoulders, a glass of red wine in my hand, and I thought to myself: Wow. I've actually done it!

I felt, at that moment, exactly like a Mary Stewart heroine. And even if nobody gave me the keys to a car that belonged to a tall handsome stranger, I've never forgotten that moment."


Janetje | 86 comments Thanks for that link, Joanne! That's a great story. I recognize the scene SK describes from My Brother Michael, which is still in the list for a read, I think. One of my favorites! I also like the remark about the men quoting poetry.
I recently started reading Susanna Kearsley because of the recommendations in this group, and I love them!


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1080 comments Okay, help me out here with this issue. I'm still confused by Gilly's drug-induced dream, courtesy of Agnes Trapp (isn't that a great name for a not-very-skilled witch, BTW?). I get that Gilly didn't really go anywhere and that Agnes and Jessamy snuck into her house to close the window and check on Gilly. I also think Gilly really was on some kind of spirit journey and that Cousin Geillis intervened or protected her.

Here's what I can't figure out: what exactly was Agnes trying to accomplish? How did she know the drug was working and that Gilly was one of them? Do you think she could share in the vision somehow? If not, what was the purpose of the drug?


message 30: by Joanne (last edited Feb 18, 2014 08:16PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joanne | 27 comments Tadiana wrote: "Okay, help me out here with this issue. I'm still confused by Gilly's drug-induced dream, courtesy of Agnes Trapp (isn't that a great name for a not-very-skilled witch, BTW?). I get that Gilly did..."

Well, I'm not certain that my interpretation is correct, and anyone who would like to chime in and add their thoughts are welcome. I gathered that Agnes was expecting Gilly to be an old woman, and when a young and attractive woman showed up, Agnes immediately felt threatened on many levels. She realized that her plans to stay in Thornyhold (at least long enough to get her hands on the book of recipes which included the love philtre) were over. Plus, she was insecure enough to believe that Gilly would be competition for Christopher. I think Agnes drugged Gilly for a few reasons: to keep her sleeping so she could do another search the house for the book, plus she did not know if Gilly had any "powers" or "supernatural abilities" and was testing her. Not wanting to harm her, Agnes felt compelled to check on Gilly to make sure she was okay and also to see if her drug was "working."

I don't know if I'm correct, Tadiana, but this is my guess.

Hannah, or anyone? What do you all think?


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1080 comments I do think it was a test and that someone with "witch" abilities would react in a way that an ordinary person wouldn't have. I'm just confused about how Agnes would even know whether her test was successful or not. . . .


message 32: by [deleted user] (new)

I didn't really understand the "flying" part, either. Agnes and Mrs. Marget were meeting at the time, weren't they? Or was that part of Gilly's dream/vision, too?


Joanne | 27 comments I think the "flying dream" may be open to reader interpretation, and I believe Mary Stewart did that purposely. Some readers may interpret that it was all just a dream brought on by a drug.....others may think, well, maybe, since Gilly has been shown to have some type of psychic powers (the flash and a vision) that perhaps she really did in some way have a vision or experience during the night. Did she or didn't she......? I kind of like leaving it up in the air and never really knowing 100%. That's the magic of Thornyhold. The leaf and the closed window are explained at the end of the book, but the reader never really knows for sure what that experience really was.


Joanne | 27 comments Also, I remember Agnes saying (at the end of the book when Gilly finally confronts Agnes) that she closed the window because some people try to go out the window when they are dreaming/flying. Evidently, this drug had been tried before and Agnes was aware that this could happen.


message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

I think the relationship between Agnes and Gilly was the weakest part of the story for me. Stewart wrote so many great romantic suspense stories, and Thornyhold has this thread of menace through it that never really pans out. In the end, Agnes turns out to be "less threatening" than she appears to be, although she does do some rather unpleasant things (drugging Gilly, attempting to snag Christopher using a love potion, hurting Rags). I think this would have worked better for me if Stewart had just told the richly layered story of Gilly finding her place at Thornyhold. Maybe a subsequent read will be more satisfying, because I can tune out the distractions caused by Agnes, and focus more on Gilly and the magic of Thornyhold and Aunt Geillis.


Diane Lynn | 481 comments The "spiked" casserole was originally going to be eaten by Agnes, she didn't know Gilly was going to show up. Agnes had been staying at Thornyhold. So does that mean Agnes normally takes the drug? Is that why she is kind of odd?


Judith (judithgrace) | 322 comments Interesting thoughts..
I thought Agnes was pretty bad. She was a snoop, sneaky, and mean. Maybe her motives were not that terrible, it seems that all she wanted was to find a man to love her, but her actions were mean, duplicitous, and ruthless, even to her son and mother. She was out to get a man, and nothing was allowed to get in her way.

Anyway, in the end, her love potion seemed to work, right? Maybe it worked on her too.


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1080 comments Diane Lynn wrote: "The "spiked" casserole was originally going to be eaten by Agnes, she didn't know Gilly was going to show up. Agnes had been staying at Thornyhold. So does that mean Agnes normally takes the drug? ..."

Actually, the casserole Gilly ate on her first night (the one Agnes intended for herself) wasn't spiked. It was the pot pie Agnes brought over a day or so later that had the drug in it.

I do think it was a really interesting choice for Mary Stewart to take all of Agnes' menace and suddenly have it subside into bucolic comedy. It kind of echoes the choice Gilly makes to turn away from being a witch (even a white one) to focus on love and family and her beloved home.

The love potion scene, with Agnes struck by sudden love for Eddie, who is determinedly wading to her through his sheep, makes a great picture in my mind.


message 39: by Misfit, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Misfit | 587 comments "The love potion scene, with Agnes struck by sudden love for Eddie, who is determinedly wading to her through his sheep, makes a great picture in my mind."

That was one of the best surprise twists and just desserts I've come across in a long time :p

I must have been nodding off at the start, but I had the impression at first that Agnes was much older, so I was surprised that she came out later as a bit of a romantic rival for Gilly.


Diane Lynn | 481 comments Thanks for setting me straight Tadiana, see what my memory is worth. It makes much more sense to me now!

The scene with the sheep struck me as very amusing!


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1080 comments Misfit wrote: "I had the impression at first that Agnes was much older, so I was surprised that she came out later as a bit of a romantic rival for Gilly."

I was paying attention to that detail for some reason, since this was a re-read for me. Gilly was 27; Agnes is about 10 years older, so 37ish (Chapter 5). Christopher John is "about forty, late thirties perhaps" (Chapter 16). So it works.

(sigh) Time for me to get off Goodreads and get back to work. Bye!


message 42: by Janetje (last edited Feb 19, 2014 12:14PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Janetje | 86 comments That's interesting Misfit, I also had the feeling Agnes was middle-aged until very late in the book. I thought she had a bit too much on her plate, drugging Gilly (for reasons I don't quite understand) AND trying to get the love potion recipe. While she obviously knew at least part of the recipe, and what she did to the poor dog was terrible. I liked the sheep scene, but she deserved worse!


Judith (judithgrace) | 322 comments Tweety, the other thing to look for in the MS novels (besides, as Diane says, her working in the animals,) is how she works in what we here call
"insta-love" Do look for it as you read the different books. It's not in WFAM of course, because Giannetta is already married to Nicholas, but it's in most of her other books.


message 44: by Hannah (last edited Feb 19, 2014 04:42PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments Annnnd yet another thing to keep track of in MS novels is:

- Number of cigarettes smoked by any character. This seemed to lessen as the decades went by, but in Madam, Will You Talk (published in the '50's), those people smoked like chimney stacks!

- The appearance of the heroine's trusty nylon nightie. I'm convinced all Stewart heroines have one, whether it's mentioned in the story or not.


message 45: by Shelley (new)

Shelley | 34 comments Hannah wrote: "Annnnd yet another thing to keep track of in MS novels is:

- Number of cigarettes smoked by any character. This seemed to lessen as the decades went by, but in Madam, Will You Talk (published in ..."

cigarettes were considered sexy in those days. and smoking, especially by the hero, was pretty common in novels of that period. Also in television and movies. I'm guessing it was pretty prevalent in the whole of society, anybody remember the Marlboro man? (might also apply to the nylon nighties, not sure)


message 46: by [deleted user] (new)

cigs, nighties, insta-love, car chases, a child in peril, and an animal (cat or dog, but sometimes something more exotic) -- ingredients for the perfect Mary Stewart plot! ;)


message 47: by Shelley (new)

Shelley | 34 comments Don't forget the dolphin.


message 48: by [deleted user] (new)

I put the dolphin under exotic. :)


message 49: by Shelley (new)

Shelley | 34 comments And one of my favorites


Judith (judithgrace) | 322 comments Jeannette wrote: "cigs, nighties, insta-love, car chases, a child in peril, and an animal (cat or dog, but sometimes something more exotic) -- ingredients for the perfect Mary Stewart plot! ;)"

and in all her books, there are always those wonderfully vivid descriptions of PLACE: the rose garden in TRM, the windmill in TMs the cave in MBM, the hill with the piebald in AATG, the fog and mountains in WaM, the road in MWYT, etc. ....I always look for these bits.


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