Skip to main content

Review: The Ivy Tree, by Mary Stewart


Mary Grey finds herself in the north of England, working as a waitress, when one day she decides to go for a walk along Hadrian’s Wall. While there, Mary is accosted by Con Winslow, who mistakenly thinks she is Annabel, his cousin who disappeared to America eight years ago. He and his sister Lisa convince Mary to engage in a act of deception: to impersonate Annabel Winslow so that Con might inherit her grandfather’s estate, Whitescar.

It’s a short novel, and like Nine Coaches Waiting, The Ivy Tree is very plot-driven. Stewart’s novels are tinged with a bit of magic, and in most of them, she chooses to give her characters rather romantic names (Annabel, Connor, Crystal). On the surface, it’s a deliciously wonderful story of deception, but not all is as it appears.

The Ivy Tree is an emotionally-charged novel; and though Stewart doesn’t do very much in terms of character development, this book contains the right amount of romance, danger, suspense, and fantasy, with a little bit of Roman history sprinkled in. Stewart also does a great job of unfolding the mystery, such as there is, choosing not to give it all away until it’s almost too late. This is one of those stories where it isn’t until after you’ve learned the solution that you go back and think, “now why didn’t I figure that out?” And then you realize that all the clues were there all along. I’m very glad that Mary Stewart’s novels have been re-released; another of her novels, Thornyhold, is on my TBR pile.

Comments

Danielle said…
I read this last year and while I enjoyed it I only felt so-so about it. I might have been the character development as you're right all the other elements are there. I have Nine Coaches Waiting to read as well.
Liz said…
Mary Stewart was one of the first authors I read where I went from one to the next to the next. I re-read "Nine Coaches Waiting" while on vacation a few years ago and was amazed to find there were certain phrases I remembered pretty much exactly -- 30-plus years later. I do not recall the Ivy Tree, so I think I'll pick it up. Currently reading a book critical of the role of the press in the Obama election (it has "slobbering" in the title -- which I confess I can't recall as it's really long -- so you can guess the author thinks the press abdicated!) That's my non-fiction read at the moment. For fiction, I just finished "Flying Into the Sun." It's got spiritual growth, adapting to what life throws at you, even if it's not what you suspect and, naturally, romance! A fun book. And I think it's fun that the author used to be a hairdresser to the stars in Hollywood!

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is an old dotard, her third locks her up in the house for days and won't let her out; and the last is a fop who a…

Review: This Rough Magic, by Mary Stewart

Pages: 254Original date of publication: 1964My edition: 1964 (William Morrow)Why I decided to read: it was 90 degrees outside at the time and I decided it was time to read another book by a favorite authorHow I acquired my copy: from Susanna Kearsley, December 2009Sometimes, whether or not I decide to read a book depends on the weather. Mary Stewart’s books are best read on either very hot or very cold days; and since it was 90 degrees out one weekend a couple of weeks ago, I decided that this one would be perfect. And it was.This Rough Magic takes its title from The Tempest, a play from which this novel takes off. Lucy Waring is a struggling actress who comes to visit her sister on Corfu. One of her neighbors is a renowned actor who’s taken a bit of a sabbatical and his son, a musician with whom Lucy comes to blows at first. This Rough Magic is vintage Mary Stewart, with a murder or two, a mystery, romance, suspense, and lots of magic thrown in. Lucy is your typical Mary Stewart hero…

Review: Joy in the Morning, by Betty Smith

Pages: 294
Original date of publication: 1963
My edition: 2010 (Harper Perennial)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Barnes and Noble, Phoenix, January 2011


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my all-time favorite books and I’ve read it, oh, half a dozen times, so I was interested to see how Joy in the Morning would compare.

Set in the late 1920s, Joy in the Morning begins when Annie, aged 18, comes to a small Midwestern college town where her fiancée, Carl, is in law school. The novel opens with their marriage in the county courthouse, and follows the couple through their first year or so of marriage. It’s a struggle, because Carl and Annie are basically children themselves, for all the ways in which Carl tries to appear more adult-like.

Annie is endearing; she’s ignorant but a voracious reader, reading everything from Babbitt to War and Peace. Betty Smith’s novels are pretty autobiographical; Joy in the Morning is (unofficially) a kind of sequel to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn—cert…