Skip to main content

Review: My Brother Michael, by Mary Stewart

Pages: 386

Original date of publication: 1959

My edition: 2001 (HarperTorch)

Why I decided to read: I enjoy reading Mary Stewart’s novels

How I acquired my copy: came across it browsing in a local bookstore, June 2009

This is the seventh of Mary Stewart’s novels that I’ve read, and I’ve noticed that they tend to be a bit formulaic. There’s always a young Englishwoman who’s experienced disappointment in love, who goes to an exotic location to recuperate. While there, she usually finds herself in the midst of a mystery, usually risking her own life. And, of course, there’s the handsome stranger, with whom there’s a romantic subplot.

My Brother Michael follows this ploline to a T. Camilla Haven travels to Athens, Greece. In the middle of writing a letter to a friend, in which she complains that nothing ever happens to her, Camilla is offered the use of a car. She takes the car to Delphi, in lieu of the girl—“Simon’s Girl—it’s meant for—and finds herself involved in a fourteen-year-old mystery. Camilla is a pretty average girl (who calls herself “old” at 25!) who nonetheless shows great courage and fortitude—not unlike some of Mary Stewart’s other heroines.

OK, so the plot, and its romantic subplot, are pretty predictable—but it’s a formula that really works well. Mary Stewart was adept at creating great atmosphere in her novels, and she did a lot of research on the places in which her books are set. She also describes everything in great detail, which I love. The romance story in My Brother Michael is a bit rushed (although, obviously, you can see it coming from a mile away).

However, the suspense in this novel is absolutely top notch—how can you forget that climactic scene in the caves? And Camilla and Simon’s walk in the ruins of Delphi earlier is a prime example of why I love Mary Stewart’s writing—again-she really knows how to write atmospheric novels! My Brother Michael probably isn’t my favorite of Stewart’s books, since it tends to meander a bit, but I did enjoy it quite a lot.


Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy:, 2004

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…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy:, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

Review: Midnight in Peking, by Paul French

Pages: 259 Original date of publication: 2013 My copy: 2013 (Penguin) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Phoenix bookstore, May 2013
In January 1937, the body of a young British girl, Pamela Werner, was found near Peking’s Fox Tower. Although two detectives, one British and the other Chinese, spent months on the case, the case was never solved completely, and the case was forgotten in the wake of the invasion of the Japanese. Frustrated, Pamela’s father, a former diplomat, tried to solve the crime. His investigation took him into the underbelly of Peking society and uncovered a secret that was worse than anything he could have imagined.
At first, I thought that this would be a pretty straightforward retelling of a true crime, but what Paul French (who spent seven years researching the story) reveals in this book is much more than that. Foreign society in Peking in the 1930s was stratified, with the British colonials at the top and the White Russian refugees at the bottom, but…