Wednesday, April 21, 2010

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.

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