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Review: Touch Not the Cat, by Mary Stewart

Pages: 276
Original date of publication: 1976
My edition: 1976 (William Morrow and Company)
Why I decided to read: Mary Stewart is one of my favorite authors!
How I acquired my copy: from Susanna Kearsley, December 2009

Mary Stewart is one of my favorite authors, and Touch Not the Cat reminds me of why I love her novels so much: she infuses her novels with romance, suspense, and a hint of the supernatural. Her novels usually take place in an exotic location, so I was a bit surprised to learn that Touch Not the Cat is set in England. It’s a lot more mature than some of her other books.

Bryony Ashley grew up at Ashley Court, ancestral home of a family that dates back to Norman times. When her father is killed in a hit-and-run accident, she returns to England from her temporary home in Madeira. She has a “relationship” with a spirit who speaks to her in a kind of psychic way. I rolled my eyes at the opening line of the novel (“My lover came to me on the last night of April, with a message and a warning that sent me home to him”), thinking that the novel was going to go overboard on the psychic thing; but Mary Stewart makes her reader feel as though this psychic element is completely normal. I like how we don’t know for certain who this “friend” is, and are left guessing at his identity throughout the book.

No Mary Stewart novel would be complete without a mystery; part of the mystery lies in the supernatural aspect of the story, while another mystery lies in the truth behind Bryony’s father’s death, and the mysterious warning he left behind him. It’s very cleverly done and not at all expected. I’m glad I saved Touch Not the Cat for nearly last among Mary Stewart’s novels to read; in my opinion it’s one of her best.


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