Skip to main content

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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Read in 2017

January: 1. London: the Novel, by Edward Rutherfurd 2. Notes from a Small Island, by Bill Bryson 3. A Very English Scandal, by John Preston 4. Imagined London, by Anna Quindlen 5. The Black Dahlia, by James Ellroy 6. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote February 1. Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen 2. The Girls of Slender Means, by Muriel Spark 3. Patience, by John Coates 4. Into the Whirlwind, by Eugenia Ginzburg 5. The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James 6. Few Eggs and No Oranges, by Vere Hodgson 7. Vittoria Cottage, by DE Stevenson March: 1. The Exiles Return, by Elizabeth de Waal 2. Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen 3. The Death of the Heart, by Elizabeth Bowen 4. The Buccaneers, by Edith Wharton 5. The Death of the Heart, by Elizabeth Bowen 6. White Teeth, by Zadie Smith April: 1. The Heat of the Day, by Elizabeth Bowen 2. The Two Mrs. Abbotts, by DE Stevenson 3. The Road to Little Dribbling, by Bill Bryson May: 1. London War Notes, by Mollie Panter-Dow

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: Amazon.com, 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; A

Review: The Far Cry, by Emma Smith

Pages: 324 Original date of publication: 1949 My edition: 2007 (Persephone) Why I decided to read: It’s been on my TBR pile since I purchased it six months ago How I acquired my copy: from the Persephone shop, September 2009 The Far Cry was inspired by the author’s experiences in India. In 1945, at the age of 21, Emma Smith (who describes herself as “a green young woman” in her preface to this edition) traveled to India with a film production crew as a junior script writer/gopher. While she was there, Smith kept a journal of her experiences and thoughts to detail her “magical Cinderella-like transformation” into a worldlier person. In the preface of the novel, Emma Smith writes brilliantly about what kind of impact her travels to India had upon her, a first-time visitor. What she wrote in her journal went largely into the writing of this novel; and the stronger it is for it, I think, because this is an absolutely stunning book. When Mr. Digby’s ex wife returns from Amer