Friday, May 09, 2008

Madam, Will You Talk, Mary Stewart

Title: Madam, Will You Talk?
Author: Mary Stewart
Published: 1955, William Morrow
Category: Romantic Suspense
Rating: 9/10

Since I've been working so much lately on the Mary Stewart site, I've of course been put in the mood to re-read some of my favorites of hers. Madam, Will You Talk? was her first book, published in 1955, but in my opinion it's one of her best.

Charity Selborne is vacationing in the South of France with her friend Louise. Shortly after they arrive at their hotel in Avignon, Charity meets a fellow guest, a young boy named David. Charity is rather charmed by him, so she is sad to hear the gossip that's circulating about him: David's father, Richard Byron, was recently charged with murder. He was let off on grounds of insufficient evidence, but Charity soon finds out that David seems to believe that his father was guilty and fears seeing him again. David is traveling with his beautiful stepmother, and both she and David are hiding from Richard.

So when Charity meets Richard and he demands she tell him where David is, Charity is faced with a horrible dilemma: she can't give David up, but what will Richard do to her if she doesn't?

The book is one big fabulous chase scene--and such an exciting one! Charity and Richard run all over, from Nimes and Arles down to Marseilles. Stewart is known for her vivid descriptions of setting, and what better place to be immersed in than Provence? I put together this photo gallery on my other blog, which has photos of some of the settings and quotes from the book. As you can see, Charity visits some gorgeous places and Stewart's descriptions are lovely.

One of the things I like best about all Stewart's suspense novels is that her heroines are everyday women. They're all smart and sensible, and very likable. But unlike many suspense protagonists, they are ordinary people who get caught in extraordinary circumstances--and though they are frightened, they manage to do brave things. Charity is terrified of Richard, but she goes to amazing efforts to elude him because she can't stand the thought of putting David in danger.

Twin isn't really a fan of this book because she says the love story happens too abruptly. And I can see her point. I won't say who Charity's love interest is, because I don't want to give it away, but suffice it to say that she just wakes up one moment to the fact that he is perfect and they're professing their love for each other a second later. Maybe unbelievable, but the pace of the whole book is so fast (it takes place over only four days) that I think it works.

I've just posted a brief excerpt of this book on the Stewart site. It's only the first few paragraphs of the book, but it's so good. It shows the beautiful writing, the romantic feeling of the book, and the gripping suspense. ;)


Jace said...

This is my 2nd favourite Stewart book, after Nine Coaches Waiting. :) I was practically gripping the book as Charity tears up and down the French countryside.

As you've said, the writing is beautiful, plus great atmosphere throughout.

Anonymous said...

It's probably my favourite of her books.
I think the love interest works, but I like love at first sight stories.
Stewart's writing about place is always fabulous. My aunt and uncle lived in Aix-en-Provence for a time, and when I went to France when I was seventeen, I visited some of the places she mentions - went on the boat trip to the Chateau d'If because of the book. So it's even more fun now when I do reread, because it reminds me of that summer.

Kate Diamond said...

Yay! I love Mary Stewart! I think my favorite of hers has to be "Touch Not the Cat." Very fabulous read.

Jennie said...

Jace--I know! Charity's speeding along the road in her little convertible and it's very exciting. ;) Nine Coaches Waiting is also a favorite with me.

Marianne--That's so funny! Because I went to France when I was seventeen too and we visited a lot of the same places, including Nimes. I remember visiting the Temple of Diana and thinking, this is where she's first accosted by Richard! It's so much cooler to hear about Charity seeing all the sights that I remember from my trip.

Kate--Yay! Touch Not the Cat is a great one.

nath said...

This one sounds good and it's available at the library!! yay! who's the love interest?

Jennie said...

Nath--Get it! And I hope you like it.

I am so not telling you who the love interest is. It's a surprise. ;)