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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

cover of The Ivy Tree

This book is rather different from most of the other Mary Stewart books I've read. A young woman visiting northern England is mistaken for a missing heiress who disappeared years ago. Con, the cousin of the missing girl convinces Mary to pretend to be the missing Annabel and come visit her father's farm-- all in order to cement the disposition of the property on Con, who has been managing the land for years. Of course, when she gets there things are much more complicated than she expected, and she becomes less and less certain that Con can be trusted, as it seems he will do anything (even commit murder) to accomplish his goals. She also discovers, seemingly by accident, that the missing Annabel had a relationship with a neighboring farmer-- they used to leave each other notes in the hollow of an old ivy tree where the road split between the two properties.

This is one of those books that intentionally tricks the reader-- and at the end, when all is revealed, you flip back through the pages and realize, yes, the evidence was all there, carefully placed, but obscured and easy to miss. In Stewart's novels, things are rarely what they seem-- but in this book that is even more so than with the others I've read. Characters in the book are often surprised at Mary-- she seems so changed from the Annabel they knew, and yet she knows and does things that fit so well. Even as the reader I found myself wondering and then second-guessing myself-- in spite of the fact that Annabel was a masterful horsewoman, and Mary Grey seems quite terrified of horses. Of course, this made it a much more interesting and exciting read.

This seemed like a darker book and a more questionable romance than I remember in other Stewart novels. Annabel, as a young woman, was having an affair with a married man who detested his wife. This forbidden love was the reason she left her home and fled to America, and now the old lover is scarred and wounded by his terrible life. It has a fairly happy resolution, but it seems bittersweet, and there is plenty of darkness and evil around, too.

Title:The Ivy Tree
Author:Mary Stewart
Date published:1961
Genre:Mystery / Romance
Number of pages:320
Notes:recommended by Nancy Pearson, author of Book Lust, on her NPR radio show / podcast


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