Stewart, Mary

Mary Rainbow (1916–2014) was born in Sunderland, the daughter of a vicar. She was educated at the University of Durham, where she graduated with a first in English. She returned to Durham during the Second World War and taught there, meeting her husband, Frederick Stewart, at a VE party in 1945. Frederick encouraged her to write, and in 1953, her first novel, Madam, Will You Talk? was published. She wrote a book a year from 1955–1980.

My mother had a collection of the Coronet paperback printings of Mary Stewart’s works, and I read the lot as a teenager, curled up in a corner of the sitting room, next to one of the few efficient radiators in the house. Airs Above the Ground was my particular favourite, obviously, as it had horses in it. I loved the way the Lipizzaner hero, Neapolitano Petra, suddenly danced to the music, and it is still one of my favourite moments in equine literature. The end makes me cry (but in a good way). I loved the other stories almost as much, and was entranced by her Arthurian books. I found (and still find) her books genuinely gripping, and I am there with each twist and turn of the story. Mary Stewart is brilliant at bringing you into her world and making you feel every moment. She said:

I personally have never been threatened with a gun while driving a racing Mercedes at ninety miles an hour. I have never been hunted with a fish-spear off the coast of Crete. I have never even been alone with a homicidal maniac on a Scottish mountainside. But I think I know how it would feel if I were. The place for truth is not in the facts of a novel; it is in the feelings.

Finding the books
Airs Above the Ground is, fortunately, still easy to find. Ludo is also very easy to find.

Links and sources
A fansite devoted to Mary Stewart
Literary Guild Review, 1964
An interview with Mary Stewart by Raymond H Thompson about her Arthurian works
Obituary, The Daily Telegraph, 15 May, 2014

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