The Daily Bongo

My Brother Michael

by Mary Stewart

Cover of My Brother Michael by Mary Stewart

When I was a teenager, I was a huge fan of romance suspense books. My favorite authors were Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, and Mary Stewart. I started on my fascination with the books after seeing Hayley Mills in the Disney version of Mary Stewart's The Moon-Spinners. Since I have been laid up in the past week from foot surgery, I thought i would return to some of the comfort reads of my youth, and I took several Mary Stewart books out of the library. Last night, I just finished reading My Brother Michael. The big question was whether the Stewart books would hold up to the rose-tinted remembrance of the teenage reader. Well, My Brother Michael did indeed live up to expectations. Mary Stewart took a more intellectual or artistic view to the story telling. The protagonists in the stories are usually educated in the classics, and the action takes place in exotic settings. Well, exotic in the sense that my memory leads to be remember most of the books being set in Greece. I think that only three of fifteen books take place in Greece. In fact, some readers probably remember Stewart for her Merlin trilogy than for her romantic suspense books.

My Brother Michael, published in 1960, is a thrilling read. The story starts with Camilla Haven on vacation in Greece. Money is running low, and as she writes to a friend, there hasn't been much adventure. As soon as the words are written, adventure appears on Camilla's doorstep. A man approaches her in the outdoor cafe to give her the keys to a car that she supposedly rented for Simon in Delphi. It's a matter of life and death, the man tells her. Camilla knows there has been a mistake, and tries to explain it to the man. However, he vanishes before she can convince him that the car is not hers. Since Camilla wants to go to Delphi, and doesn't have the money to do so, she decides to drive the car to Delphi. She almost makes it to Delphi when the car becomes stuck in a narrow street. When the Englishman shows up to help her backup the car, who does he turn out to be but Simon of Delphi. The only problem is that Simon doesn't know anything about the car. He is there on a pilgrimage to find out more about his brother Michael's death, shortly after the end of World War II. Before you know it, Camilla is caught up in the pilgrimage because of her connection with the car. Hidden treasure, danger, and romance follow.

Mary Stewart does a great job of delivering thrills in this story. She slowly weaves a web that gets the reader caught up in the situation, and wondering what it is going to happen next. The book has mystery:

It has action with fights and threats. All in all, it was a great, quick read. The romance part of the book is understated. Stewart doesn't have the protagonists engage in any of the sloppy groping. Instead the characters give each other meaningful glances, and seem to understand each other without even speaking their thoughts. I really enjoyed the book, and it lived up to my remembrances from my teen years. i can't wait to start reading the other books. Next up on the list is The Moon-Spinners.

June 26, 2011