29/06/2006

Thornyhold (by Mary Stewart)

'Thornyhold' is a fairly short novel by Mary Stewart, an author I generally enjoy. She often writes fast-paced light thrillers with a romantic thread, and this is no exception.

It's told in the first person by Geillis, describing at first her lonely childhood which was enlivened a very few times by her mother's cousin, also called Geillis, who appeared unexpectedly when most needed, and paid her young relative the compliment of taking her seriously.

After the first few chapters, the story moves forward to Geillis's young adulthood, in the early 1950s, and her inheritance of the secluded home called Thornyhold. There she gradually gets to know the locals, who are under the impression that she might be a witch...

The book is cleverly written, describing Geillis's experiences as they happen, so we're not sure at first what is real, what is a dream, and what is more prosaic than it appears. It's also not immediately clear who can be trusted, and this leads to some suspense - never enough to be heart-thumpingly unpleasant, but sufficient to make it difficult to put the book down at times!

There are some delightful characters, including 11-year-old William whose manner and understanding are often more like those of an adult. The romantic thread doesn't appear until over half-way through, and is also tinged with a bit of suspense and mystery - it's very low-key but (as ever) all is resolved at the end. Perhaps a little rapid in its conclusion, but on the whole an enjoyable light read. Recommended.

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