Saturday, July 25, 2015

Book Review: Thornyhold by Mary Stewart

Author: Mary Stewart
Series: Rediscovered Classics
Publication: Chicago Review Press; Reprint edition (October 1, 2008)

Description: During Gilly Ramsey’s lonely childhood, the occasional brief visits of her mother’s cousin were a delight, seeming like visits of a fairy godmother. Years later, when Gilly inherits Thornyhold, her house, she discovers that her cousin, with her still room and herbalist practices—and her undoubted powers—had long been known to the locals as a witch. She is approached by neighbors, some innocent, some not so innocent, but all assuming that she, too, is a witch, and a possible addition to the local coven. Gilly finds there is some truth in this, for she discovers that she can call on a kind of power in difficult moments. This wonderful novel from bestselling author Mary Stewart is delicate in its perception of a young woman’s falling in love, delightful in its portrayal of the English countryside, and skilled in its creation of a world full of magic.

My Thoughts: This is a story told by a woman looking back at her life. She tells of her lonely childhood when she was neglected by her parents and bullied at her boarding school. She tells of the life she lived as a pastor's daughter in a dirty, ugly coal town. She tells of the few, magical visits by her godmother.

She also tells what happens when she inherits Thornyhold after that same godmother's death. She describes the beauty of the house, gardens and countryside. She also describes her interactions with the local witch who is her rival for the affections of a widowed author who lives nearby. This story also tells us about how she fell in love with that same author and his young son.

Woven into the story are some magical elements. Her godmother was a herbalist and maybe she was also a witch. And maybe Gilly herself has inherited the potential to be a witch too. It describes incidents that could be magical in nature but could also have natural explanations.

The book is set in the time just after World War II and in a part of England that is still very much behind the times. She travels by bicycle and doesn't have a telephone. Until her arrival and her encounters with would-be witch Agnes Trapp, no one ever locked their doors and neighbors felt free to just walk in. Mentions are made of rationing and coupons though shortages aren't as noticeable in this rural area.

This was a quick read. It had lovely descriptions and lyrical writing. It was definitely a gentle Gothic romance.

Favorite Quote:
He smiled at me, and I got the impression that the sun came out and all the birds suddenly burst out singing. I took some sort of control of my besotted thoughts, and said feebly: "Do come in. I was just finishing here."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.


  1. I thought I had read all the Mary Stewart books. This one I must add to my reading!

  2. In many ways, it was a coming of age story as Gilly really discovers herself and comes into her own. I enjoyed this story quite a bit.


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