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The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart

The Ivy Tree (original 1961; edition 2007)

by Mary Stewart

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993278,624 (3.86)113
Title:The Ivy Tree
Authors:Mary Stewart
Info:Chicago Review Press (2007), Edition: 1, Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library, Favorites
Tags:mystery, mistaken identity, romance

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The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart (1961)


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Mary Grey had only arrived in England, from Canada, a few days ago but she already felt at home, she was already a little in love with the English countryside.

But she found out that she wasn’t alone. A man approached her, convinced that she was his cousin Annabel, who had disappeared nine years ago. She assured him that she wasn’t. That he was mistaken.

The man was Connor Winslow, Con, and he was the manager of his great-uncle’s estate, Whitescar. He looked after the land and his half-sister, Lisa managed the house. And Con had an extraordinary idea: Mary should impersonate Annabel.

Matthew Winslow was dying, and he refused to believe that his grand-daughter was dead. Annabel was still named as the heir to his estate and his fortune in his will. Con wanted Mary to pose as Annabel, to claim her inheritance. She would be paid a substantial amount of money from the estate and he would save the family home he loved.

The idea seemed ludicrous. And yet …

Mary went to Whitescar. But she soon that realised, for all that Con and Lisa had told her, there were things she didn’t know. Things they had chosen not to tell her. And things that they didn’t know.

Who was Annabel? Who was Mary?

Mary Stewart wraps up a mystery and an emotional family drama with some lovely gothic touches

Yes, the plot does sound unbelievable, but she makes it work.

She attends to the practical details. Only a few people need be deceived for a very short time, and Annabel has been away for a long time. You can change a great detail, forget a certain amount, between the ages of nineteen and twenty-eight, and Mary’s own life history can be used to account for Annabel’s ‘lost years’.

And she writes it beautifully. Descriptions of the house and the country are beautifully and naturally written, the characters and their conversations are utterly real, the motions rang true, and I found it very easy to be drawn in.

There were so many gentle plot twists, so many emotional changes, and my involvement with the story never faltered.

There were lovely details too. Annabel’s cousin, Julie, was the same age that Annabel when she disappeared. Julie’s boyfriend, Donald, was an archaeologist involved with a project at a Roman fort in the area. And the plotters themselves note the similarity of their plan to Josephine Tey’s Brat Farrar …

The romance that I expected in a Mary Stewart novel arrived a little late, and the grand finale was everything a finale should be.

Having Mary tell the story was a wise decision. I questioned her reliability, and I wondered what she might be holding back, but now that her story is done I can’t fault her narration. I understand the reasons for everything she said and did; and for everything that she didn’t say and didn’t do.

I wonder if it’s significant that the author gave her leading lady her own name … ?

I had an idea how the plot would be resolved, and I got a lot of it but not everything.

A couple of small niggles: a few women characters a little too accepting of their situations, a few male characters a little undeveloped, and the unbelievability of the deception at the centre of the plot.

That leaves me incline to say that this is a book to read when you want to be entertained, but not when you want to be too analytical.

But, having said that, I can’t fault the logic. Now I look back I can see that there were clues. And I think that if I went back to the beginning and read The Ivy Tree all over again the logic would still hold up, and I would admire the cleverness of the construction.

I probably will one day ( )
1 vote BeyondEdenRock | Apr 18, 2017 |
Mary Stewart is a wonderful writer and so much about this book is excellent. However! Without giving any spoilers, it breaks one of my cardinal rules of fiction, and much aggravation was felt when I discovered this, far far into the book. I still enjoyed it, and though aggravated at that point I didn't chuck it against the wall, but obediently finished it. It does hang together well, but because of this and a few other small irritants, I don't class it with the finest of its genre. Worth a read, but not worth walking a mile to obtain. ( )
  thesmellofbooks | Feb 23, 2017 |
This is my second Mary Stewart gothic romance. I read [b:Nine Coaches Waiting|27695|Nine Coaches Waiting|Mary Stewart|https://d2arxad8u2l0g7.cloudfront.net/books/1390281225s/27695.jpg|1122506], which seems to fairly consistently reside in one of the top spots on vintage gothic romance lists, last year, and really enjoyed it.

The difficult nature of reviewing one of these gothic romances presents itself every time I sit down to write one. Much of the enjoyment in these books resides in experiencing the twists and turns of the plot as they unfold. Like a mystery, revealing the secrets of the book really will spoil it.

I thought this book was fantastically entertaining. Mary Stewart used continual misdirection very effectively, that had me believing one thing, and then a couple of chapters later, convinced of something else. It is intricately and cleverly plotted. I was wrong, wrong, wrong, and then wrong again.

If the book has a flaw, it is that it starts slow and the twists don't start revealing themselves until the second half of the book. There is a lot of work that goes into the set-up of the plot. Once the reveals begin happening, though, it is a race to the end. I thought that Stewart's method for revealing one of the twists was particularly subtle and clever, and a bit bewildering at the beginning of the process.

So many of these stories are set in Cornwall and on the moors, that I always like to mention the setting. This one is set in Northumbria, near Newcastle, on the heath and near Hadrian's Wall. There is less use made of the setting in this book than in many, but it's a nice change from some of the more traditional locations, and the plot involves an investigation into Roman artifacts.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed The Ivy Tree, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys vintage gothic romance. ( )
  moonlight_reads | Dec 11, 2016 |
Delcious fun. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
I don't know, I just don't know. Did I like this? Sometimes. But, oh Lord, the tedious description and slow start. I'm not sure I'd read another Mary Stewart novel. This just wasn't a winner with me, which I feel terribly guilty for. Maybe I saw the twist coming or maybe I just didn't like Annabel. I may be the only reader on or off Goodreads not to. ( )
  cemagoc | Aug 8, 2016 |
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Mary Stewartprimary authorall editionscalculated
Schäring, MarjattaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A north country maid up to London had stray'd,

Although with her nature it did not agree;

She wept, and she sighed, and she bitterly cried:

"I wish once again in the North I could be!

Oh! the oak and the ash, and bonny ivy tree,

They flourish at home in the North Country.

"No doubt, did I please, i could marry with ease;

Where maidens are fair many lovers will come:

But he whom I wed must be North country bred,

And carry me back to my North Country home.

Oh! the oak and the ash, and the bonny ivy tree,

They flourished at home in my own country."
For Fredith and Thomas Kemp
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I might have been alone in a painted landscape.
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Book description

An English June in the Roman Wall countryside; the ruin of a beautiful old house standing cheek-by-jowl with the solid, sunlit prosperity of the manor farm - a lovely place, and a rich inheritance for one of the two remaining Winslow heirs. There had been a third, but Annabel Winslow had died four years ago - so when a young woman calling herself Annabel Winslow comes 'home' to Whitescar, Con Winslow and his half-sister Lisa must find out whether she really is who she says she is.

Mary Grey has nothing to look forward to except a future as colorless as her name. So if she looks, walks, and smiles so much like the glamorous missing heiress Annabel Winslow, why not be her for a little while? To the lonely young woman--living in a dreary furnished room, faced with an uncertain future--the impersonation offered intriguing possibilities.

If Mary looked so much like the missing heiress, why should she not be an heiress? And so plain Mary became the glamorous Annabel. But she did not live happily ever after. In fact, she almost did not live at all. Because someone wanted Annabel Winslow missing ... permanently.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0340011157, Paperback)

An English June in the Roman Wall countryside; the ruin of a beautiful old house standing cheek-by-jowl with the solid, sunlit prosperity of the manor farm - a lovely place, and a rich inheritance for one of the two remaining Winslow heirs. There had been a third, but Annabel Winslow had died four years ago - so when a young woman calling herself Annabel Winslow comes 'home' to Whitescar, Con Winslow and his half-sister Lisa must find out whether she really is who she says she is.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:24 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Mary Grey had come from Canada to the land of her forebears: Northumberland. As she savored the ordered, spare beauty of England's northern fells, the silence was shattered by the shout of a single name: "Annabel!" And there stood one of the angriest, most threatening young men Mary had ever seen. His name was Connor Winslow, and Mary quickly discovered that he thought she was his cousin-a girl supposedly dead these past eight years. Alive, she would be heiress to an inheritance Connor was determined to have for himself. This remarkably atmospheric novel is one of bestselling-author Mary Stewart's richest, most tantalizing, and most surprising efforts, proving her a rare master of the genre.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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