Somewhat ashamedly I admit that Nine Coaches Waiting is my very first foray into the fabulous world of Mary Stewart. Which seems utterly absurd to me now that I've gone and read it because it reads like a laundry-list for All Things Michelle Adores. The language (can you get more romantic than French?), the setting (I swear I could see those twisting zigzag switchbacks leading up to the château), the frightening yet enigmatic Valmy family (Léon practically gave me the shivers with his puppet master-like remarks). And oh! The suspense! Told in Linda's first person narrative, I could not have been more caught up in her fears and triumphs and most importantly her unease concerning whom to trust.
It's like Jane Eyre and Rebecca (two of my all time favorite reads) went and had a gorgeously intelligent baby with a flair for the dramatic and a penchant for poetry. I don't think I've ever read a book that references another so subtly and appropriately. And the best part is that Linda even makes the Jane Eyre connection herself -- she is fully aware of the similarities but it only serves to heighten the aptness of the comparison, not lessen it. How does Ms. Stewart do that?!
Furthermore, Mary Stewart possess that rare quality in a writer of being able to not say something and have it mean a great deal. This may seem like a small thing, but I so appreciate an author who is willing to trust her readers to pick up the threads and make sense of their emotional import without beating the thought to death. It's a very quiet trait (and often very undervalued) but I think Ms. Stewart has it in spades.
Ms. Stewart certainly understands how to play upon this readers' emotions; despite its initial slow buildup, there was always yet another twist just around the corner to throw my heart back into overdrive. Truly when all's said and done Nine Coaches Waiting packs a bit of a wallop in the best way possible. I literally could not put it down and venture to say, if you're a Mary Stewart innocent like I was, I recommend you remedy the situation immediately.
Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
The Allure of Books review
Book Harbinger review
Chachic's Book Nook review
She Reads Novels review
book source: purchased