Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Airs Above the Ground by Mary Stewart

I must have read Airs Above the Ground when I was 13 or so, quite close still to the horse-mad stage, and I adored Mary Stewart’s adventure story of a stolen Lippizan stallion. At the time I knew about the Spanish Riding School because my friend and I had been to see the Disney film, shown here as The Flight of the White Horses, about the evacuation of the horses from their stud near the Bavarian border during the War, and as I read, I could imagine the elegant horses dancing with that air of quiet concentration they have, executing pirouettes and caprioles for a spellbound audience in the pillared arena of the Winter Riding School in Vienna. So romantic!

Returning to the book all these years later, I found my enjoyment unimpaired. Vanessa March has been patient during the first two years of marriage about husband Lewis’s commitment to his job, but at long last they planning a holiday. So she’s furious when he cancels at the last minute because of a work trip to Stockholm, and then hurt and angry when he is spotted in a newsreel film somewhere in Austria, and apparently with another woman. She’s offered the chance to follow him to Austria, escorting her friend’s 17-year-old son Tim to meet his father, and before long Vanessa and Tim find themselves following a circus towards the Yugoslav border, intent on discovering the truth behind a suspicious death.

The story plays out in just a few days at a fairly breathless pace, with a denouement which begins in a suitably gothic castle. It’s delightfully exciting in a terribly decorous sort of way – it won’t make your heart race, but you probably won’t want to put it down. And you’d have to be pretty hard-boiled not to be caught up in the story of the horse who isn’t what he seems.

7 comments:

  1. I read this fairly recently and loved it. The setting tied in well with the Eva Ibbotson books I was reading at the time.

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  2. I read this many years ago; all I remember was my fascination with those beautiful horses!

    In fact, I remember very little about Mary Stewart's books although I read and loved so many of them.

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  3. I haven't read Mary Stewart yet. I used to try to read her Arthur books every year or two, and never got anywhere with them. I feel like her writing style is maybe not so good for me.

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  4. Jenny - I've never got on with her Arthurian books either, but I love the romantic suspense ones. Give them a chance! I think my favourite is The Ivy Tree, but Airs Above the Ground is pretty good too!

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  5. I read this many years ago too, about the same age! I'm with Jenclair, I remember reading almost every Mary Stewart there was, and enjoying them very much back then, so much so that I'm considering rereading them, partly because you are having so much fun reading them even now when we aren't so young. They do sound so enjoyable, still. I've already picked up Touch Not the Cat.....I might as well start looking for them all! lol

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  6. Lovely to find other people who remember and like her books - I want to re-read them all now. Jenny, maybe you'd enjoy the suspense ones more than the Arthurian books? She has a very light touch in them.

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  7. Ooh, I really like the sound of this book - I hadn't heard of it before. Thanks for the review - I will be adding this to Mt.TBR!

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