Mini Review: Mary Stewart’s Nine Coaches Waiting

Mary Stewart’s Nine Coaches Waiting is definitely gothic in tone, and very atmospheric. It features a looming chateau (sorry castles, you went out of fashion somewhere in the beginning of the 20th century), a villain who’s also known as the Demon King and who oozes villainy through his very pores, a down-on-luck heroine, a rather aloof hero, and you get my drift.

The thing is that while I enjoyed starting the story, and getting to know our heroine (the story’s a first person narrative, told from her POV), and seeing how she goes about making friends with the nine-year old Philippe whom she’s been employed to governess at the start of the story, and being appropriately frightened by Philippe’s uncle Leon who didn’t need a neon sign on his forehead to announce his evil intentions of appropriating Philippe’s inheritance for himself, and lapping up all the description about the glorious countryside (which is set up as a rather nice antidote to the distressing atmosphere of the chateau), before long I started getting bored.

I think it was all that sunny countryside which somewhere along the way started becoming soporific. Which is quite weird considering how much I enjoy reading “nature writing” otherwise.

Then there was our heroine, who despite a prosaic name like Linda Martin, and being very plucky when it’s called for (duh!) is a little silly for my tastes. Silly in a way that irritates me rather than amuses me. And since the whole story IS told from her perspective I guess I was bound to start twitching a little and just wanting the stupid story to end up already, right? I have to say that her meet-cute, or should I call it the meet-RAWR!, with the hero Raoul is just. . . so over-the-top. She’s lost in her thoughts wandering the woods late at night (I kid you not, our girl likes wandering the woods that surround the isolated chateau in the middle of the night to shake off the blues) when she’s almost run-over by our hero. Umm. . . what?

You know what I’m tempted to do now? Read Daphne Du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn to see if it’s me. By which I mean that perhaps I maybe constitutionally unsuited for the over-the-top? (My husband, if he could look over my shoulder right now, would very definitely shake his head from side to side).

So anyway, that’s all about my run-in with Mary Stewart. I did so have high hopes for her. Perhaps I should try another Mary Stewart with a slightly different tone than this one? You guys have any recommendations?

6 thoughts on “Mini Review: Mary Stewart’s Nine Coaches Waiting

  1. I am not much for Gothic tones either (though I quite enjoyed Jamaica Inn on audio, where I have more tolerance for over the topness). I have not read all of Stewart by any means, but I much preferred Airs Above the Ground to this one. It’s more suspense/spy thriller and I love the horse parts. Though there IS a castle. And I haven’t read The Ivy Tree but I plan to, because many people list it as a favorite.

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    • Hahaha! The castle’s probably laughing at my all-(not)-knowingness! The Ivy Tree sounds intriguing—I shall line that up for when I am next in the mood for something atmospheric and gothic-y. As will be done for Jamaica Inn.

      I remember reading some of Daphne Du Maurier years ago and mostly enjoying it. And earlier this summer I was lucky enough to be in London for a week, and got a chance to see Daphne Du Maurier’s house in Hampstead Village! That was exciting!

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  2. I think expectations matter so much to my enjoyment of books like these. My mum gave me this book and said “it’s Gothic and silly,” and that’s what I went in expecting, and that’s what I got. It did make me want to reread Elizabeth Peters’ The Camelot Caper, which is both a send-up of the genre and an excellent example of it.

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    • I think you’re right.

      There’s a lot of stuff that I enjoy precisely because I know what I’m going to be in for. If I’d known about the silliness factor beforehand, I’d have girded myself up accordingly!

      And now I will have to go look up The Camelot Caper too!

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  3. Oh I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy reading this one! Nine Coaches Waiting was my first Mary Stewart and I liked it. I also liked Madam, Will You Talk, I think that’s her only other title that’s set in France.

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