This beautifully written, utterly charming romantic thriller kept my heart pounding in terrified suspense, even though my original copy of the book is falling apart because I’ve read the story so many times. When I was twelve or thirteen, Mary Stewart was a favorite author of everyone I knew who loved to readmy mother, her friends, me, and eventually my younger sistersand of all Stewart’s books it was The MoonSpinners that sirencalled me back to its pages again and again.
Nicola Ferris is on holiday in Crete, surrounded by ageold ruins, sunny skies, and colorful wildflowers. While hiking among fragrant lemon groves on the craggy hills of the White Mountains, she impulsively follows the path of flying egret and runs into an Englishman who’s been shot, yet won’t tell her what happened and just wants her to go away and forget she ever saw him, though he obviously needs help. But as Nicola continues her vacation, enjoying the beautiful scenery and relaxing with her cousin, she can’t help noticing details that draw her back to the mystery and into danger.
I’m not normally a reader who enjoys a lot of description in books, but in The MoonSpinners it’s so gorgeous and transporting I relish every word and image. While the story is set firmly and very compellingly in the alltooreal world, Stewart’s writing is laced with ancient myths and literary allusions.
The novel was written in the early 1960’s and Nicola shares some of the attitudes of that era, a time when men were leaders, male superiority was casually accepted by just about everyone, and the ideal for women was to be safely put up on a pedestal, but Nicola strains against those strictures too because she’s observant, quickwitted, and independent. It had been decades since my last reading, and delving back into The MoonSpinners was like going on an archaeological dig through layers of my own worldview, helping me remember, even refeel, some of my earliest understandings of life and love and the kind of person I wanted to be, since I was brought up surrounded by those early 60’s assumptions too, before everything started changing just a few years later in the decade.
“It was the egret, flying out of the lemongrove, that started it. I won’t pretend I saw it straight away as the conventional herald of adventure, the white stag of the fairytale, which, bounding from the enchanted thicket, entices the prince away from his followers, and loses him in the forest where danger threatens with the dusk. But, when the big white bird flew suddenly up among the glossy leaves and the lemonflowers, and wheeled into the mountain, I followed it.”
This is the opening of Mary Stewart’s The Moonspinners, an adventure suspense story from 1962. It is an enticing opening for those who want to immerse themselves in a fantasy world; one full of mystery and romance. Egrets and lemongroves … and someone promising us a tale of danger and adventure. Where can this be, this exotic location, and who is confiding their enchanting flight of fantasy to us? We are hooked. We read on …
“What else is there to do when such a thing happens on a brilliant April noonday at the foot of the White Mountains of Crete; when the road is hot and dusty, but the gorge is green, and full of the sound of water, and the white wings, flying ahead, flicker in and out of deep shadow, and the air is full of the scent of lemonblossom?”
Mary Stewart’s powers of description are mesmerising; gradually enfolding us in a world of sensation. The book is redolent with scenes of great beauty; shimmering colours, heady aromas, the bewitching magic of the exotic and strange.
“I could smell verbena, and lavender, and a kind of sage. Over the hot white rock and the deep green of the maquis, the judas trees lifted their clouds of scented flowers the colour of purple daphne, …
Silence. No sound of bird; no bell of sheep. Only the drone of a bee over the blue sage at the roadside. No sign of man’s hand anywhere in the world, except the road where I stood, the track before me, and a white vapour trail, high in the brilliant sky.”
It might read like a travelogue, except that the scenes it describes are picture postcard perfect. This is her skill. Mary Stewart dazzles and draws you in with her glorious descriptions; impressions that are so sublime that they seem unreal. In this Mary Stewart novel, it is not the handsome young stranger who is so ravishing; it is the island itself which captivates and seduces.
“The trees were spindly, thinstemmed and lightleaved; aspens, and white poplars, and something unknown to me, with round, thin leaves like wafers, that let the sun through in a dazzle of flickering green. Between the stems was a riot of bushes, but mostly these were of light varieties like honeysuckle and wild clematis …
A little stir of the breeze lifted the treetops above me, so that the sunmotes spilled dazzlingly through on to the water, and shadows slid over the stones. A couple of butterflies, which had been drinking at the water’s edge, floated off like blown leaves, and a goldfinch, with a flash of brilliant wings, flirted its way past me into some high bushes in an overhanging piece of cliff.”
There is romance, and there is also mystery. Mary Stewart was one of the most prominent writers of romantic suspense novels: a blend of romantic fiction and mystery novels. However her noticeable writing skills, and her references to classical mythology in this novel, put her above the mainstream. Critics consider her work to be superior to those of other acclaimed romantic suspense novelists such as Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney. I cannot comment on this, never having read those authors, but I am seduced by her writing. Her powers of description are impressive—within their narrow parameters. Do not expect to find anything undesirable, grubby or ugly within these novels. Mary Stewart somehow manages her breathtaking thrills, scaring her readers with nailbiting suspense, without cracking the surface of her perfectly divine vistas.
“The water was smooth and gentle, but with an early morning sting to it, and a small breeze below the salt foam splashing against my lips. The headland glowed in the early sunlight, golden above the darkblue sea that creamed over the stormbeach at its feet.
Here, where I swam, the water was emerald over a shallow bar, the sunlight striking down right through it to illumine the rock below. It threw the shadow of the boat fully two fathoms down through the clear green water.”
We have the sparkling heroine Nicola, who at 22 years of age, bright, competent and attractive, is destined to find true love in this most romantic of destinations. Combining the two genres, developing a full mystery story while also gradually increasingly the strength of the attraction between two people, enables the author to provide a focus. Mary Stewart herself said that the process of solving the mystery “helps to illuminate” the hero’s personality, thereby also helping the heroine to fall in love with him. It is a neat trick, and once you have read one Mary Stewart novel, you can see how adept she is at manipulating her readers with it. She does it exceptionally well—and they love her for it. Many a Mary Stewart fan will cry, “I didn’t want this to end!” And what greater accolade can there really be, for a teller of tales?
“It was already hot. On this stretch of the hill there were no trees, other than an occasional thin poplar with bonewhite boughs. Thistles grew in the cracks of the rock, and everywhere over the dry dust danced tiny yellow flowers, on threadlike stalks that let them flicker in the breeze two inches above the ground. They were lovely little things, a million motes of gold dancing in a dusty beam, but I trudged over them almost without seeing them. The joy had gone; there was nothing in my world now but the stony track, and the job it was me to do. I plodded on in the heat, weary already. There is noone so leadenfooted as the reluctant bringer of bad news.”
Mary Stewart’s heroine, Nicola Ferris, is portrayed as a typically independent young woman for the time. She is a junior secretary at the British Embassy in Athens, Greece. She knows the country, its language and culture very well, but yearns for tranquillity and solitude when she is on holiday, and knows exactly where to find it: in a small village called Agios Georgios, on the beautiful island of Crete. By a series of unforeseen circumstances, she ends up in a remote area, with nobody knowing exactly where she is, or expecting to see her for another day or so.
This does not faze her at all. Rather, she makes the most of this opportunity for immersing herself in the isolation, greedily absorbing the stunning natural environment. Exulting as she finds another idyllic spot, she scrambles to another unique viewpoint, and achieves another ambitious climb. Nicola feels it is simply perfect, and looks forward to the next day, when she will be able to share it all with her older cousin Frances, who is a keen photographer and botanist. The two get on well well together, and Frances has been tempted to join Nicola, because of her descriptions—from earlier holidays—of the wonderful landscape, and proliferation of indigenous wild flowers. Nicola and Frances, coming from different destinations, are each then due to arrive at a small village hotel in Agios Georgios. It is run by a friend of a friend, and although very modest, said to promise excellent and authentic Greek cuisine.
It is, of course, all too perfect. Nicola’s impulses to be entirely alone quicken our pulse rates, as we realise the very real danger she is in. All of a sudden, having ventured up a littleused path into the White Mountains, she finds herself, a tourist, in the tight grip of one of the country’s inhabitants, with a knife at her throat.
The story which follows is a tale of greed, family feuds, blood vengeance, passion, murder and crime. It is full of suspense, and the reader switches between suspecting one character, and then another. In addition to Nicola and Frances we have Lambis and Mark, Stratos Alexiakis and Tony, Sophia and Josef, and the youngsters, Georgi, Ariadni and Colin. There are Greeks, Cretans and English, here, and it is not clear until the end who are the culprits and who the victims. Is it either of the two hiking companions? Is it one of the hotel proprietors? Is it one of the villagers? We root for some characters of course, willing the villain not to be the young man Mark, whom Nicola (despite her protestations of independence) is well on the way to falling in love with, nor can we bring ourselves to believe that the eminently sensible and likeable cousin Frances has anything to do with it.
So why is someone in hiding? Why is it so necessary that she not become involved? What are the secrets which, at all costs, Nicola must not discover? As the plot dramatically unfolds, both Nicola and the reader begin to gradually piece together the clues. The net is closing in, with Nicola and her loved ones caught in the middle. In mortal danger, Nicola must find solutions which not only demand all her ingenuity, but also necessitate more and more daring feats of physical skill.
The story cranks up to a very exciting ending, with thrills and spills aplenty. For all her claims to independence, and the many episodes in the novel where it is Nicola herself who works out the mystery, and saves one of the others from certain death, in the end we have a knockabout scene where her hero shows that he is a manly man at heat, with the temper and strength any wimpish heroine could desire.
We are reminded that this in 1962. Females are on their way to becoming accepted as strongly authoritative figures, but are not yet empowered; they still have a tendency to go weak at the knees on occasion. On the other hand, a distinction is drawn between the more emancipated English females, and their Cretan counterparts, which is probably quite authentic.
Another jarring note is the description of a clearly gay character, Tony. It feels very much here as if Mary Stewart is investing Frances with her own attitudes. Frances calls Tony “Ceddie”, or “Little Lord Fauntleroy” behind his back. For one character to relate to another in this way would be acceptable as part of her personality, but when the author herself writes Tony’s speech as such a camp caricature, it becomes rather distasteful.
It is also a bit of a cheat for the characters to keep referring to later events as “Boy’s Own stuff” when actually that is exactly how the reader feels they are coming across! Having three children in the book, one of whom is an impressionable young teenager, is quite enough for us to have scenes of derringdo seen from their point of view, without drawing attention to the unrealistic and farfetched nature of the adventures.
Incidentally, there is a 1964 film based on this novel, starring Hayley Mills, Eli Wallach and Peter McEnery. It is a Walt Disney production, and apparently the plot diverges widely from Mary Stewart’s book. The visuals are good, with no expense spared in the production. It was filmed on location in Crete, where Disney rebuilt a wardamaged village and hired local people as the background players. But it is only very loosely based on Mary Stewart’s novel.
If we take The Moonspinners at face value, as one of the better popular novels from 1962—rather than an alltime classic, with concerns and insights above and beyond its time—then it’s a ripping yarn, and most enjoyable. Mary Stewart draws from the classics in every chapter, always beginning with a quotation from one of the Romantic poets, or a particularly lyrical poetic quotation from an earlier or later poet. Many of these are poems which relate to Greek mythology. Setting the scene in this way, as well as the accuracy of her references to the indigenous flora and fauna, ensures that Mary Stewart’s novels are always just that little bit above the ordinary. To go back to the very beginning, preceding her opening are these words from Keats’s “Endymion”:
“Lightly this little herald flew aloft …
Onward it flies …
until it reach’d a splashing fountain’s side
That, near a cavern’s mouth, for ever pour’d
Unto the temperate air …”
which set the mood and atmosphere perfectly for what is to follow. And that title, so romantic in itself? It is from an old Greek legend, as Nicola explains:
“They’re naiads – water nymphs. Sometimes, when you’re deep in the countryside, you meet three girls, walking along the hill tracks in the dusk, spinning. They each have a spindle, and onto these they are spinning their wool, milkwhite, like the moonlight. In fact, it is the moonlight, the moon itself, which is why they don’t carry a distaff. They’re not Fates, or anything terrible; they don’t affect the lives of men; all they have to do is to see that the world gets its hours of darkness, and they do this by spinning the moon down out of the sky. Night after night, you can see the moon getting less and less, the ball of light waning, while it grows on the spindles of the maidens. Then, at length, the moon is gone, and the world has darkness, and rest, and the creatures of the hillsides are safe from the hunter, and the tides are still …
Then, on the darkest night, the maidens take their spindles down to the sea, to wash their wool. And the wool slips from the spindles into the water, and unravels in long ripples of light from the shore to the horizon, and there is the moon again, rising above the sea, just a thin curved thread, reappearing in the sky. Only when all the wool is washed, and wound again into a white ball in the sky, can the moonspinners start their work once more, to make the night safe for hunted things …”
Mary, was in truth “Lady Stewart”, although she never used the title. She also had the beautiful maiden name of “Rainbow”, and her writing feels not only English, but also very restrained in its passion. If you are an unashamed romantic, and like plenty of literary allusions; and if, in keeping with the author, you prefer your romance to be a variety of highquality lyricism, rather than erotica, then this novel may well make you swoon. @BOOK ⚢ The Moon-Spinners Ü The Moon SpinnersIMDb In The Usually Quiet Coastal Town Of Aghios Georgios, They Manage To Get A Room At An Inn Called The Moon Spinners, Despite The People At The Inn Being Busy Preparing For A Wedding, And No One There, Except Alexis Michael Davis , The Young Teen Son Of The Proprietress Sophia Irene Papas , He Who Is Fond Of Spouting Current Popular Americanisms In His Slightly Broken English, Seeming To Want ThemThe Moon Spinners Mary Stewart Livres NotRetrouvez The Moon Spinners Et Des Millions De Livres En Stock SurAchetez Neuf Ou D Occasion The Moon Spinners Import AnglaisHayleyThe Moon Spinners Import Anglais Format DVD , Surtoilesvaluations DVD , Cassette Vido , Autres Formats DVD Dition Disques PrixNeuf Partir De Occasion Partir De DVDjanvierVeuillez RessayerDVDjuilletVeuillez RessayerLivrjuilTHE MOON SPINNERS Livres NotRetrouvez THE MOON SPINNERS Et Des Millions De Livres En Stock SurAchetez Neuf Ou D OccasionThe Moon Spinners Livres NotRetrouvez The Moon Spinners Et Des Millions De Livres En Stock SurAchetez Neuf Ou D Occasion MOON SPINNERS RESTAURANT, Elounda Restaurant AvisMoon Spinners Restaurant, Elounda Consultezavis Sur Moon Spinners Restaurant, Notsursur Tripadvisor Et Classsurrestaurants Elounda The Moon Spinners Disney Movies The Moon Spinners Trailer Stolen Jewels, A Dash Of Danger, And Romance Season This Hitchcock Like Mystery Thriller With Comic Flair For The Whole Family The Moon Spinners Full Movie YouTube Watch The Moon Spinners Full Movie IN HD Visit Young English Girl Nikky And Her Aunt Arrive At The Moon Spinners, A H The Moon Spinners WikipediaThe Moon Spinners The Perfect Comforting Read A Quiet Holiday In Crete Turns Into A Thrilling Romantic Adventure In One Of The Most Famous Novels By The Beloved Novelist Mary Stewart
“But, as a form of exercise, I cannot recommend carrying a suitcase for a mile or so along sand and shingle at the dead of night, and then edging one's way along a narrow path where a false step will mean plunging into a couple of fathoms of sea that, however quiet, is toothed like a shark with jagged fangs of rock.”
An intrepid heroine, instalove, nylon underwear, cigarettes, &, above all, gorgeous, beautifully described Cretan scenerythis Stewart suspense novel has it all! I could hardly tear myself away from it's pages.
If I wanted to, I could pick some nitsthe hero & heroine have very little time together, one crucial plot point makes very little sense & (view spoiler)[ after all the action was over, our admittedly brave young couple forgot all about Nicola's cousin Frances who was sitting on a beach at night time with a twisted ankle (hide spoiler)] Thanks to GR friend Tadiana Night Owl, I was able to read this book with the Mary Stewart group. I am fairly certain I had never read it before, or at least if I did I could not remember anything about it, even as the pages turned.
I have read a couple other Stewart titles recently and was somewhat disappointed, but The Moon Spinners more than made up for those. Nicola Ferris is off for a vacation in Crete, to meet her cousin Frances, who has been delayed for a day or two. (This sort of thing seems to happen frequently in Stewart novels, and it certainly gives the main characters time to get into mischief!) Which of course is exactly what Nicole does. She decides that she has a day given to her by the gods, and she takes a hike up into the mountains of the island, following an impulse to follow an egret that was flying that way.
And not long after that mischief is met in the form of a large Greek man who makes Nicole go with him to an old shepherd's hut. What she finds there sets the entire story in motion, and proves that Nicole is not only impulsive but brave, daring and resourceful as well. I am sure I would have turned into a sniveling, blithering idiot under the same circumstances.
I sometimes scolded Nicole for her choices, but mostly I liked her very much. Cousin Frances does show up eventually: I liked her a lot too. I'm glad to have had the chance to read this classic Stewart mystery, and sharing it as a group buddy read made it even more fun.
AND I learned a secret for Someday in the kitchen. Nicola is wandering the village at one point, just looking around (okay, looking for clues to her mystery). She sees a fisherman beating an octopus and says to herself that his family will eat well that night. Beating an octopus?! I had to Google to find out why you would need to do that. Turns out the the meat of a freshly caught octopus needs to have help to make it tender. Hence the beating. Which I will remember should that infamous Someday ever come when I plan to cook a fresh octopus. (Easily available in the shops here but I very greatly doubt one will ever slither its way into my kitchen!) Rediscovering Mary Stewart
It must have been about 40 years ago that I first discovered Mary Stewart. At that time I read everything by her that I could get my hands on. I'm happy to see that a new generation is discovering her also. I reread The MoonSpinners as part of an Enchanted MegaBuddy Read in a group that I belong to in Goodreads. It was fun comparing notes and having one of the other readers pick up some significant detail that you missed. I can honestly say that a good time was had by all.
For me it was a pleasurable reread of an old friend. I remembered almost nothing from the first read 40 years ago. The heroine of the story was an English girl named Nicola. She works in a minor capacity at the British Embassy in Athens. She and her cousin Frances agree to meet for a holiday in a small town on the Isle of Crete.
You can tell that this was written in a kinder, gentler time because I can't imagine a 22 year old girl today would be safe wondering around on Crete all alone.
Nicola decides to take a trek into the mountains before heading for the small town of Agioas Georgios where her cousin will be joining her in a few days. Mary Stewart paints a glorious picture of the scenery. Her words bring out the beauty of Crete.
While on her wondering through the countryside, she stumbles across a wounded man and his companion with a strange story to tell. She helps the wounded man, Mark, a fellow Englishman, while he tells her how he ended up with the bullet hole. Suddenly Crete doesn't seem that safe after all and the tiny town where she and her cousin will be staying suddenly seems dangerous.
That is as far as I go into the story without divulging the rest of the story which the reader needs to discover for themselves. This book is fascinating, exciting and so worth reading. Enjoy!!! Mary Stewart always starts her adventure novels in the most delightful spotsand then twists of fate lead her heroines and us into peril.
Nicola Ferris is on vacation from her job as a secretary at the British Embassy in Athens. She's planning a week in a quiet spot on the south coast of Crete with her older cousin, Francis, a horticulturalist who runs a successful business specializing in rock gardens. They've found the perfect localea new B&B with a gourmet, Londontrained chef in an unspoiled village by the sea.
Lots of hiking in the hills looking at wild flowers
Checking out ruined Byzantine churches
Enjoying quiet dinners on the terrace
And swimming in the winedark sea.
What could possibly go wrong? Here...where the wild White Mountains plunge towards the sea and craggy, rockstrewn hills hide cutthroats and killers?
Plenty can go wrong and does, right from the very first chapter, as Nicola finds herself following a wild, white bird in flight into the hills towards adventure, instalove and a fight for her life.
Lots of action, literary references, wonderful supporting characters (especially the acerbic and sensible, Francis, and a talented and very amusing chef and interior decorator, Tony). There's is plenty of local color, lots of humor and even more terror than usual in the closing chapters.
PG for some violence.
I knew I was going to be in love with this novel when I read the opening paragraph.
I saw it straight away as the conventional herald of adventure, the white stag of the fairytale, which, bounding from the enchanted thicket, entices the prince away from his followers, and loses him in the forest where danger threatens with the dusk.
My mind threw back immediately to Arthur pursuing the white stag to find Excalibur in her masterpiece Merlin trilogy, and I settled down to love every word yet to come.
Who can resist a man in trouble? No Nicola Ferris, evidently, for despite the imminent danger, she links her fate with a wounded stranger she finds in the remote mountains of a Cretan village. Perhaps I have always loved Stewart so much because she paints the kind of witty, fearless, adventurous women that all young girls secretly long to be. I certainly did. Nancy Drew for a slightly older crowd? Whatever it is, I seem to sink into her world and never wish to exit until I have reached the last page, and I find them just as much fun at my advanced age as I did when I was in my teens and devouring them for the first time.
Lest you think Mary Stewart a simple, unsophisticated romance writer, allow me to assure you that she writes with wit, and with a knowledge base that shows at every turn. She brings her settings to life, she stirs in some mythology and classical references, and she gives you a bit of classic poetry to start off every chapter head.
They’re not fates, or anything terrible; they don’t affect the lives of men; all they have to do is see that the world gets its hours of darkness, and they do this by spinning the moon down out of the sky. Night after night, you can see the moon getting less and less, the ball of light waning, while it grows on the spidles of the maidens. Then, at length, the moon is gone, and the world has darkness, and rest, and the creatures of the hillsides are safe from the hunter and the tides are still...Then in the darkest night, the maidens take their spindles down to the sea, to wash their wool. And the wool slips from the spindles into the water, and unravels in long ripples of light from the shore to the horizon, rising above the sea, just a thin curved thread, reappearing in the sky.
I’m not sure I will ever look at the full or waning moon in the same light again. If that image doesn’t grab you, you have no romance in your soul, and this isn’t the author for you. If, like me, you would like to exercise your ability to suspend your disbelief and stroll in a land you might never see in reality and come away feeling you have been there and walked its streets...well, dive in...Mary Stewart and Crete are waiting.
October 2018 buddy read with the Mary Stewart group, just starting now!
In the early 1960s, Nicola Ferris is vacationing in a remote area of the Greek island of Crete when she stumbles into unexpected trouble. Hiking in the hills, she comes across two men, one of whom, Mark Langley, is critically injured. She spends the night taking care of him while the other guy is off doing Other Stuff, and helps him fall asleep by telling him the story of the moon spinners:
"Night after night, you can see the moon getting less and less, the ball of light waning, while it grows on the spindles of the maidens. Then at length, the moon is gone, and the world has darkness, and rest, and the creatures of the hillsides are safe from the hunter".
The next day she is shooed off by the men, who don't want her to get involved in their troubles. If only they knew that by sending her to the small hotel in the nearby village of Agios Georgios, they're sending her from the perimeter of the dangerous plot right into the heart of it...
This was the first Mary Stewart novel I ever read, back when I was a high school sophomore. In fact, this book is responsible for my getting a crush on a cute senior who had a Greek last name and a great head of hair just like Stewart lovingly describes in the book: "... that black pelt of hair, thick and close as a ram's fleece, which is one of the chief beauties of the Greek men." Good times!
So anyway, I've got a soft spot for this book, like I seem to have for most of these old Mary Stewart romantic suspense novels, because memories, so it's probably getting a bit of a rating bump because of that. It's lightweight perhaps, but still it's a fun, suspenseful adventure with just a little romance. Stewart is a wonderful author who gives even light novels a nice literary touch. Nicola is a cando kind of girl, and her sarcastic cousin Frances is one of the joys of the book.
"All right, what's his name?"Another delightful romantic suspense novel from Mary Stewart set (as usual) in an exotic location.
"How d'you know it's a he?"
"It always is. Besides, I assume it's the one you spent the night with."
"Oh. Yes... He's a civil engineer. His name's Mark Langley."
"It isn't 'ah' at all! As a matter of fact," I said, very clearly, "I rather detest him."
"Oh, God," said Frances, "I knew this would happen one day. No, don't glare at me, I'm only teasing. You've spent the night with a detestable engineer called Mark. It makes a rousing start. Tell all."
Art credit: "Spinning Moonlight" by David Wyatt