Friday, December 29, 2023

92. The Moon Spinners by Mary Stewart

A decent undergrad thesis for a lit major could be made by a deep analysis of the feminist balancing act of Mary Stewart's books.  The female protagonists walk a very thin, wavering line between being active heroines and passive recipients of masculine heroics.  As the protagonist, they are the smarter, richer characters, yet the dangers they get themselves in often involve a man who controls some of the decision-making and much of the information.  You get these capable, confident and brave young women who must help out but are rebuffed by the men and then often rebuff themselves whenever things get "dangerous".  It's an odd sensation as a contemporary reader where you can't quite tell if Stewart is feeling bound by the strictures of mid-century British gender rules or if she accepts them and maybe even want to reinforce them.  It was a confusing time to be an independent young woman.

In the Moon-Spinners, Nicolas is a young English woman who lives and works in Athens at the British embassy. She plans a trip to get away from the busy city during Easter week to go to a remote village on the coast of the island of Crete.  Due to a mixup with her visiting cousin, she is dropped off a day early at a trailhead in the mountains that leads down to the village.  She decides to explore a bit first and after some very beautiful descriptions of the mountains and wildflowers, she discovers a wound englishman, Mark and a greek guide named Lambis.  Supposedly, they had earlier stumbled upon a murder and were attacked themselves and are now hiding out, not sure what to do. They can't go to the village because the murderers were local and they are still holding the Mark's 15 year old brother.

Despite Mark's insistence that she just leave them alone and ignore them and go about her vacation, Nicola can't help but ask questions and investigate.  She soon learns that the murdered may be the proprietors of the hotel where she is staying. There isn't much of a mystery here.  The tension comes from her trying to find Mark's brother without being discovered that she knows what is going on.  She really is quite brave and the climax where she has to swim out at night is exciting and somehow sort of hot (she strips down to bra and panties which for 1962 feels quite racy).  There is the almost bare minimum of interaction between she and Mark, but somehow it leads to love as you knew it would and it feels romantic.  

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