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 read–my mother, her friends, me, and eventually my younger sisters–and of all Stewart’s books it was The Moon-Spinners that siren-called me back to its pages again and again.
Nicola Ferris is on holiday in Crete, surrounded by age-old 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 Moon-Spinners it’s so gorgeous and transporting I relish every word and image. While the story is set firmly and very compellingly in the all-too-real 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, quick-witted, and independent.
It had been decades since my last reading, and delving back into The Moon-Spinners was like going on an archaeological dig through layers of my own worldview, helping me remember, even re-feel, 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.