Friday, December 22, 2017

A Relative Stranger (Book Review)

Title: A Relative Stranger
Author: Anne Stevenson
Publication: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, Hardcover, 1969
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Plot: Julie, a freelance artist, living in London, has had a hard time concentrating on her career since her much older brother Richard disappeared nearly three years ago. Involved in some kind of espionage, Richard is being held in a prison by unspecified bad guys. But when Richard is released, Julie is asked to help identify the aloof stranger and she isn’t quite sure it’s her brother. Then the mysterious but attractive Stephen Archer appears at her front door with a postcard from Richard just as Julie receives on herself, and she really doesn’t know who to trust . . .

Audience: Fans of Mary Stewart. While there will never be another Mary Stewart, there are a few good wannabes and Stevenson, who wrote seven novels in the 70s and early 80s, was one of them. My mother introduced me to both authors.  In return, I have introduced her to Susanna Kearsley who is definitely the best substitute Stewart currently writing (her books are quite different in some ways but certainly appeal to Stewart fans).

These books have quite the gothic look
My Impressions: I never mind rereading books that are dated but there was one scene in particular that really came across as inappropriate, given the current climate! Julie is visiting the publishing company she freelances for and the art editor who is her boss flirts with her very casually in front of his secretary Anne:

He had known Julie for more than a year and professed himself enraptured by her legs. . . 

“Hey, Anne ---“ He pulled his secretary around by the skirt as she passed his desk.

“When are you going to marry me, Julie?”
She shook her head, smiling.
“Well, if you won’t marry me, when are you going to sleep with me? This afternoon – I’ve no appointments this afternoon, have I, Anne?”

It turns out he roomed with Julie’s brother at university which surely makes his flirting even less acceptable (and remember, a freelancer is often totally dependent on his/her one contact to secure additional work) although I know it was a different world then.

Source: I remember enjoying A Relative Stranger back in the day and picked it up at the Brookline Library recently for a reread. Now, of course, I am trying to recall which of her books I read and which were never at my library in those pre-Internet, pre-Inter Library Loan days, and how to obtain some of the more obscure titles.   Note: there is another Anne Stevenson who is a British poet.


Unknown said...

Thank you so much for your review of my mother's book. She would have been thrilled that people are reading her novels. Just want to point out though that she was never a "wannabe" Mary Stewart, but an extraordinary woman in her own right, with very much her own voice. She read History at Oxford at a very young age, and whilst she could have gone down an academic route, after my grandfather died tragically young, she decided to write instead, eventually supporting herself and her family entirely through her writing for many years - not bad for a young woman in the 1950s and 1960s.

CLM said...

Dear Ms. Avery: Thank you so much for commenting! I am a fan of her work, and to some extent my comment was to "place" her style for readers more familiar with Mary Stewart. My library growing up in Boston had most of your mother's books but I think it was the early 70s when my mother brought them home. Something reminded me A Relative Stranger a couple months ago and I was pleased it was still available at a Massachusetts library, and have followed up by reading Turkish Rondo. Her love of history is very apparent in her books! I appreciate your sharing this background on her - and, yes, pretty impressive she was able to support her family through her writing in that era.