Mary, Winifred & Stella

Can you tell by the title of this post that it’s going to be about middlebrow women writers? Well, it is. Not a review but an enticement of lovely treats to come. As promised, here are the gorgeous new Mary Stewart reprints I’ve bought in anticipation of a reread one day soon.

I love the Vogue-style covers & I’ve been dipping in as they’ve arrived, trying to decide which one to read first. As it will probably be a winter Sunday afternoon read, should I go for the contrast of one of the stories set in hot places like Crete (Moonspinners) or Israel (Gabriel Hounds) or should I go for the Scottish coolness of Stormy Petrel? Decisions, decisions.


I was very excited to read on Dani’s blog, A Work in Progress, the other day that Virago are reprinting three more Winifred Holtby novels on the strength of the success of South Riding. Here’s a link to the Virago announcement, from where I also got the photo above. I love the covers, all based on railway or tramway advertisements of the 30s.

Speaking of beautiful cover art, the covers of the new reprints of Stella Gibbons by Vintage Classics have been revealed (pictures from The Book Depository). Am I shallow to be swayed by such beauty? I don’t think so! Conference at Cold Comfort Farm, Westwood & Starlight will be published in August, Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm, which is a volume of short stories, just before Christmas.

17 thoughts on “Mary, Winifred & Stella

  1. I guess I must be very shallow too, because I'd buy all the Gibbons and the Holtbys based on the covers alone. I don't think I'm completely shallow, since I know something about the authors — I won't buy a book just based on the cover if I know nothing about it (but if I saw it in a bookstore I'd write down the title and look it up online later). People like pretty things. I know I've bought bottles of wine based on the labels!

    I love the Holtby covers — I'm very fond of old travel advertisements. There was a store in Chicago I used to walk by all the time that sold posters of vintage travel posters for train travel in Chicago. It's called Posters Plus and it's just wonderful, they have a website.

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  2. Oh all those covers look stunning! The Mary Stewarts are so chic – thanks for sharing! 'Madam, Will You Talk?' arrived a few days ago and I was already peeking into a few pages.
    I had no idea Holtby wrote other novels and those covers are gorgeous – I love old railtravel posters. I want to buy them for the covers alone so you're not alone on that score đŸ™‚
    The Gibbons reprints are equally beautiful – especially the last one. I hope to read Cold Comfort Farm this year and it's good to know that there are sequels in store if I enjoy it.
    Enjoy your beautiful books!

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  3. I had not seen the Mary Stewart covers. Now I want all of them. I may have to be bad and order a few from TBD. I know you shouldn't judge by the cover, but isn't it amazing how much more you might want to pick it up and try it with a lovely cover like these? I'm so glad these are being reissued.

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  4. The covers are wonderful. Is this the same Mary Stewart who wrote historical fiction? If so, this is a side of her I didn't know existed and certainly one that I will have to explore. I hope you have better luck with the extended Gibbons read than I did. 'Cold Comfort Farm' is the masterpiece.

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  5. Karen, I agree. Pretty covers are useless without excellent contents but, as you say, we know the authors. Cristina, Virago had all WH's novels in print at one time, then only South Riding was available. I've only read SR, The Crowded Street (Persephone) & the short stories so I'm pleased to have the chance to buy some more. All the covers are stunning, aren't they? Dani, you're right. Mary Stewart has always been in print & I bought a couple of the mass market p/bs when I saw them remaindered but these are just lovely. They were very cheap too. I only paid about $7.50AU for them although I think I had a 10% off voucher when I preordered them. Annie, yes, Mary Stewart wrote a series of Arthurian novels as well as these romantic suspense ones. I'll keeep my fingers crossed about Stella!

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  6. There is nothing wrong whatsoever with Books As Art, for this is what these amount to. I think I love the Mary Stewarts the best, closely followed by the Holtbys, but really, I would love to have them all! If this doesn't demonstrate that good covers sell copies, I don't know what does! I haven't read many Mary Stewarts but I enjoyed Stormy Petrel and I have a couple of titles on the shelf (original hardback editions) but these look even nicer than the originals, and that's saying something!
    Margaret P

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  7. I read all the Mary Stewart books years ago and they've always held a special place in my heart even if I can't always remember the stories. Nice to see them being re-issued, especially with such unique covers.

    I loved Stella Gibbons COLD COMFORT FARM (the movie with Kate Beckinsale as Flora Poste is wonderful as well). I will definitely be checking out these additional titles. And what gorgeous covers. These would make great Christmas presents. Just thinking ahead…!

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  8. Darlene, have you read any Stewart or Gibbons? I know you've just read South Riding. I think you'd love Cold Comfort Farm if you haven't already read it. Bibliophile, I read lots of mary Stewart as a teenager so it will be like reading brand new books after all this time! Joanne, do give CCF a go. It's one of my favourite books. Even if none of the new Gibbons's live up to CCF, they will still be new to me & enjoyable, I hope. Margaret, I'm looking forward to revisiting MS. Yvette, I hope you find some Gibbons under the Christmas tree!

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  9. I've just started re-reading Mary Stewart. I love all of the new covers, publishers seem to have improved them so much recently. I was lucky enough to be sent SR by Virago which sent me on a British Rail poster buying spree too. I love Jillian Tamaki's hand embroidered designs for new Penguin classics, especially The Secret Garden.

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  10. “Don't judge a book by its cover” strikes me as one of those maxims more honored in the breach than the observance: since the main purpose of cover art is advertising, very often the style of cover art does correspond to the style of writing inside, so why feel guilty about choosing books accordingly? Ideally form should always match function–if it doesn't, that's the publisher's lost sales opportunity. Even in terms of genre, it's immensely helpful and comforting, when in England, to know that, no matter whose house I'm staying at, when I want to quickly grab something to read, Penguins with orange spines will be novels, green spines will be mysteries, etc. Hooray for Mary Stewart being re-issued–she's one of very few mystery writers with enough style to reward re-reading.

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  11. I agree with you, Graceful Space. Penguin's brand was so recognisable & so strong when they used the colours for different genres. They still do it with their black Classics, of course. Persephone are also very bold in their use of identical grey & cream covers but the endpapers reflect the book. Such a clever idea & because Nicola Beauman has had such a strong vision of how sshe wants Persephone to be, it's a very recognisable brand.I'm pleased about the Stewart reprints too, I'm looking forward to a reread.

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  12. It's not shallow – just, like me, think of yourself as someone who appreciates aesthetics. I love this style of art and it always draws me to books when they have beautiful covers.
    I can't wait to get hold of both sets either. Cold Comfort Farm is one of my all-time favourite reads so it's a bit embarrassing to admit I was unaware of Stella Gibbon's other works. And just as I was re-reading another old favourite (Anne of Windy Willows, LM Montgomery – bedtime comfort reading)for the hundredth time!
    Great blog, by the way – I hope you don't mind me adding it to my blog list…

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  13. Hello S, thanks for commenting & adding me to your blogroll. The Stella Gibbons books have just been published so I'm looking forward to the arrival of my copies. I agree with you, beautiful covers are always an attraction, even if I already have the book.

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