The Ivy Tree

The Ivy Tree

by Mary Stewart

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Mary Stewart, one of the great British storytellers of the 20th century, transports her readers to rural Northumberland for this tale of romance, ambition, and deceit - a perfect fit for fans of Agatha Christie and Barbara Pym.

'There are few to equal Mary Stewart' Daily Telegraph

'Mary Stewart is magic.' New York Times

Whitescar is a beautiful old house and farm situated in Roman Wall country. It will make a rich inheritance for its heirs, but in order to secure it, they enlist the help of a young woman named Mary who bears remarkable resemblance to missing Whitescar heiress, Annabel Winslow. Their deception will spark a powder-keg of ambition, obsession and long-dead love.

The ivy had reached for the tree and only the tree's upper branches managed to thrust the young gold leaves of early summer through the strangling curtain. Eventually the ivy would kill it . . .

'One of the great British storytellers of the 20th century' Independent

'The Ivy Tree has the ideal thriller blend of plot, suspense, character drawing and good writing' Daily Express

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781444720471
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd.
Publication date: 04/28/2011
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 16,289
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Mary Stewart was one of the 20th century's bestselling and best-loved novelists. She was born in Sunderland, County Durham in 1916, but lived for most of her life in Scotland, a source of much inspiration for her writing. Her first novel, Madam, Will You Talk? was published in 1955 and marked the beginning of a long and acclaimed writing career. In 1971 she was awarded the International PEN Association's Frederick Niven Prize for The Crystal Cave, and in 1974 the Scottish Arts Council Award for one of her children's books, Ludo and the Star Horse. She was married to the Scottish geologist Frederick Stewart, and died in 2014.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"Come you not from Newcastle?
Come you not there away?
Oh, met you not my true love?"


I might have been alone in a painted landscape. The sky was still and blue, and the high cauliflower clouds over towards the south seemed to hang without movement. Against their curded bases the fells curved and folded, blue foothills of the Pennines giving way to the misty green of pasture, where, small in the distance as hedge-parsley, trees showed in the folded valleys, symbols, perhaps, of houses and farms. But in all that windless, wide landscape, I could see no sign of man's hand, except the lines — as old as the ridge and furrow of the pasture below me — of the dry stone walls, and the arrogant stride of the great Wall which Hadrian had driven across Northumberland, nearly two thousand years ago.

The blocks of the Roman-cut stone were warm against my back. Where I sat, the Wall ran high along a ridge. To the right, the cliff fell sheer away to water, the long reach of Crag Lough, now quiet as glass in the sun. To the left, the sweeping, magnificent view to the Pennines. Ahead of me, ridge after ridge running west, with the Wall cresting each curve like a stallion's mane.

There was a sycamore in the gully just below me. Some stray current of air rustled its leaves, momentarily, with a sound like rain. Two lambs, their mother astray somewhere not far away, were sleeping, closely cuddled together, in the warm May sunshine. They had watched me for a time, but I sat there without moving, except for the hand thatlifted the cigarette to my mouth, and after a while the two heads went down again to the warm grass, and they slept.

I sat in the sun, and thought. Nothing definite, but if I had been asked to define my thoughts they would all have come to one word. England. This turf, this sky, the heartsease in the grass; the old lines of ridge and furrow, and the still older ghosts of Roman road and Wall; the ordered, spare beauty of the northern fens; this, in front of me now, was England. This other Eden, demi-paradise. This dear, dear land.

It was lonely enough, certainly. We had it to ourselves, I and the lambs, and the curlew away up above, and the fritillaries that flickered like amber sparks over the spring grasses. I might have been the first and only woman in it; Eve, sitting there in the sunlight and dreaming of Adam....


He spoke from behind me. I hadn't heard him approach. He must have come quietly along the turf to the south of the Wall, with his dog trotting gently at heel. He was less than four yards from me when I whirled round, my cigarette flying from startled fingers down among the wild thyme and yellow cinquefoil that furred the lower courses of the Roman stones.

Dimly I was aware that the lambs had bolted, crying.

The man who had shattered the dream had stopped two yards from me. Not Adam; just a young man in shabby, serviceable country tweeds. He was tall, and slenderly built, with that whippy look to him that told you he would be an ugly customer in a fight — and with something else about him that made it sufficiently obvious that he would not need much excuse to join any fight that was going. Possibly it is a look that is inbred with the Irish, for there could be no doubt about this man's ancestry. He had the almost excessive good looks of a certain type of Irishman, black hair, eyes of startling blue, and charm in the long, mobile mouth. His skin was fair, but had acquired that hard tan which is the result of weathering rather than of sunburn, and which would, in another twenty years, carve his face into a handsome mask of oak. He had a stick in one hand, and a collie hung watchfully at his heels, a beautiful creature with the same kind of springy, rapier grace as the master, and the same air of self-confident good breeding.

Not Adam, no, this intruder into my demi-Eden. But quite possibly the serpent. He was looking just about as friendly and as safe as a black mamba.

He took in his breath in a long sound that might even have been described as a hiss.

"So it is you! I thought I couldn't be mistaken! It is you.... The old man always insisted you couldn't be dead, and that you'd come back one day...and by God, who'd have thought he was right?"

He was speaking quite softly, but just what was underlying that very pleasant voice I can't quite describe. The dog heard it, too. It would be too much to say that its hackles lifted, but I saw its ears flatten momentarily, as it rolled him an upward, white-eyed look, and the thick collie-ruff stirred on its neck.

I hadn't moved. I must have sat there, dumb and stiff as the stones themselves, gaping up at the man. I did open my mouth to say something, but the quiet, angry voice swept on, edged now with what sounded (fantastic though it should have seemed on that lovely afternoon) like danger.

"And what have you come back for? Tell me that! Just what do you propose to do? Walk straight home and hang up your hat? Because if that's the idea, my girl, you can think again, and fast! It's not your grandfather you'll be dealing with now, you know, it's me...I'm in charge, sweetheart...and I'm staying that way. So be warned."

I did manage to speak then. In face of whatever strong emotion was burning the air between us, anything that I could think...

The Ivy Tree. Copyright © by Mary Stewart. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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The Ivy Tree 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mary Stuart's The Ivy Tree is exqusite. Lyrical and great supense. Incredible descriptive scenes and what an ending! This would a make wonderful film.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After this seventh time reading it, this is still a great read. The romance has a timelessness to it, and her prose style is wonderful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lots of twist and turns. Family secrets, lost love, not knowing who to trust, Mary's journey has just begun. Mary Stewart is amazing writer. I simply loved this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first started this book I was unsure it would be exiting, but toward mid-book it got very interesting with many twists in the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read all of Mary Stewarts books when I was a kid, love them all, so glad I can get them at Barnes and Nobles nook. Hurrah!!
LadyEsmerelda More than 1 year ago
My favorite author does not disappoint! This is excellent!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
cameling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this book, there is a palpable thread of evil and danger permeating throughout. It flashes and fades but you feel it there always, under the surface, simmering and you find yourself almost holding your breath, wondering when it will finally erupt and who will be the victims.A woman sitting by a cliff is mistaken for someone else and convinced to participate in a scheme to impersonate the person she looks so much like, in order to fool a dying man pining for his granddaughter who ran away 8 years ago and who has been thought to have died, so that 2 siblings can inherit an old family estate and farm.It's not easy impersonating someone ... you've got to get their history correct, adopt mannerisms that they favored, be ready to not only recognize people who would have been part of your life and have knowledge of inside jokes, fights and perhaps even affairs. So can she pull it off?The wonderful thing about this book is that the reader is kept in an ever changing flux, as one version of the truth after another are unveiled as disguised truths, and some truths deliberately hidden behind fabrications. So what and who are we to believe? And that simmering malice... was there a hand in a death or did the death occur naturally?And by the way, I loved the ending!
Darla on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Really old one, but it stands up well, if you like gothics. Good twists in this.
Kasthu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mary Grey finds herself in the north of England, working as a waitress, when one day she decides to go for a walk along Hadrian¿s Wall. While there, Mary is accosted by Con Winslow, who mistakenly thinks she is Annabel, his cousin who disappeared to America eight years ago. He and his sister Lisa convince Mary to engage in a act of deception: to impersonate Annabel Winslow so that Con might inherit her grandfather¿s estate, Whitescar. It¿s a short novel, and like Nine Coaches Waiting, The Ivy Tree is very plot-driven. Stewart¿s novels are tinged with a bit of magic, and in most of them, she chooses to give her characters rather romantic names (Annabel, Connor, Crystal). On the surface, it¿s a deliciously wonderful story of deception, but not all is as it appears. The Ivy Tree is an emotionally-charged novel; and though Stewart doesn¿t do very much in terms of character development, this book contains the right amount of romance, danger, suspense, and fantasy, with a little bit of Roman history sprinkled in. Stewart also does a great job of unfolding the mystery, such as there is, choosing not to give it all away until it¿s almost too late. This is one of those stories where it isn¿t until after you¿ve learned the solution that you go back and think, ¿now why didn¿t I figure that out?¿ And then you realize that all the clues were there all along. I¿m very glad that Mary Stewart¿s novels have been re-released; another of her novels, Thornyhold, is on my TBR pile.
patience_crabstick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent book of its genre: romantic suspense. I really was kept guessing as to how this would all turn out. Well written, smart, the perfect brain candy for the intelligent reader.
atimco on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In The Ivy Tree, Mary Stewart spins an engrossing tale of impersonation, fraud, family secrets, and murder in the beautiful north English countryside. The story is told by Mary Grey, a young woman who shares a startling resemblance to the heiress of the ancient farm Whitescar, owned by the Winslows. When old Matthew Winslow's nephew, the magnetic Connor, sees an opportunity to put this resemblance to good use, Mary finds herself taking part in a dangerous deception. She must navigate the passions and plots of each competing party, dealing with the ghosts of Annabel's past in the form of old lovers and broken hopes. But in a game like this, alliances are constantly shifting, and soon Mary becomes a target of Con's ruthless ambition.The twist is good. I did guess it before it was revealed, but I still found it a clever and entertaining plot point. Stewart uses the benefits and limitations of the first-person narrative perfectly, twining her story with events from the past that loom up to haunt Mary. The past is full of secrets: no one knows the real reason that Annabel Winslow ran away eight years ago. And is she really dead?As in all good Gothic novels, there are some time-honored archetypal symbols of the genre scattered throughout the story. The ivy tree, for one thing, is very like the oak that splits in Jane Eyre, a symbol of the doomed love affair that nevertheless survives. There is adultery and passion (never explicitly described), with a dutiful husband who serves his mad wife (who ends up killing herself). As in Jane Eyre and Rebecca, there is a house fire that devastates the family estate of the local nobility. The whole tale is atmospheric and tense, character-driven and bathed in convoluted motives and dark secrets. But somehow, these common elements don't feel overly recycled in this story. Perhaps it is the creative way in which these events and symbols are juxtaposed; it could also be the immediacy of the first-person narrative.I noticed the dated attitude toward women; in one conversation Mary says that she will start acting like "a reasonable human being ¿ that is, not like a woman." This idea, of women being creatures of instinct, incapable of rational thought and action, is repeated several times throughout the book. Also, every time Con appears we are reminded of his amazing, aggressive, fatal good looks and virility, and the power this exerts over the female sex (though interestingly enough, the two young women in the story don't fall for his charm in the least).On the other hand, Stewart portrays the unthanked, devoted servitude of Con's sister Lisa as a decidedly bad thing. Despite their acceptance of the women-are-always-irrational view, the female characters are active participants in the plot, with plans and motives of their own. If they are bounded by the ideas of their times, I suppose that lends an air of authenticity to the period. So much has changed since 1961 when this was first published.On the mystery side, I was reminded of another impersonation story, Josephine Tey's exquisitely crafted mystery Brat Farrar. The Ivy Tree is certainly more suspenseful and tense, but I think Tey's style is more graceful. Stewart has some lovely phrases and descriptions, but she is overfond of ellipses. Her dialogue is excellent, however. You fall right into the conversations and don't see how good the dialogue is until you realize your immersion.I think The Ivy Tree will be even more enjoyable as a reread, to savor the little hints dropped here and there in the course of the tale. I look forward to reading more of Stewart's contributions to the Gothic romance tradition.
victorianrose869 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
May 25, 1999The Ivy TreeMary StewartFascinating premise. Annabel, a young American woman, travels to England and is mistaken for the long-lost heir to a wealthy family. She agrees to pose as the heiress to the old, dying grandfather for a time, long enough to help the handsome estate manager gain his inheritance.Can't give away the very strange twist, which really surprised me. It seemed almost dishonest. Still pretty good, though. Gothic overtones.
moonshineandrosefire on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mary Grey had come from Canada to find her relatives in Northlumberland, England. The lonely young woman was facing an uncertain future when she decided on a lark to impersonate missing heiress Annabel Winslow. However, Mary Grey's life doesn't turn out happily ever after as someone wants Annabel Winslow to disappear permanently. I thought this plot was convoluted and unbelievable. I give this story a C+!
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