Currently Reading: Madam, Will You Talk?

Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart

264 pages, first published 1955


GoodReads Synopsis:

Charity Selborne, a lovely war widow, and her irreverent artist friend, Louise Cray, arrive in the South of France expecting a conventional holiday. The vistas of Provence delight them, and Charity soon meets David, a young man of 13 who is having trouble with his dog. He introduces himself and Charity is charmed—until she senses a terrible maturity behind his grave eyes and shortly hears the rumors about his father. From this point on, the tension mounts steadily until it reaches the breaking point, while the thirsty summer heat, the noise of cicadas, and the dust of country roads all contribute to the superb realism of Mary Stewart’s very first novel. Combining her keen wit, zest for adventure, and eye for the details that make her characters interesting and memorable, Mary Stewart leads the reader on a swift, breathless chase that turns this quiet story into a masterpiece of romantic suspense.


“And though the part I was to play in the tragedy was to break and re-form the pattern of my whole life, yet it was a very minor part, little more than a walk-on in the last act. For most of the play had been played already; there had been love and lust and revenge and fear and murder- all the blood-tragedy bric-à-brac except the Ghost- and now the killer, with blood enough on his hands, was waiting in the wings for the lights to go up again, on the last kill that would bring the final curtain down.”

“It was dusk when I set out, and the street was vividly lit. All the cafés were full, and I picked my way between the tables on the pavement, while there grew in me that slow sense of exhilaration which one inevitably gets in a Southern town after dark. The shop windows glittered and flashed with every conceivable luxury that the mind of the tourist could imagine; the neon lights slid along satin and drowned themselves in velvet and danced over perfume and jewels…”

“The palm of my hands, I found, had been pressed so hard against the stone of the parapet that they were sore. I stood perfectly still for some time after they had gone, slowly rubbing my hands together, and thinking.”

“Panic swept over me again, and at the same time a queer sense of unreality that I believe does come to people when they are in fantastic or terrifying situations. This could not be happening to me, Charity Selbourne; I was not walking along the canal-side in Nimes, Provence, with my arm gripped in that of a man who might be a murderer.”

“The heat poured down. I could feel it striking up in waves from the upholstery of the car, and gently prickling out in sweat on my body. I could not relax; I sat rigid, with my eyes switching like a doll’s eyes from that forbidding white baton to my driving mirror, and back again.”

“The port was gemmed with neon lights, white, scarlet, green and amethyst, and under the more subdued orange glow of the street lamps the evening crowds were gathering. The city of the night-time was waking up.”



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