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VINE VOICEon 16 May 2012
Perhaps Camilla Haven unintentionally invoked the gods that afternoon in the crowded Athens café off Onomia Square in Athens when she wrote to a friend, "Nothing ever happens to me." But a few hours later, an extraordinary train of events dispatches Camilla to Delphi. Will the Oracle there be awakened and help her? In Mary Stewart's My Brother Michael, originally published in 1960, this venerable English author begins one of her thrilling stories set in Greece.

Camilla finds herself in the company of a charming but quietly determined Englishman named Simon Lester. Simon told Camilla he had come to the ancient Greek ruins to "appease the shade" of his brother Michael, killed some 14 years earlier on Parnassus during partisan fighting in the Second World War. From a curious letter Michael had written, Simon believed his brother had stumbled upon something of great importance hidden in the craggy reaches of the mountainside.

Camilla's desire to see the oracle city of Delphi, however, is suddenly altered as she is drawn into this very personal pilgrimage in a rough and foreign land. And it is here in this wild and craggy (and full of ancient history and folklore), with Mount Parnassus seeing it all, that Camilla, now fully involved in a very complex--and dare we say, suspenseful--story. The plot thickens rapidly and with Stewart's deft abilities, it comes to a rousing climax.

This is vintage Stewart as she combines intrigue, history, and social significance in one excellent read. Long a successful "thriller" writer,this work here is representative Stewart.
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on 22 July 2014
**Contains a spoiler** (not very significant)

Like many others, I discovered Mary Stewart as a teenager, when the combination of romance, adventure and reasonably good quality writing had a lot of appeal. A number of her novels have a strong sense of place and this is particularly true of My Brother Michael, with its wonderful setting of Arachova and Delphi up on Parnassus. Even more poignant if you have visited the area.

As an adult one might look for more in literature, in terms of complexity of character, theme and plot, but I have never forgotten the pleasure Stewart's books gave me when I was young.

Simon has come back to Greece to find out what happened to his brother Michael, who was a British Liaison Officer during World War II, and had been sheltered by a Greek family in Arachova, near Delphi. When he was betrayed, the Germans killed the son of the Greek family as a reprisal, but Michael himself was murdered by Angelo, a member of ELAS, Greece's principal resistance movement. Angelo apparently modelled himself on the 'sadist' Ares, initiator and leader of ELAS.

The problem with this particular novel is that the historical setting plays a major part but it is completely lacking in historical veracity. While there were British soldiers being hidden in Greek homes when left behind after the Battles of Greece and Crete, the British Liaison Officers (who arrived later) were safely located with the resistance forces, well away from occupied towns like Arachova. Much more serious, however, is the picture given of the main guerrilla organisation ELAS, and its leader Ares. In towns and villages throughout central Greece, such as Arachova, 80-100% of inhabitants supported ELAS. The son of Stewart's venerable figure of Stefanos would almost certainly have been with ELAS (and his son would have been named Stefanos after his grandfather, rather than Nikos after his father). Mary Stewart talked of her 'love affair with Greece', but this love did not, it would seem, extend to its people.

The description of Zervas as an 'honest man' is interesting. It is well documented that the British, mindful of their long-term interests and casting around rather desperately for a counter-weight to the anti-monarchist ELAS, first paid handsomely and then blackmailed Napoleon Zervas of the organisation EDES to go into the mountains. EDES had been set up as a republican organisation but Zervas was only too happy to act on the suggestion of the British Military Mission to send a telegram of support to the King of Greece, much to the horror of his subordinates. The head of the Mission, Eddy Myers, said 'Zervas would have stood on his head if we had asked him to'.

The book does not appear to have been translated into Greek. Given the furor in Greece over Captain Corelli's Mandolin,it's hard not to wonder what the people of Arachova, and Greece, would think if they read Stewart's description of ELAS. The arch-villain, Angelo, is said to be a captain of a local Parnassus troop, who took part in the Gorgopotamos operation. Who is he modelled on? The most likely candidate is the young Demetres Demetriou (Nikephoros), who led the reserves at Gorgopotamos when the EDES troops failed to take the north end of the viaduct, and also the Parnassus troops when they successfully busted 70 men out of Livadia prison, when the town was occupied by 5000 Italian troops. (Myers wrote of Demetriou, 'The personal courage and levelheadedness in action of this officer made a big contribution to the success of the Gorgopotomos operation'.) Or alternatively, Giannis Alexandrou (Diamantes), who was also at Gorgopotamos and a by-word on Parnassus for courage and integrity, even today, with a museum in his birthplace Lilea dedicated to him. Or maybe Ares himself, probably loved as no other man has ever been, by his family, his friends, his comrades and the ordinary people of Greece.
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on 27 May 2011
I have been a fan of Mary Stewart since discovering her when I was 16 (many years ago.) Of her romantic thrillers, this has always been my favourite. Her physical descriptions of Delphi and the surrounding areas take you there, her grasp of the horrors of WW2 and the ensuing Greek Civil War gave me my first interest in that terrible period.

A great book which entertains (and educates without you even realising it!)
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on 16 September 2013
This was my first Mary Stewart, and I must say I did enjoy it. We're in a sort of female Eric Ambler world, here, without the politics: Europe in the 1950s, with the War looming large in the collective memory; this plot, though, is wholly personal.

Told from the point of view of the accidental heroine, the story gets off to a rather tediously drawn-out start (perhaps it's just old fashioned, this idea that driving a car is such a big deal!), but soon gathers a pretty good momentum, picking up some nicely unpleasant characters on the way. I loved the whole mental landscape: pure young James Mason as directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Greece in general, and Delphi in particular, are rendered beautifully, and credibly. Apollo, too, makes a welcome appearance.
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on 23 July 2004
From the start to the end of this book , the sun beats down on you as you move with the heroine through the Greek countryside,tension building up in you as well as her. That's Mary Stewart's writing for you.Feisty heroines, excitement murder and usually brave but ordinary heroes, all in vividly drawn locations.Everything comes to life. Read this and then search out her other books. You won't be disappointed.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 3 August 2009
As Camilla Haven sits in a cafe in Athens and writes those very words in a letter to her sister, she has no idea the twists and turns her life is soon going to take. A strange man comes and gives her the keys to a rental car, telling her she must take it to Monsieur Simon in Delphi right away - a matter of life and death. Since she had wanted to go to Delphi and no one comes to claim the car Camilla decides on a lark to take the car and go and she soon finds herself mixed up in a mystery involving Simon Lester. Simon has come to visit the scene where his brother was murdered during WWII, and to discover the secret behind his death that has laid buried under the rubble of an earthquake.

And that is all I'm going to tell you. In true Stewart fashion, Camilla and Simon's story take many twists and turns along with the prerequisite nail biting life and death conclusion. While plot wise I didn't enjoy this quite as much as The Moon Spinners (things got a bit slow in the middle), I very much enjoyed Stewarts magical descriptions of the Greek countryside, and most especially the ruins at Delphi. Wow, just wow, I was all over the net looking for pictures and seriously considered booking a trip to see for myself. Nobody but nobody in this genre does it better, it's like being there.
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on 11 December 2012
I love Mary Stewart, and have been re-reading all my old favourites as e books. My Brother Michael was the only one which left me feeling slightly disappointed. The descriptive passages are superb, and evocative, the hero appropriately heroic and sexy, and the villain unspeakably evil and frightening. So what's missing? Perhaps it's just that Camilla, our heroine, is such a limp rag. And a rotten driver. And I found her epiphany (or at least, Simon's epiphany on her behalf, as she can't quite manage her own) deeply irritating.

Still, it's a totally gripping tale, with a very satisfying ending, Just how a Mary Stewart romantic thriller should be.
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on 5 April 2015
I first read this in the sixties when in my teens and I loved it just as much the second time around. It was like revisiting an old friend. I have booked my first trip to Greece this year and shall be visiting Delphi which is featured prominently in the book. Like other reviewers have said, the book is a bit dated but then it is written in the style and mind-set of the times i.e. the fifties and we are seeing Greece as it was then before tourism really took off. I'm looking forward to re-reading more of Mary Stewart's novels.
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on 1 May 2016
Classic Mary Stewart, beautiful descriptions of the countryside and its inhabitants, a vignette of 1950/60ies, days before instant communications when travel was exciting and a learning experience. Wonderful to remember and experience the wonder of the emerging world of the 60ies.
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on 29 August 2015
I read this book when I was a teenager in the 1950's and it made a lasting impression on me. I have been fortunate to visit Delphi twice and it is still the magical place that it has always been.
I can confidently recommend this to anyone with a love for Greece.
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