Parlour Four

      J. I. M. Stewart

Parlour Four

A small boy is kind to someone disabled, with unexpected consequences. A young lover presents a ring found on a French beach to the girl of his dreams, but doesn't appreciate its history and value. Meanwhile, in Oxford, the Bodleian Library is mysteriously empty, whilst one of the dons very unwisely turns to writing fiction, and becomes a bestselling author. And in yet another tale, a cruel ending brings the absurdity of death into sharp focus. All of the stories in this collection focus on life's ironies and absurdities and are told with Stewart's usual wit and wisdom, with due attention to detail.
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    Mungo's Dream

      J. I. M. Stewart

Mungo's Dream

Mungo Lockhart goes up to Oxford and find himself sharing a room with the Honourable Ian Cardower, who is heir to a rich title and estate. Unimpressed by rank or riches, Mungo is nonetheless wary in his exchanges with Cardower, and this is reciprocated. However, the two do become good friends and Cardower takes Mungo on visits to his parents' home, to visit the head of the family, Lord Audlearn at Bamberton Court – a stately home in the grand style – and then to Mallachie, the true family seat, where the eldest son Lord Brightmony lives in splendid isolation, save for his companion; Leonard Sedley, sometime novelist. All seems well, except for Mungo noticing the interest shown by the family in a young Scots boy of uncertain parentage. The story takes on an obvious twist with the usual suspicions and uncertainties mounting, lawyers being called in, and general acrimony, but the final crisis and confrontation is of a surprising nature and an unusual explanation unfolds....
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    The Naylors

      J. I. M. Stewart

The Naylors

George Naylor, an Anglican priest, has doubts about his faith. He goes to stay with his brother's family, who unfortunately regard religion with some disdain and George as a bit of a joke. Enter Father Potter, sent by the establishment to regain their wayward cleric. There then occurs a series of adventures including the discovery of a secret research laboratory which is conducting testing on animals, and the prospect of George and Father Potter being involved in a protest rally which includes nuclear disarmers and anti-vivisectionists. All is brought to a hilarious conclusion in this fine example of Stewart's witty writing.
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    The Gaudy

      J. I. M. Stewart

The Gaudy

The first volume in J.I.M. Stewart's acclaimed 'A Staircase in Surrey' quintet, (but the second in time), 'The Gaudy' opens in Oxford at the eponymous annual dinner laid on by the Fellows for past members. Distinguished guests, including the Chancellor (a former Prime Minister) are present and Duncan Pattullo, now also qualified to attend, gets to meet some of his friends and enemies from undergraduate days. As the evening wears on, Duncan finds himself embroiled in many of the difficulties and problems faced by some of them, including Lord Marchpayne, now a Cabinet Minister; another Don, Ranald McKenechnie; and Gavin Mogridge who is famous for an account he wrote of his adventures in a South American jungle. But it doesn't stop there, as Pattullo acquires a few problems of his own and throughout the evening and the next day various odd developments just add to his difficulties, leading him to take stock of both his past and future.
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    The Aylwins

      J. I. M. Stewart

The Aylwins

This novel yields high comedy and mystery surrounding an Oxford College, told by a schoolmaster narrator, and written by J.I.M. Stewart, himself an Oxford Don and master of dry wit and surprise. Supported by his wife, Arthur Aylwin's desires to be Provost of the College – so much so he is prepared to give up a University Chair so as to achieve it - but there are family scandals and other prejudices and situations to deal with. The reader is drawn into the closed, but convivial atmosphere of college life, described by Stewart himself as 'impressively circumstanced in relation to the outside world'. The finale nonetheless takes place in Perugia, after an unexpected meeting.
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    A Villa in France

      J. I. M. Stewart

A Villa in France

Penelope, the daughter of a local priest, is lured to a villa in the south of France where she is the victim of a cruel hoax. As to how she came into the situation, we are first introduced to her as a child and the background is set out with Stewart's usual wit and highly descriptive writing. Fulke Ferneydale, now a rich novelist, knew Penelope then – indeed, in her later teenage years he suddenly proposed to her, but she turned him down. At the time, he had something of a chip on his shoulder as his father was 'in trade', which is something Penelope's father looked down upon in a snobbish manner, although it didn't affect her. Accordingly, Ferneydale went off and married Sophie, although he subsequently managed to enjoy a string of mistresses and young boys. Penelope married Caspar, but he is withdrawn, scholarly and boring, not to mention materially unsuccessful. So what is to become of her in France? There are many twists to this tale, not least the final surprise.
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    Memorial Service

      J. I. M. Stewart

Memorial Service

This is the third novel in the Oxford quintet entitled 'Staircase in Surrey'. Duncan Pattullo returns in middle age to his old college. The Provost is heavily engaged in trying to secure a benefaction from a charitable trust which the old and outrageous Cedric Mumford influences. One significant complication is the presence in college of Ivo Mumford, Cedric's grandson. He is badly behaved and far from a credit to the college. His magazine, 'Priapus' proves to be wholly objectionable. Stewart explores the nature of the complicated relationships between the characters with his usual wit, literary style and intellectual precision and turns what might otherwise be a very common and ordinary situation into something that will grip the reader from cover to cover.
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    The Guardians

      J. I. M. Stewart

The Guardians

Willard Quail, an American citizen, re-visits Oxford many years after leaving the University so as to look after railroad and other businesses following the death of his father. Now, he meets old acquaintances, such as a former tutor, old Dr. Stringfellow, and comes into contact with a convoluted and seemingly connected bunch of people as he pursues the Fontaney Journals. Quail's motive and purpose in making the journey may not be immediately apparent, but with his usual wit and skill J.I.M. Stewart leads the reader to the story's satisfying conclusion. As for Quail? Well, he returns to New York. Mission accomplished?
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    Full Term

      J. I. M. Stewart

Full Term

The final volume in the 'A Staircase in Surrey' quintet. Duncan Pattullo is coming to the end of his term as 'narrator' and is thinking of re-marrying, although his former wife continues to cause difficulties. His intended is also providing gossip for the college, but that is as nothing compared to the scandal caused by Watershute, an eminent nuclear physicist. His misdemeanours range from abandoning his family and conducting an affair in Venice, to being drunk at High Table. However, things get very serious when he appears to be involved in activities that might amount to treason. An interesting and convoluted plot, which is a fitting end to this acclaimed series, is carried forward with J.I.M. Stewart's hallmark skill and wit. Full Term can be read in order, or as a standalone novel.
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    Andrew and Tobias

      J. I. M. Stewart

Andrew and Tobias

The Feltons are a family with a long lineage stretching back beyond the Norman Conquest. They now have a daughter, Ianthe, but prior to her birth Tobias, or Toby, was fostered and then adopted as their heir after he had miraculously survived the sinking of a refugee ship by a German U-Boat. Then, someone who is clearly Toby's twin turns up as an under-gardener. He had been fostered by a Scottish couple, now dead. There is now general and disturbed confusion on everyone's part – including the boys themselves. Stewart explores magnificently the nature of the complicated relationships, including those from outside of the family such as Toby's lover; the irony of the situation; and the many ramifications of class and culture in the absurd situation the characters find themselves.
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    Cucumber Sandwiches

      J. I. M. Stewart

Cucumber Sandwiches

In 'Laon and Cythna' scandals are to be avoided following the death of Lord Lucius, but what emerges is more mysterious – the legend of a past relative who fell in love with a peasant girl, and a more recent deathbed confession by the heir's mother. This is a 'ghost' story in the best traditions of that genre. In 'Cucumber Sandwiches' an Oxford don's researches put him on the trail of a youthful indiscretion of a famous Victorian novelist. In 'The Men' we meet another don who strays into what he perceives as the alarming world of young people, whilst in 'A Change of Heart' strange and macabre events follow the grafting of a finger and thumb, from another patients amputated arm, when Michael Firth awakes in hospital after a car accident.
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    Avery's Mission

      J. I. M. Stewart

Avery's Mission

Bannerman is a schoolmaster on his way to Florence to do some research. On the plane, he meets a recent pupil, Avery Brenton, who is travelling to see his divorced father. However, Avery is young and naïve and is being unwittingly used by his domineering mother. Bannerman finds himself being drawn into matters. Avery's father is working on a lifetime study of Italian art and is not that pleased to see him. Enter Mrs Mountpatrick, a friend of Avery's mother, along with another youth who is helping his father. Very soon, a delightfully entangled and complex situation develops, only to be exacerbated by the arrival of Avery's mother, a dominatrix who uses sex-appeal and a natural upper class manner to exert her will. The tale is told by Bannerman as narrator and is full of suspense to delight the reader right up to the unexpected end.
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    A Use of Riches

      J. I. M. Stewart

A Use of Riches

Rupert Craine is a wealthy, cultured banker, who treats problems of high finance and additions to his collection of paintings with equal seriousness. He is aware, however, that his wife's first husband, who was killed in the war in Italy, was a brilliant artist. Something strange occurs when drawings by the latter suddenly appear on the market and a telegram summons Craine and his wife to Italy. There, the past grotesquely and irresistibly explodes into the present. 'The author manages to depict the English social maze through his hero's intrigued and piercing gaze.'
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    A Palace of Art

      J. I. M. Stewart

A Palace of Art

Gloria Montacute is in Venice, having temporarily removed herself from England following the death of her mother and inheriting a great collection of art treasures. The monetary value of these is of no consequence to her – she has previously worked in a lowly capacity in a London hospital and possesses a strong sense of social responsibility which outweighs any material wealth. This is in stark contrast to her dead mother who did not really appreciate the 'art', but viewed the treasures as rapidly soaring investments. Dealers gather and salivate, and one of them sends a handsome young man to Venice. Jake, Gloria's cousin, and Henry, a neighbour, also pursue her. Gloria harbours suspicions that this be because of her inheritance. The conclusion is as much a surprise as we have come to expect from Stewart's novels, on this occasion weaved by Gloria herself in a splendidly romantic manner. With wit and humour, yet with a vein of seriousness running throughout, Stewart manages...
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    The Bridge at Arta

      J. I. M. Stewart

The Bridge at Arta

Lady Cameron and Charles Hornett had been married some fifty years before, but Hornett has now forgotten all about it. Embarrassment is therefore evident when they find themselves as part of a party holidaying in Greece. Meanwhile, the Balmaynes realise they nothing about Roland Redpath, who is about to marry their daughter, but he is in fact the son of their onetime dishonest butler. But that isn't the end of it, as yet more shocks and surprises are forthcoming as the story unfolds. In other stories in the collection there is a hitherto unknown Wordsworth manuscript and sensational development with regard to Coleridge. We are also taken to Vienna and to a rural location in an effort to reveal the identity of an arsonist. Full of wit, humour and suspense, these stories bear all of the hallmarks of the expected first class Stewart penmanship.
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