I have been thinking about Madam, Will You Talk? again, partly because of  Jessie @ Dwell in Possibility’s  lovely blogpost here. I can’t justify reading this book again when I last read it on holiday in March, so I have decided to enjoy Mary Stewart’s debut novel by posting about my Madam book covers and magazine pics instead. Yes, I do own many copies of Madam, Will You Talk? but I may one day own more.

October 1954 – publication in Woman’s Journal: New author Mary Stewart merits no mention on the front cover but gets this marvellous tagline:

Woman’s Journal’s Great Discovery – an exciting new Thriller Writer of exceptional quality!

Mary Stewart’s first serial in Woman’s Journal. Painting of Avignon by Bernard Harrison; David and Rommel by Francis Marshall. (Cover portrait by AK Lawrence). ©Fleetway Magazines

February 1955, Hodder & Stoughton, UK, first edition: A little bit too ‘busy’ for me (and why the pink?), this first edition was illustrated by Eleanor Poore, who also illustrated the first editions of Mary Stewart’s next three books.

July 1956, Doubleday One Dollar Book Club Bulletin: I can’t even remember how I found it but I do like this promotional booklet that concentrates on Mary Stewart and a writer named Thomas B Costain, with short mentions of other books by writers such as Margery Sharp, Catherine Gaskin and Paul Gallico.

Madam, Will You Talk? excerpt in The Bulletin, July 1956 Selections, Doubleday One Dollar Book Club, New York. Illustrator unknown

1956, M S Mill Co & William Morrow & Co, New York (Book Club Edition): Look at those heels up a mountainside. And that tiny waist. (And, oh dear, what kind of a bra… ?) I value this edition chiefly for the photograph on the back cover.

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1964, Hodder paperback edition, 3rd impression: this is an excellent cover for this book. I love the blurb too:

The B.B.C. and the leading Women’s Magazines have serialized her novels and several of them have been sold as films.

It is impossible to read this in anything other than a very posh English accent!

Madam, Hodder pb, 1964. Illustrator unknown

1965, Hodder paperback edition, fourth impression: I am not a fan of frills and ruffles, plus I think this representation of Charity looks a little brooding or even possibly unkind. And Hodder’s price has increased from 2’6 to 3’6 in a year!

Madam, Will You Talk? Hodder paperback, 4th impression, 1965. Illustrator unknown

1969, Omnibus 1, Hodder & Stoughton This one has a fantastic four-page preface:

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1979, Octopus/Heinemann omnibus. This is a book for completists only: no preface or interesting illustrations and it is far too heavy to actually, y’know, read it.

Omnibus, Octopus/Heinemann, 1979. Cover photo by Robert Golden

1981, A Hutchinson Bulls-Eye, adapted by Dorothy Welchman: This paperback is an attempt to simplify Mary Stewart’s book for children (I think, or possibly for adults learning English?): gone are the chapter heading quotations, instead chapters have titles such as ‘I tell a few lies’, ‘The kiss of a killer’ and ‘Keep your hands off me!’ Even the opening line is changed, to

It all began like any other holiday.

It feels very strange to read a Mary Stewart thriller where the exquisite writing has been stripped away.

Madam, Hutchinson Bulls-Eye, 1979, adapted by Dorothy Welchman, illustr. Francis Phillips

1985, Chivers Audio Books: an ex-library bargain. And I’m sure we still have a tape player in the house >somewhere<.

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2011, Hodder paperback. I’m not keen on the 2011 set of Mary Stewarts, I think the original Gerd Hartung fashion illustrations look much better with background and context – look here to see what I mean.

Madam, Will You Talk? 2011 re-issue by Hodder. Cover illustr Robyn Neild; Gerd Hartung/akg-images

2015, Chicago Review Press Incorporated. An absolute must-have, for Katherine Hall Page’s foreword.

Madam, Chicago Review Press, 2015. Design: Sarah Olsen. Photo: Monica Mongelli

2017, Hodder: a simply gorgeous cover from font to beautiful, sophisticated driver to that summer sky.

Madam; Hodder 2017 re-issue. Illustr: ‘Driving a Peugeot car is fashionable’, 1934 (colour litho) French school (20th century)/Private collection/Archives Chormet/Bridgeman Images. Clouds: Shutterstock.com

Those are all my Madam book covers, at any rate until I spot another edition that I just have to have. What do you think – which one is your favourite or is there one you think is awful? Do you own a better cover? Let me know!


You will see in the comments below that Annabel emailed me her bookcover for Madam, Will You Talk? –  I am not sure how to let everyone see it in the comments section so I am including it here. Annabel is not terribly fond of this cover, mainly because of the unflattering skirt. I agree that the skirt is pretty awful, Charity looks dowdy. But. But I am half-consumed with longing as I have never ever seen this Coronet cover before. My Mary Stewart book addiction continues! Annabel, thank you for sharing this cover – and I promise not to find out where you live and steal your book!

Annabel’s cover. Madam, Will You Talk? Coronet paperback