Stone of stumbling and rock of offense (wordweaverlynn) wrote,
Stone of stumbling and rock of offense
wordweaverlynn

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The Secret Plot Too Shocking for Americans to See!

I recently came across the British edition of Mary Stewart's classic The Ivy Tree. I re-read it, expecting no substantial differences between it and the US edition -- perhaps a change or two in punctuation and spelling. I did not expect it to be a different book with a substantial shift in meaning.

Apparently the American market in 1961 was unable to embrace a heroine who . . . .

A heroine who, after running away from home at age 19, was falsely accused of being pregnant by the man she ran away from. ("By" in both senses. He was the accuser and the supposed father. He was a somewhat removed cousin who had tried to kill her, but her family didn't believe her story.) She was, in fact, a virgin, although she did feel dreadfully guilty for having an emotional affair with a married man.

Another thing emphasized in the British edition but removed in the American was that the murderous cousin's spinster older sister lived through his achievements. I don't think the problem was a hint of incest; I suspect that such abject devotion was considered healthy and positive in those days.

And the third big difference was that the book and the characters acknowledged the plot's similarity to Josephine Tey's Brat Farrar.I didn't read Tey until years after I'd read the Stewart, and I was disappointed to think a book I liked so much was basically swiped from Tey, although with its own twists.

The British edition brings together all the metaphors, all the incidents, all the motives and makes better sense artistically and psychologically. .

I was surprised and -- yes, and shocked to learn that an entire subplot had been excised to the detriment of the book. Has anybody got the inside scoop on this? More recent examples of similar changes? And what about the book everywhere else? Which text did the Canadian and Australian editions use? And the translated texts?
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