Airs Above the Ground

Narrated by: Antonia Whillans
Length: 9 hrs and 13 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (154 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The original writer of romantic suspense, Mary Stewart leads her readers on a thrilling journey across mid-century Europe in this tale of adventure and deception, sure to be loved by fans of Agatha Christie and Barbara Pym.

Vanessa March's husband, Lewis, is meant to be on a business trip in Stockholm - so why does he briefly appear in newsreel footage of a fire at a circus in Vienna, with his arm around another woman? Vanessa flies to Austria to find her husband, inadvertently becoming involved in a mystery that spans three countries...and the famous dancing stallions of the Spanish Riding School.

The moonlight flooded the meadow, blanching all colours to its own ghostly silver. The pines were very black. As the stallion rose in the last magnificent rear of the levande, the moonlight poured over him bleaching his hide so that for perhaps five or six seconds he was no longer an old broken-down piebald but a haute école stallion of the oldest line in Europe.

©1965 Mary Stewart (P)2019 Hodder & Stoughton Limited

What listeners say about Airs Above the Ground

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Vintage book...still a great story.

I loved this book when I read it years ago. My teenaged granddaughter and her friends all thought the main character was unrealistic. This brought about a very cheerful discussion about what a woman would do or not do she found herself in the situation Mary Stewart created for her main character. Actually they all finally agreed that what she did took courage, even though it was "mutton headed". My point is that the book was so well written it had even young readers responding as if it were real. I liked that this woman did not "rush to judgment", but put on her big girl panties and charged out to find out what was going on. Whew, this took a bit to write without spoilers.

8 people found this helpful

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Lovely narration of an old favorite

Mary Stewart wrote such wonderful books, and this is one of my favorites.
You could call it romantic suspense, I suppose, but that doesn't really do it justice.
It is an entertaining story, as well as a travelogue, with a bit of history thrown in. Written in 1965, it may seem old-fashioned to new readers/listeners, but it has a wonderful heroine and great supporting characters. The narrator was superb!! She is just right for this story.

2 people found this helpful

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Suspended disbelief interrupted...

First, thank you to Hodder & Stoughton and Audible for recording and presenting Mary Stewart’s romantic-suspense novels. She is one of my favorite authors. I love her narrative style and highly visual descriptions as much now as I did when I first read them.

Some constructive criticism on the narration however: The tonal quality of the voices needs to be differentiated especially during segments of contiguous dialogue. I could not tell who was speaking, for instance, when 20 something Vanessa and teenage Tim are talking to each other. It interrupts my suspended disbelief.

2 people found this helpful

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A Classic of Building Suspense

If you love a story with animals, slowly building mystery and suspense, this one has it all. Spies, a circus, horses, tragedy, an intrepid lady veterinarian, and an adventure loving teenage boy on a quest in Austria. If you're anything like me and tend to cry for happy, sad, and/or beautiful you'll want to keep the kleenex within easy reach. This is by far one of my most beloved books and I am overjoyed to now be able to read in ebook or listen to it in audiobook as I feel the urge. Mary Stewart has little competition for good, clean mystery and adventure for teenagers on up to seniors who grew up reading her books.

1 person found this helpful

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Lovely story by the end but exceptionally slow

This story feels long because it is painfully drawn out and boring at times. It’s obviously beautifully written, but there is no action or suspense until 3 hours before the end, and even that is slow and drawn out. Furthermore, if you are not a horse person, this book might be seem even more painfully slow. The lovely main characters are why I forced myself to get through and finish it. However at 1 hour and 30 minutes before the end, I had to speed up the narration to 1.25 in order to get through it. Although I liked the end which overall gave me the feeling to say it’s a lovely story, I still can’t say that I’m really glad I read it.

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an old favorite

I have read this book many times over the years and still love it. So sad that the narration isn't as good as the story deserves. I have difficulty understanding her speech and there doesn't seem to be much emotion behind the narration. Bummed

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Best of Mary Stewart’s

Fantastic story, excellent narration, and delightful mystery. Worthy of a second read. Never ceased to hold my interest.

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Best Story Ever

I love this story that I first heard when my mother read it to me while I recovered from eye surgery in 1968.

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  • EB
  • 05-05-20

Disappointing Interpretation

I first read this book as a 12-year-old, simply because it had a horse in it, but I grew to appreciate the characters and the intrigue. I was delighted to see that it was now available as an audiobook, but I stopped listening early on because the reader doesn't seem to understand the main character. Vanessa is bright, capable (mostly), and determined, but in this somewhat monotonous, lilting reading she comes across as an insipid ingenue, and the wit and humour in the dialogue just evaporate.

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So Much Fun and Outstanding Narration

I enjoyed every minute of this book!! It has humor, conflict, a circus, crime, love and horses.

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  • M Phil
  • 05-17-19

Brilliant story let down by a poor narrator

An exciting and very entertaining story by Mary Stewart. Unfortunately, the narration was extremely poor with the narrator making little/no effort to differentiate between the different characters and between males and females.

4 people found this helpful

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  • julia ioannou
  • 06-18-19

Ruined by dreadful narration

I read this book when it was first published and like most of Mary Stewart;s work I found it well written and very interesting. So I was very pleased when I found that it was available on Audible. Having recently listened to the excellent recording of Madam Will You Walk I eagerly purchased Airs Above the Ground . I was bitterly disappointed I can only describe the narration as schoolgirlish and well below usual standards. The accent grated, The attempt to differentiate the characters was woefully poor The inflection was so poor as to be non-existent. In short the narration ruined my enjoyment of the whole story. I will be careful not to buy any further books read by this narrator

3 people found this helpful

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  • Spikyjules
  • 06-04-19

Awful narration

I love Mary Stewart, but the narration spoiled an excellent book. There was no feeling in the dialogue, charaters all sounded the same, but the worst part was the delivery - each sentence was almost blurted out and then a gap then the next, so for the first part of the book I put it on a slower speed. This was wasn't ideal and I went back to the regular speed.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Maggie
  • 08-31-19

Odd reading, yet it still enhanced the book

This is another of the old, well loved, Mary Stewart murder / mystery / romance set of novels mainly written between the 1950s and 1970, well before her Arthurian books. This was published in 1965. It was never one of my top favourites, though I did enjoy it - but somehow the story never really 'gripped' me, (though it did give me an ambition to go to Vienna one day to see the Spanish Riding School).
Vanessa and her husband Lewis have fallen out when their planned time together had to be scrapped so Lewis could go back to work abroad, and not for the first time. Vanessa becomes aware (though her mother's gloriously awful friend, Carmel, briefly read but you get a real ‘sense’ for the ghastly woman) that Lewis may not be where he said he was going... so, lumbered with Carmel's young son Timmy as a travelling companion, she sets off to find out for herself.
Not only does Vanessa find out what's happening with her husband, getting pitched into a mystery along the way, but she also learns that Tim isn't anyone's 'little boy'; instead a resourceful and rather nice young man more than capable of getting involved in whatever is going on.
It's a good story, and it's not badly delivered - I've heard a lot worse - though other reviewers are right that the style isn’t particularly fluid, and basically it's just being read rather than performed, albeit in a pleasant voice. No real attempt at characterisation (strangely enough, apart from a parrot who is quite good). I’ve definitely heard a lot better, but oddly I still found that I became more involved listening to this than I had when originally reading the book.
Despite the rather stilted reading, I liked it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-19-19

Very slow-paced

I listened to the entire book, but it took me ages because it just wouldn't pick up speed and I kept switching it off.
Over all, it felt like this book couldn't quite decide what it wanted to be - a romanticized travel journal of mid-century Austria, a story for horse lovers, a romance novel about misunderstandings and true love, or a story about international espionage/crime.
Because of that, all elements imo came in a bit short. The depiction of Austria was all right but rather uninspired, the history of the horses of Lipizza was more interesting than any of the horses actually appearing in the story, the relationship between the heroine (who spent a lot of her time running away / waiting for her husband to save her / not quite getting what was going on, to be honest) and her strapping hero of a husband was, well, very clichéd, and the "crime plot" certainly didn't warrant 10 hours of listening time as especially the last "show down" was so incredibly slow-paced that I simply kept nodding off.
Too bad, because I liked some of the scenes, like the initial introduction of the protagonist and her new travel companion, and there were a couple of scenes - like the old horse on the meadow - whose descriptions were rather pretty.
Overall, though, the combination of a too-slow-and-too-simple plot and a slightly exasperating 'heroine' meant that I didn't really enjoy it.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Sue
  • 05-29-19

Another Favourite!

Hadn't read this since it was first published, so a delightful awakening of that initial enjoyment. Literally couldn't stop listening, and still shed a year at the perfect ending! Super!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Allanagh ML
  • 05-19-19

Very enjoyable and, in places, very likely to bring on tears!

This is the one Mary Stewart book that, despite being such a fan, I somehow had never read. I rather enjoyed not knowing what was coming, and just letting the narrator take me wherever the plot would lead. It's a story that takes a little while to get to the exciting parts but, once it does, there's no stopping it. There was plenty of humour too. I liked it all very much. The narrator was at her best with the narrative parts, with creating suspense, and with dialogue that involved people speaking in differing accents. But, like a previous reviewer, I did have a little difficulty knowing who was speaking in those dialogues involving Vanessa and Timothy, where the author hadn't written he said/she said to help me out. But this is a minor quibble, given that the content of most of the dialogue made it clear enough. The narrator certainly came into her own with the scenes of great jeopardy. And also with the story of one very special horse. I absolutely defy anyone - animal lover or no - not to reach for the tissues when Old Piebald is centre stage. The epilogue had me in bits. So, all in all, very enjoyable. I know I'll listen to it again.

3 people found this helpful