Until re-visiting Mary Stewart again I’d forgotten the exoticism of her settings and so, inspired by The Gabriel Hounds which is set in Lebanon, I quickly moved onto This Rough Magic. I remember being enchanted by this book when I read it as a teenager. The magic of Corfu, the beating heat, the warm dust, the blue sky. My memories didn’t let me down. Set in Greece, this is another fantastic romantic suspense novel from Mary Stewart which to be honest is more adventure story than romance. Difficult to believe it was first published in 1964 [here’s the cover of the Hodder & Stoughton first edition]. More moody and atmospheric than the disappointingly generic front cover of the current edition.
When young actress Lucy Waring goes to stay with her sister Phyl in Corfu, she meets the neighbour living at the adjacent mysterious Castello dei Fiori. None other than Shakespearean master Sir Julian Gale. Although Sir Julian is flattering, sharing his theory that Shakespeare based The Tempest on Corfu and that Prospero’s cave is nearby, his son Max is cool and unwelcoming. So later, when Lucy is on the nearby beach where she meets a tame local dolphin, shots ring out that nearly hit her, she automatically suspects Max.
This is a story of passing encounters, mysterious deaths, enigmatic locals with classical Greek names, a somewhat naïve but plucky heroine and a Shakespearean ‘sir’ who in my mind I pictured as Sir Ralph Richardson.
Read it for the sultry heat, the mysterious Castello… and the dolphin. Re-reading it is like meeting an old friend.
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