This Rough Magic

Title: This Rough Magic
Author: Mary Stewart
Rating: 3 stars

Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Published: 1964
Pages: 336
Possible Censorship Issues: Some language, some mild thematic material

The novel This Rough Magic revolves around English actress, Lucy Waring, who is invited by her sister to join her on the Greek island of Corfu. But after Lucy arrives, unexplained murders and suspicious incidents begin to plague the island forcing her to wonder who is involved: the cloisted actor Sir Julian Gale, his son Mark, famous photographer Godfrey Manning, or any number of the island’s inhabitants.

As always, Mary Stewart’s mastery of description is the highlight of any book she writes. Her striking descriptions of characters and landscapes instantly create a mood for her books that transports the reader into a different world and culture.  In addition, this book weaves Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” throughout the novel to compliment both the setting and the plot. When I finished reading, I immediately wanted to dig out my paperback and reread the play.

While I did somewhat enjoy this book, I must say that this is my least favorite Mary Stewart novel that I have read thus far. (An unpopular opinion, I realize, as it seems to be one of readers’ favorites according to ratings and reviews) The pacing of the plot was very uneven with long periods of exposition containing little action followed by brief scenes of major plot development. The romance, especially, was frustratingly unbelievable and should have either been expanded or removed all together. The two love interests had very few scenes together, and after only a few days of knowing each other, become engaged.  I was left at the end of the book feeling very cheated and dissatisfied with the way both the plot and romance were tied up quickly at the very end of the story. Furthermore, no character development at all was seen in any of the characters.

All in all, I wouldn’t particularly recommend this book to anyone but an avid Stewart enthusiast — I would much more likely recommend Moonspinners (an enjoyable read) for those interested in exploring her suspense novels. This Rough Magic had many good and interesting aspects, but for me, they just didn’t quite make up for the defects in the plot and development of characters.


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