This Rough Magic - Mary Stewart

I’m done.

Done with the book and done with Stewart.

Her kind of romantic suspense really does not work for me on either romance side or the suspense side of things.

Having read two of her books, I am left with a feeling that her stories are overly contrived, full of snobbery, looking down on people who are different from a specific set of stuck-up upper-middle class English folk, and promoting an ideal of woman that is dated, and that I would have perceived as dated even at the time that the books were written.

I’m coming away from her books with a sense of regression of ideas and perceptions that, to me, read more like a terrifying vision of dystopia in the way of The Stepford Wives than a state of affairs, romantic or otherwise, that is to be aspired to, or that provides me with any escapist comfort.

It was interesting to try and broaden my horizons and discover a new to me author. I also have to say that Stewart could create an absolutely spectacular sense of place and atmosphere.

However, I found her characters and story lines just aggravating.

Not for me.


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Just to get it out of my system…

…and, more importantly, off of my shelves:

I started This Rough Magic on Sunday morning but could only handle so much of the book before I wanted to slap several of the characters.

The problem is, I really want to read the book until the end because Stewart’s atmospheric writing is just that good and I really like the idea of tying this story into the story of The Tempest (Shakespeare).

So, I think I will finish this book this week – independent from Halloween Bingo – in the hope that this will cure me of any desire to read more of Stewart’s work.

Reading progress update: I’ve read 129 out of 372 pages.

I laughed at her. ‘You should be like me, and get your jewellery you-know-where. Then you could lose the lot down on the beach, and not worry about Leo’s beating you.’

‘If that was all I thought would happen,’ said Phyllida, with a spice of her usual self, ‘I’d probably enjoy it. But it’s his mother.’

This. This is the sort of throw-away comment that pops up through-out the book that makes me cringe. It’s not just dated, it’s not even funny.

And the description of women in this book is just down-right insulting:

Phyllida was described earlier as the stereotypical hysterical female. She forgot her valuable diamond ring in a plastic bag at the beach, then blamed her male friend who retrieved her things from the beach for not noticing the bag. This was right after they discovered the body. He tried to help comfort her and not make her go back to the place where they found the body. He had no reason to know that the plastic bag was hers.

How in the world is it his fault she lost the bloody ring?!

Our main character – Lucy – is little better. She over-dramatises everything and is so naive, I’m not even sure how she even manages any social interaction. She’s not TSTL exactly but she’s really, really childlike.

And then we have the dolphin. Stewart – through Lucy’s eyes – tries to make the dolphin out to be some sort of magical sea monster.

Don’t get me wrong, I also hold dolphins to be magical in numerous ways, but our poor excuse for a heroine needs to get over it and accept that it is a dolphin, not the Kraken.

The bundle stirred. As my breath whistled sharply in, I saw, in the torchlight, the gleam of a living eye. But then in the split half-second that prevented me from screaming, I saw what – not who – this was. It was the dolphin.

Apollo’s child. Amphitryte’s darling. The sea-magician. High and dry.

The eye moved, watching me. The tail stirred again, as if trying to beat movement out of the hard earth as it would from water. It struck the edge of the crisping ripples with a splash that seemed to echo right up the rocks.

I tiptoed closer, under the blackness of the pines. ‘Darling?’ I said softly. ‘What’s the matter? Are you hurt?’

The creature lay still, unblinking, the eye liquid and watchful. It was silly to look, as I did, for recognition, but at least I could see no fear of me. I shone the torch carefully over the big body. There seemed to be no wound, or mark of any kind. I examined the sand round about. There was no blood, only a wide, dragged wake where the animal had been hauled or thrown out of the water.

Reading progress update: I’ve read 262 out of 372 pages.

‘Lovely, thanks. We went to the Achilleion.’

‘I have been there once. It is very wonderful, is it not?’

‘Very. Then we had tea at Benitses.’

‘Benitses? Why did you go there? There is nothing at Benitses! In Corfu it is better.’

‘I wanted to see it, and to drive back along the sea. Besides, I was longing for some tea, and Corfu was too far, and I wanted to look at some antiquities on the way home.’

She knitted her brows.

‘Antiquities? Oh, you mean statues, like the ones on the Esplanade, the fine English ones.’ ‘In a way, though those aren’t old enough. It really means things many hundreds of years old, like the things in the Museum in Corfu.’

‘Are they valuable, these antiquities?’

‘Very. I don’t know if you could say what they were worth in terms of money, but I’d say they’re beyond price. Have you seen them?’

If you ever find me explaining the meaning of “antiquity” to a Greek adult, please kick me.

Reading progress update: I’ve read 308 out of 372 pages.

‘Where is she tonight? Did she know you’d come out?’

‘She’s out with friends at the Corfu Palace. I got a note from her when I got in, and it was too late to join them, so I just stayed home. I … felt kind of blue. We’d had such a lovely day, you and I, I just couldn’t stay in the house, somehow.’

‘Poor Lucy. And then I was foul to you, I’m so sorry. Anybody know where you are?’

The question was casual, almost caressing, and it went off like a fire alarm. I hesitated perhaps a second too long.

‘Miranda was in the house. I told her I was coming out.’

‘To the boat-house?’

‘Well, no. I didn’t know that myself, did I?’

If you’re alone on a boat with a man you suspect of being a murderer, you probably do not want to tell him that no one knows where you went.

Lucy is such a dipstick.


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