This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart

I just keep coming back to Mary Stewart’s book – like a childhood memory. ‘This Rough Magic’ was published in 1965.

Lucy Waring is in her mid-20s and working as an actress. She has just had her first major role and the play was a flop, so she is taking stock of her life and career. Fortunately her sister Phyllida is married to a rich Italian. Phyllida is pregnant with her third child, relaxing at the family estate on the island of Corfu and Lucy joins her there.

Lucy soon finds that both her neighbours are attractive men. Godfrey Manning is a writer and photographer, working on a book, while Max Gale is a composer and is staying with his father, the famous actor Sir Julian Gale who disappeared from the acting scene a few years ago.

Soon after her arrival, a local boy – Spiro, who is the twin of Phyllida’s maid Miranda, goes missing from a boat, presumed drowned. When Lucy finds a body on the beach a few days later, she expects it to be Spiro, but it is another local who was suspected of being involved in smuggling to nearby communist Albania.

Between the coincidental drownings and people acting strangely, Lucy starts to suspect that something is going on. She sets out to find out the truth which, of course, places her in danger.

Meanwhile, she finds herself falling in love – but is it with the right man?


This book contained all the elements of an excellent 1960s thriller – including a plot to destabilize the Albanian communist government (remember this book was written at the height of the cold war). The ending of the book was fast-paced and exciting and as usual the Mary Stewart touch of romance was just right.

I struggled a bit with the theatre and Shakespeare references as they are just not my thing.

I also found some of the attitudes (particularly towards the local ‘peasants’) fairly condescending. Did people really think like that in the 1960s?

I think the good outweighed the bad in this book. I love Mary Stewart, but this was not my favourite. The best thing was probably the book’s ability to transport me to beautiful Corfu – somewhere I’d love to visit in person.


Book Published 1964


See a full list of books by Mary Stewart

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