This Rough Magic

Narrated by: Helen Johns
Length: 11 hrs and 50 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (255 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The pioneer of romantic suspense, Mary Stewart leads her listeners on a thrilling journey to a Mediterranean island paradise in this tale of mystery, murder and intrigue, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and Barbara Pym.  

Lucy Waring, a young, out-of-work actress from London, leaps at the chance to visit her sister for a summer on the island paradise of Corfu, and what's more, a famous but reclusive actor is staying in a villa nearby. But Lucy's hopes for rest and romance are shattered when a body washes up on the beach and she finds herself swept up in a chilling chain of events. 

I shuddered, and drank my coffee, leaning back in my chair to gaze out across pine tops furry with gold towards the sparkling sea, and surrendering myself to the dreamlike feeling that marks the start of a holiday....

©1964 Mary Stewart (P)2018 Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

What listeners say about This Rough Magic

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PERFECT BEACH READ, rediscovered

I first read This Rough Magic around the time I was studying Shakespeare as an English major, nearly 50 years ago, and I had forgotten what a good writer Mary Stewart was. Finding several of her books as I scrolled through auduble’s new releases piqued my interest and for some reason this title jumped out as the one to try first. Great choice!

The story involves Lucy Waring, the first-person narrator, a young actress whose first big role was a flop; Sir Julian Gale, an acclaimed actor who has gone into seclusion; Julian’s son Max, an aloof musician; a friendly dolphin; a raft of local Greek characters and the main character of the story — the island of Corfu. Oh, to summer in a fully-staffed villa on a Greek isle! What else could we possibly need?

Romance and murder, of course. And no one has ever combined the two any better than Mary Stewart.

The title is from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Sir Julian Gale and Lucy both know the play well (British stage actors, remember) and they reference it often throughout the book. This is a lot of fun for those familiar with the play, but all of the references are explained in context so lack of familiarity won’t spoil your enjoyment.

Written in the mid-1960s, the novel holds up amazingly well. Those of us who were alive then just shift ourselves back in time. For younger listeners, the idyllic island setting creates such a sense of seclusion that you won’t miss cell phones or the internet. Part of Stewart’s enduring charm is her ability to create an atmosphere through her character’s reactions to their physical surroundings. By the end of the book you will feel like you have visited a Greek island — and you’ll want to book a trip to one immediately!

And I can’t imagine how the narration could have been any better. Actress Helen Johns (you may have seen her recently as Eliza Barry in the TV series “Anne with an E”) brings Lucy fully to life.

22 people found this helpful

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As enchanting now as it was all those years ago

I was thrilled to find an unabridged audio version of one of my Mary Stewart favorites! It was wonderful to revisit a time gone by and memories of old. I will add my voice to the bring on more. I've already pre-ordered "Madam Will You Talk?". Please bring back more, especially "My Brother Michael", "The Moon-Spinners" and "Airs Above the Ground", if you cannot do them all!

7 people found this helpful

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Delighted that this is available in audio again!

How delightful that this treasure is available in audio format again. How I have missed listening to it. My poor audio-tapes of Jane Asher's narration are not in good shape any more, and digital format is so convenient for listening to while doing household tasks.

I do hope that all Mary Stewart's early novels will be re-issued in audio format again.

This is a lovely evocative novel set in an enchanted place, in a time not so very distant, when the turmoil and tensions of the Cold War cast shadows even over the sunny island of Corfu. Even over Miss Lucy Waring's innocent holiday with her sister...

Helen Johns does an excellent narration, with all the voices clear and distinct. I will look out for other audio-books narrated by her.

7 people found this helpful

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Sensational!

Mary Stewart only writes masterpieces, and this is one of them. The performance was thrilling, even musical. Fantastic!!

6 people found this helpful

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Such a pleasure

I have been waiting for years for the Mary Stewart "adventure romances" to be on tape. This is an excellent book, and I really enjoyed the narrator. Will listen to it many times. More please!

5 people found this helpful

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Audible needs more Mary Stewart!

The master of romantic suspense. More of her works are needed here! Please add more such as The Moonspinners , The Ivy Tree, and Nine Coaches Waiting!

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Mary Stewart Classic

I am so glad audible is releasing one of my favorite authors of all time! This is such a great well written mystery from a MASTER writer ! I hope the rest of her books will follow Especially my 3 favorites" Airs Above The Ground", "Moon Spinners",
and "My Brother Michael" No one compares to MS. The narration was perfect.

9 people found this helpful

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Classic romantic suspense revived.

it's wonderful to have the Mary Stewart books in audio. This homage to Shakespeare's Tempest is as exciting now as when I first read it in the 1970s.

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Pure magic!

This Rough Magic has long been a favorite of mine but the audio version brings it even further to life.
Excellent narration by Helen Johns.
Superb story set in the enchanting isle of Corfu. Not to be missed! Highly recommended!

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A classic!

WHAT IT'S ABOUT
When Lucy Waring's sister Phyllida suggests that she join her for a quiet holiday on the island of Corfu, young English Lucy is overjoyed. Her work as an actress has temporarily come to a halt. She believes there is no finer place to be "at liberty" than the sun-drenched isle of Corfu, the alleged locale for Shakespeare's The Tempest. Even the suspicious actions of the handsome, arrogant son of a famous actor cannot dampen her enthusiasm for this wonderland in the Ionian Sea.

But the peaceful idyll does not last long. A series of incidents, seemingly unconnected - but all surrounded in mystery - throws Lucy's life into a dangerous spin, as fear, danger and death - as well as romance - supplant the former tranquility. Then a human corpse is carried ashore on the incoming tide... And without warning, she found she had stumbled into a nightmare of strange violence, stalked by shadows of terror and sudden death.

MY TAKE
I've read this book several times and recently found the audiobook, so I dove in again. Helen Johns did a fantastic job with the narration.

It was first published in 1964 and represents the mindset of the time (things like "it's a man's world" and such) but also includes a feisty heroine. There's a case of insta-love but that happens a lot in Stewart's books. But she has interesting characters, paints beautiful pictures with her prose, and has plenty of action, intrigue, and murder to flavor the offering.

I'm glad some of these older classics are being made available again.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Maggie
  • 08-12-18

Serendipity... as ever was

Perfect timing. This summer I've been on a Mary Stewart jag, re-reading my favourites, all her stand alone novels from Madam, Will You Talk to Touch Not the Cat. They all stand the test of time, and I've loved revisiting them. My only regret was that none of them had ever been recorded in Audible. There were a few of the later, rather lighter, books but even narrators like Jenny Agutter can't make up for the fact they are abridged.
Then, by chance, I checked again - and there was one of my all time favourites, This Rough Magic, together with Wildfire at Midnight - and it seems Madam, Will You Talk is to follow so hopefully Hodder and Stoughton have commissioned the lot and they will all be new, unabridged recordings. Brilliant...
This is one of her 3 Ionioan based books, often linked with The Moonspinners (set on Crete) and My Brother Michael (set in Delphi) for that reason, but they all stand as separate and it doesn't really matter what order you read them in. The setting isn't that long ago but might seem it to some, no mobile phones or instant e-anything.
It's long been one of my favourites as the characters are all so well drawn, from Lucy herself to Phil, Max and Sir Julian Gale, Godfrey Manning and I've always had a soft spot for the lovely, but surprisingly tough, Adonis. It brings Corfu to life as well but sadly I'm sure if I went to some of the quiet fishing villages described, they'd be very different today. Great story ... has everything from tension and mystery to humour to romance as all Mary Stewart's books do, and is still gripping after several re-reads over many years, but no spoilers.
The links to The Tempest are interesting but it isn't necessary to know Shakespeare to enjoy the book. If you do know and love the play it certainly adds another dimension, and the 'this rough magic' speech, in the hands of the right actor, could reduce anyone to tears. (|My vote would go to Roger Allum at The Globe).
I wasn't entirely sure about Helen John's voice at first, she seemed a bit wavery at the outset but it soon grew on me and I really enjoyed having this old favourite read out loud.
Now moving on to Wildfire at Midnight on Skye, and so looking forward to the rest as they are published...

16 people found this helpful

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  • As Brown
  • 09-03-18

Lovely performance

A beautiful reading of a charming story, very nostalgic! The characters were wonderfully distinct in this reading and the atmosphere was gorgeously illustrated. I’d recommend it!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Mrs T A Hinton
  • 10-31-18

Beautifully read

I’ve read the book a few times but Helen Johns brought all the characters to life. May Stewart is a wonderful writer and her descriptions of places make me want to visit them but I’ve found that Helen’s narration has highlighted things I missed when reading myself.
I loved it!

2 people found this helpful

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  • anasta
  • 02-07-20

Good

Very well written....old fashioned narrative but enjoyable.
First read this when I was just 16...now 70!
Author excellent.
Narration very good ....until the pronunciation of the most common Greek surname in fiction. PAPADOPOULOS! Totally hilarious....

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-04-19

Enjoyable, but rather slow paced and predictable

The author was recommended to me as having a similar style to Dick Francis'. I can't really agree with that as the pacing was much slower, particularly in the first half, and the plot was pretty simple - after the first two hours it's pretty obvious who the villain is, there are no real surprises anywhere down the road, and most of the characters where a bit two-dimensional and quite predictable. However, I still enjoyed listening to it as the protagonist was rather likable, her love for the beauty of the Ionian sea shone through, and the pace picked up some after the first two hours. The characterisation of Corfu and the Greeks was on the touristy-clichéd side, but as the protagonist is a visiting actress, that was fine by me. Especially some of the later action sequences were well written and rather suspenseful. Overall, I liked listening to it while driving, but I wouldn't listen for a second time.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Sue
  • 05-29-19

Delightful!

Another favourite revisited. Thoroughly enjoyable, and will happily listen again. So pleased more of these enchanting and exciting Mary Stewart stories are becoming available from audible. Would love more Emilia Fox narrations too.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-28-18

Prospero's Isle

A wonderful story telling of redemption and renewal of a widower once seeking solace in a bottle who finds the courage to stay true to his art. The two love stories are sympathetically told and the Island comes alive on the pages. Mary Stewart is a wonderful story-teller I wish more of her books were available to listen to.

1 person found this helpful

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  • mrs.v.preen
  • 07-03-20

Easy Listening

pleasant to listen to while working .
No surprises.
Enjoyable quotes and references to The Tempest.

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  • Amelia P
  • 06-21-20

A magical thrilling journey with a little love thrown in!

I genuinely enjoyed this story from beginning to end. Not an author I have come across before but now I feel “where have I been!”

I was transported to Corfu and a very intimate and secret world I felt privileged to step into.

To categorise this story is difficult because one minute you are in a romance, then a drama then woosh and you are knee deep into an exciting thriller! It wasn’t what I was expecting from it (an a to b crime story) and I’m delighted it wasn’t.

I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-09-20

Rubbish

A very boring unlikely story written in the style of a poor mans’ Georgette Heyer. I couldn’t get past the first chapters it was unbearable to listen to. Beach wraps falling off on cliff paths and the like!!!

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  • Gianetta
  • 11-09-19

Excellent story

Mary Stewart wrote beautifully and Lucy is a very real character to my mind. I love her sensitivity to animals. The scene with the beached dolphin is great. Lucy picking the roses also.

It took three listens to get used to the narrator's voice. I don't see why it is shaky and it takes away from the mood of the story a bit. I persist because it is such a good story.

1 person found this helpful