Review published on November 2, 2016.
What a treat to receive this beautiful little book! It is a tiny little story, presented in a hardback book with a cover illustrated by birds, flowers and leaves, with no paper sleeve.
The author, Mary Stewart, wrote it in 1968. She died in 2014 and the book is described on the cover as an extraordinary long-lost novella by a beloved author. She wrote almost 20 books and was made a Doctor of Literature by Durham University in 2009.
The book is set in a bleak landscape of volcanic Lanzarote, with vivid descriptions of lava tunnels, caves, ash, grit and landslides. Each chapter is headed by a phrase or two from Keats’ poem, ‘The Eve of St Agnes’.
Although the story is completely unbelievable, the compensation is in the writing, like the account of the kestrel which ‘swept across the bay, the sun glinting rosy on its back’ and the underwater views of ‘weeds in sable and silver and olive (which) moved like wind-blown hair.
To quote from the Press Release,’In 1879, a wealthy young woman elopes with an impoverished fisherman, leaving her family, on Lanzarote, distraught. In 1968, while snorkelling, Perdita, (the heroine) gets trapped in an underwater cave. No one knows where she is, so she can’t count on a rescue. And her efforts to save herself will reveal the solution to a century-old mystery’
The book will be of particular interest to anyone familiar with volcanic islands, or anyone who enjoys snorkelling and anyone who takes pleasure in a romantic story with a secret twist. So – suspend your doubts because of the far-fetched plot and enjoy the beauty of the writing and the owning of a lovely little book.
Jan Jeffery 5/4
The Wind Off the Small Isles by Mary Stewart
Hodder & Stoughton 978-1473641242 hbk Sept. 2016
The Canterville Ghost and Other Stories by Oscar Wilde