The Wind Off The Small Isles, by Mary Stewart

If you, like me, consider yourself to be a Mary Stewart fan, you might be concerned that you have never heard of her book The Wind Off The Small Isles, which her publisher describes as a “beloved modern classic”. But take heart, dear readers, because it turns out this description is utter garbage—Stewart produced several beloved modern classics, but this isn't one of them.

The Wind Off The Small Isles is actually a 68-page-long novella. Hodder Books bulked it up to an acceptable level by packaging it alongside a short story, “The Lost One”, and a looong excerpt from one of Stewart's actual novels (prepare to enjoy nearly 30 pages of This Rough Magic). The novella's plot is paper thin: Perdita West is the clever young secretary to a famous novelist. While accompanying her employer on a research trip to the Canary Islands, Perdita hears a local story about a wealthy young woman who eloped with a penniless fisherman nearly 100 years earlier. The story seems like a romantic legend, but when a landslide traps Perdita inside one of the island's caves, she discovers what actually happened to the star-crossed lovers.

To give an idea of how thinly sketched this novella and the accompanying short story are, I'm not actually sure if they're about the same character. Both stories feature a heroine named Perdita, but there is so little established about either protagonist that it's quite possible Stewart just liked the name enough to use it twice. The Wind Off the Small Isles and "The Lost One" are both basically drawn-out action set pieces, with little else to recommend them. To be fair, Stewart was very good at writing action set pieces, but I strongly advise checking out her full-length novels—specifically, this one—which feature action sequences that are even more engrossing, thanks to the the intelligent characterization, creative plotting, and deliciously Gothic atmosphere that accompanies them.
Posted by: Julianka


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