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The Stormy Petrel by Mary Stewart

The Stormy Petrel (original 1991; edition 1994)

by Mary Stewart

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6111025,874 (3.31)39
Lady Mary Stewart is one of our most successful novelists. Her first novel, MADAM WILL YOU TALK, was published in 1954 and marked the beginning of a long and acclaimed writing career. All her novels have been bestsellers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Title:The Stormy Petrel
Authors:Mary Stewart
Info:Fawcett (1994), Mass Market Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Stormy Petrel by Mary Stewart (1991)



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Most of the action in this book takes place on a remote Scottish island. It's not a long book, and set in the early 1990s, rather later than many of Mary Stewart's novels. The genre is her standard romantic thriller, but the romance is so low-key as to be almost non-existent, and while there's some tension, it's far less gripping than some of her earlier novels.

The characterisation is good, and the pace works well, other than a bit too much (for my tastes) about bird-watching. This is important for part of the storyline, but I skipped a few ornithological passages. As with books of this kind, everything felt real while I was reading, despite the story being somewhat unbelievable, and the ending rather too sanitised for reality, albeit entirely satisfying.

Suitable for teenagers - as most of this author's books are - as well as adults.

Longer review here: https://suesbookreviews.blogspot.com/2019/10/stormy-petrel-by-mary-stewart.html ( )
  SueinCyprus | Oct 8, 2019 |
I fell in love with a Scottish island when I was eight years old.

Looking back it was a mad thing for my parents to do, travelling so far across country with two young children, but that wanted to see Scotland, and they had been guided to a particular place by a very good friend. So if it was madness it was the very best kind of madness, and if I had to live outside Cornwall I should still choose to live on a Scottish Island.

That’s what drew me to ‘Stormy Petrel, even though I knew it was one of Mary Stewart’s later novels and not considered to be her best work; it was set on a fictional Scottish island, and island very close to and very like mine.

The story opened in a Cambridge where Rose, who write poetry for love and science fiction for money, was a tutor of English. A newspaper advertisement caught her eye: an advertisement for cottage on the Hebridean island of Moila. It sounded perfect. Rose could have the time and space to write and her doctor brother, a keen wildlife photographer, would love to take pictures of the rare birds that nested on the island.

Rose travelled north before her brother, and she found the island and the cottage to be everything she hoped them to be.

When Rose wakes in the night to the sounds of someone moving about downstairs she assumes that her brother has arrived. But he hasn’t, and another man is making tea in the kitchen. Both are startled, but the intruder is quick to reassure Rose, explaining that he had lived there with foster parents, he had fallen out of touch, he had no idea that they had moved away. And then another man arrived. His explanation was that he was a visiting geologist, he had been camping, and when the storm carried his tent away he had come to look for shelter where he saw lights.

The two men claimed not to have met, but there was something in their manners towards each other that told rose that they had, that something was amiss. Rose made a sensible decision: she withdrew to her room, leaving the pair to make the best of things downstairs.

When Rose woke again the storm and her house-guests had gone. She thought that was the end of things, but of course it was only the beginning ….

I found a lot to like in ‘Stormy Petrel’.

Moila is so beautifully and lovingly described that I was transported, and I didn’t doubt for one second that it was inspired by a place that Mary Stewart knew and loved.

” It is not a large island, perhaps nine miles by five, with formidable cliffs to the north-west that face the weather like the prow of a ship. From the steep sheep-bitten turf at the head of these cliffs the land slopes gently down towards a glen where the island’s only sizeable river runs seawards out of a loch cupped in a shallow basin among low hills. Presumably the loch – lochan, rather, for it is not large – is fed by springs eternally replenished by the rain, for nothing flows into it except small burns seeping through rush and bog myrtle, which spread after storms into sodden quagmires of moss. But the outflow is perennially full, white water pouring down to where the moor cleaves open and lets it fall to the sea.”

I loved that Rose came to love her island as I loved mine, that she appreciated that things that made it so special. And I was pleased that she proved herself to be sensible, capable and practical.

I was pleased that the romance was low-key, and that the resolution of the story was gentle, with future possibilities simply suggested.

I was less pleased that the suspense was low-key, that it became clear quickly who was the hero and who was the villain, that the villain was not so very wicked, and that there was very little mystery to be resolved or danger to be faced.

And so I loved my trip to Moila, I loved the company, but the story – it needed something more. ( )
  BeyondEdenRock | Nov 1, 2018 |
Cozy read, light mystery, very light romance.

Rose Fenmore visits a tiny island in western Scotland in order to have some peace and quiet to get some writing done. On a stormy night shortly after her arrival, two men show up looking for refuge. They both seem a bit suspicious of the other, making Rose a little nervous as well. Nothing goes wrong but over the next few days she assists the locals and police officials in solving a mystery surrounding both men. In doing so, she starts to befriend one of the men and by the end of the book you realize the friendship has bloomed into a new romance. ( )
  AddictedToMorphemes | Apr 29, 2017 |
When Rose Fenemore travels to the island of Moila off the west coast of Scotland, she is looking forward to spending a quiet holiday with her brother Crispin in a paradise filled with seabirds and wild flowers. Remote and lonely, the secluded island seems to Rose to be the perfect place to relax and get away from it all. In fact, the isolated cottage she has rented - advertised as an "ivory tower" - promises to be the ideal retreat where Rose can finish writing her novel, and Crispin can commune with nature - walking, fishing and indulging in his passion for photography.

However, things don't turn out quite so idyllically. Her brother's arrival is delayed, and the island's peace is shattered by the arrival of two men, seeking shelter during a violent summer storm. Each man tells a remarkably different story - conflicting narratives that draw Rose into a web of menace and suspicion.

Rose's discovery of the stormy petrels - the fragile, elusive seabirds that nest ashore but spend the majority of their lives flying just above the waves - comes to symbolize for Rose her confusion about Ewen Mackay, the man known as the island's prodigal son, as well as the man who calls himself John Parsons - someone whose account of himself Rose has every reason to distrust.

I enjoyed reading this book - it was certainly interesting and a remarkably quick read for me. However, I must say that I didn't really find the plot all that suspenseful - at least not as suspenseful as some of Ms. Stewart's other work that I've read. Although I wouldn't say that this book is Ms. Stewart's absolute best - compared to some of her other books that I've read in the past - it still was quite good. I would give The Stormy Petrel by Mary Stewart an A! ( )
1 vote moonshineandrosefire | Mar 2, 2015 |
The Stormy Petrel by Mary Stewart is an enjoyable short novel, with a touch of the gothic and romance. At first I expected that there was going to be more a twist at the end, but even though there wasn't I thought it was a well-constructed storyline. In addition the writing is crisp, intelligent, and evocative. Especially given that I had just finished a very long so-so gothic romance/tragedy, I appreciated that this book was short but better than that one. I am inclined to believe the oft-said idea that writing something short is harder than writing something long. ( )
  sbsolter | Feb 6, 2014 |
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Dedicated to Culcioides Pulicaris Argyllensis with respect
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I must begin with a coincidence which I would not dare to recount if this were a work of fiction.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Stormy Petrel in the UK; The Stormy Petrel in the US.
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