Stormy Petrel by Mary Stewart

Mary Stewart is another of those authors whom I’m trying to read my way through and ticking them off my list as I go. This book was first published in 1991 but my copy is a Hodder and Stoughton which was published this year.

Rose Fenemore is an English tutor at Cambridge but she’s also a secret but popular writer of science fiction. She’s got a bit of writer’s block so when she spots an advert in The Times- ‘Ivory tower for long or short let. Isolated cottage on small Hebridean island off the coast of Mull. Ideal for writer or artist in search of peace.’ – she decides to write off to the box number in the hope of renting it for a holiday. I know, I know – it’s very similar to Elizabeth von Arnim’s An Enchanted April but on the other hand it is something which lots of us do from time to time. Well we do anyway.

Rose’s brother decides to join her in the cottage as he’s a keen photographer and he wants to photograph the wildlife on the island, particularly the elusive stormy petrel, a small sea-bird. Things don’t go exactly to plan and Rose realises that she can’t find peace to write even on the tiny island of Moila, off the Isle of Mull.

This was a quick read and it’s perfect if you’re looking for some light holiday reading and you particularly enjoy books with a Scottish setting. Or even if you just want something to take you away from all the horrible news which we’re getting on a daily basis, from all corners of the world.

I always look to see who a book has been dedicated to because it can be really interestng. Mary Stewart dedicated this one to Culcicoides Pulicaris Argyllensis with respect.

She obviously has a sense of humour as that is the Latin name for the teeny wee midge which plagues the west coast of Scotland and eats people alive! Luckily they very rarely bother me!

8 thoughts on “Stormy Petrel by Mary Stewart

  1. I hadn’t heard of this book, but I’m right now reading Stewart’s The Ivy Tree, which is all intrigue and family secrets. This sounds altogether different. The only other books of hers I know anything about are her Arthurian novels, which I think are just brilliant.

    • Teresa,

      I especially loved the first three Arthurian books, I read the fourth recently, The Wicked Day but didn’t think it was quite as good as the others, but I haven’t got a hold of the fifth one yet. I haven’t read The Ivy Tree, hoping to get it soon. Apparently she based it on Josephine Tey’s book – Bratt Farrar which I read a couple of months ago. Tey’s another Scottish author I’m reading my way through at the moment. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Oh, Katrina!
    I read this book so very long ago and didn’t remember that its title is The Stormy Petrel. Episodes of this book have stayed with me for countless years. I simply must read it again, I loved it so! Thanks for the reminder!

    Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)

    • Judith,

      I think that you probably loved the bits describing the island and the wildlife. Seal Island is mentioned quite a lot and people do love seals. At the moment I can see hugely pregnant seals basking on rocks when it’s a sunny day. They’re about a 20 minute walk from my house. I’ll have to put some local wildlife photos on ‘pining’ soon! The sea-birds are too fast when they dive into the sea though and gulls are boring and just a pain in the neck, as far as I’m concerned anyway. I hope you enjoy the re-read!

      • Katrina,
        You know, you’re absolutely right. I loved all the appreciation of the natural wonders in the book, and I loved the solitude the main character enjoyed. When I’m on my own for an evening, and I cook an omelet for myself, I think of this book.


        • Judith,

          Yes Stormy Petrel hits the right spot for people like us. We had omelet for dinner tonight, with home-grown salad! I took some photos of seals today but I wish I had been able to tape their calls, it was quite unearthly.

  3. Although people talk about Stewart’s “exotic” settings, I mostly prefer her books set in the UK, and I do like this one. I really liked Rose–her reading of her students, and her general unflappable-ness. That said, I thought the romance was a bit…sedate. Could have used a bit of Ivy tree-type Sturm und Drang, IMHO.

    • Niranjana,
      Daftly,I sometimes have to force myself to read books with exotic settings as I don’t like to be somewhere too hot! The romance was almost non-existent really, just a possibility of it in the future at Cambridge. Sturm und Drang – I really must get a hold of The Ivy Tree!

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