Vestal Fire

Compton Mackenzie
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ISBN 9780571251629 Format Paperback
Published 21/05/2009 Length 442 pages

About Book

In pre-War Europe, the expatriate inhabitants of Sirene are proud of their reputation for tolerance; the island is a haven for anyone seeking acceptance, quiet - and gossip. When the charming dilettante Count Marsac appears in their midst, the islanders accept him as one of their own, especially the Misses Pepworth-Norton, the aging lesbians who form social opinion on the island. But Marsac's vice is more shocking than anyone expected, and when the rumours start to fly, the island community comes close to breaking apart.


Compton Mackenzie set Vestal Fire, first published 1927, on the island of Capri (fictionalised as Sirene), where he had lived while finishing Sinister Street in 1913-14. In those years it was an island of exiles and expatriates, settled by gay men and women looking for tolerance, and artists and writers seeking inspiration.

  • About Compton Mackenzie

    Compton Mackenzie (1883-1972) was a writer with a huge output, over ninety books. He wrote too much, but novels like Sinister Street, satires like Vestal Fire and Extraordinary Women and entertainments like Whisky Galore deserve to survive.

    He was born in West Hartlepool, educated at St Paul's School and Magdalen College, Oxford (his upbringing is vividly described in Sinister Street). During the First World War he became Director of the Aegean Intelligence Service.

    He had wide interests: he co-founded The Gramophone magazine in 1923: he was President of the Siamese Cat Club: he was a Scottish nationalist. He also like islands, living on Capri and Barra, and was lampooned for this by D. H. Lawrence, appearing as Mr Cathcart in the short story 'The Man Who Loved Islands'. He thought of suing but, in the end, ticked D. H. Lawrence off for suggesting cowslips could grow in a granite landscape; they prefer lime.

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