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The Magic of My Youth

By Arthur Calder-Marshall

Don’t be fooled by the title of this gem from Arthur Calder-Marshall. Originally published in 1951, but set during the 1920s, the reader could be forgiven for expecting a tale of gilded English youth, lounging about the spires in a haze of privilege. But quite the contrary. The ‘magic’ of the title quite literally refers to magic. The young Arthur, like many young people of a non-conformist bent, finds himself drawn to the creepy and the supernatural.

The shadow of the infamous occultist Aleister Crowley — at the height of his dubious powers during this era — looms large across these pages. A schoolboy in rural England, Arthur and his older brother become acquainted with the only Bohemian in the village: an impecunious poet known as Vicky Bird. Though married, Vicky Bird is haunted by some past romantic tragedy, in which Crowley is somehow implicated. He introduces Arthur to the legend surrounding this mysterious personage, and to a world where all is not what it seems.

The Magic of My Youth is a wonderful tale of English eccentrics, told with deadpan British humour. Bizarre, dry, quirky, and threaded with the melancholia of a generation who only just escaped the devastation of World War I — it is sure to delight the modern reader.

Praise for The Magic of My Youth

‘His own memoir, The Magic of My Youth, does little to solve the mystery of Calder-Marshall, coded as it is in a dizzying and fantastical tale about a young Oxford student in search of occultist Aleister Crowley, a wanton influence on the writer’s formative years. It is a lavish and delirious read for anyone interested in experiencing fashionable Bloomsbury in the 1920s, the perfect complement to Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies – The Guardian

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