The House on the Strand – Daphne du Maurier

At the beginning of July, I went on a not-so-summery holiday to Cornwall. We were a lovely half-hour coastal walk from St. Ives, where I found plenty of delightful tea shops and brilliant bookshops to keep me more than happy on the rainy and windy days when others braved the beach. It was in a very friendly Oxfam Bookshop that I found The House on the Strand. I was about half way through the week, struggling with a book that I wasn’t really in the mood for, and had a sudden craving for Daphne du Maurier. Is there a better place to read her books than Cornwall?

When I tried to explain the plot, I was simply laughed at: The narrator, Richard Young is going through a bit of a mid-life crisis and after quitting his job as a publisher, escapes to his old university friend Magnus’ house in Cornwall. He has one week until his wife and step children turn up and his dear friend has asked a rather odd favour. Magnus, a biophysicist, has created a secret drug that can take you back in time by 600 years (that’s the bit where people start laughing) and asks Richard to be his guinea pig. My biggest problem with this book is that it’s just too unrealistic. But however silly the storyline sounds, Daphne du Maurier manages to make it a chillingly serious tale.  Continue reading

My Cousin Rachel – Daphne Du Maurier

My Cousin Rachel, the last story in du Maurier’s ‘Four Great Cornish Novels’ collection and a brilliant one to finish on. After reading Frenchman’s Creek, I was slightly apprehensive about the final book in the collection. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it turns out there was no need to worry. My Cousin Rachel brought back that shiver-down-my-spine feeling that kept me on edge all through Rebecca.

I did not find the novel as enjoyable as Rebecca, because I could not fully relax while reading it. My opinions of the characters were constantly changing and even now that I have finished, I’m not too sure how I feel about either the awkward narrator or the woman who he obsesses over for the majority of the book. Continue reading

Frenchman’s Creek – Daphne Du Maurier

This is a very different novel to Jamaica Inn and Rebecca. It does not have the same mounting tension and terrifying characters. What it does have, however, is a superb opening. Daphne du Maurier certainly knows how to start a book and the beginning of Frenchman’s Creek is particularly atmospheric.

Navron House in Cornwall, where tourists can take tea, is so unlike what it used to be, when a women lived there one summer, many years ago. However, the surrounding landscape is as enchanting as ever with the thick trees, the glittering river and a secretive creek, hidden from view. If you listen carefully, you can hear echoes of that hot summer long ago and whispers of a woman and her lover. If you should find yourself drifting on the waters of Frenchman’s Creek, you may see the ghost of a ship and hear the flutter of sails. And if you close your eyes, you might be taken back to a different time to relive the love story of a pirate and the Lady Dona. Continue reading

Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

You could not find a more perfect beginning to a novel. ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’ Such a simple sentence, but it fills the minds of curious readers with so many questions. What is Manderley? Where is Manderley? Manderely – such a romantic sounding place, followed by a beautiful description of the dream. A walk up a long driveway, surrounded by exotic, overgrown plants and trees. It is a magical opening to a truly magnificent book.

After reading Jamaica Inn, I could not bring myself to put my big book of du Maurier’s “Four Great Cornish Novels” to one side. I had to keep reading, and the next novel in the collection was Rebecca. I read this brilliant book a few years ago, and it is still as creepy, suspenseful and beautifully written as I remember. Continue reading

Jamaica Inn – Daphne Du Maurier

As the world outside has gradually become red, brown and yellow with beautiful autumn leaves, and the mornings have grown foggy and damp, I have been feeling as though it is the perfect weather for curling up under my blanket and getting stuck in a good, thrilling book. What could be more perfect than a Daphne du Maurier with her chilling stories, usually set in a lonely location, with stormy weather and bleak countryside?

I have a large book with a collection of four of du Maurier’s “Great Cornish Novels” starting with Jamaica Inn. I first read this when I was quite young, and had forgotten the details of the plot. All I remembered was a feeling of tension, excitement and mystery surrounding the book. Eager to read the book again, I raced through it in only a few days. Indeed, it was hard to put the book down! Continue reading