The Parasites is one of du Maurier’s lesser known works. It is significantly different to her other works that I have read, it’s much more realistic and there isn’t as much of the gothic influence in it – at least not obviously. Once again, I have to say I’m glad that I am being a completist with du Maurier’s work because I think this would have been a book I ordinarily overlooked.
It follows the story of three siblings, well, sort of. Maria and Niall are step siblings and Celia, their half sister. They’re a product of famous singer and an even more famous dancer. It’s mostly a story told in retrospect, as in the first chapter Maria’s husband calls the siblings parasites and from there we delve in to their mutual past as they try to understand why they are parasites. While this isn’t so heavy on plot, it is one of the best character studies I have read in a long time. The three siblings are so symbiotic it’s both interesting and disturbing.
This is a very ambiguous book, with absolutely detestable characters but I found myself loving it because of the way it was written. The novel itself is told from the mutual ‘we’ perspective, never quite certain which one of them is narrating because they’re all so intertwined. As with all of her other books, this is written flawlessly and the past and present are seamlessly flipped between. I don’t often like a book with characters I hate but, this was du Maurier and it was done so well and so intentionally that I rather liked this change from the norm.
Overall I think this is a solid 4/5, it is by no means perfect and I didn’t much care for the ending but I really liked this interlude in my reading of her works because it is so very different to all the others in her bibliography that I have read. Once I got in to it I read it quite quickly, as I usually do with a du Maurier. I really can’t get enough of this woman’s writing and to think I’m almost at the half way stage of her bibliography is heartbreaking – the next du Maurier can’t come soon enough!