Review: The House on the Strand – Daphne du Maurier

houseonthestrandI love Daphne du Maurier. Absolutely love her. Every book I read by her just confirms that fact more and more. This is possibly one of her best, it’s her penultimate novel and it is just incredible. A lot of people disagree with that sentiment, however. All I will say is it was definitely the perfect October read!

The House on the Strand is an astounding novel. As nearly always with du Maurier, it has the backdrop of Cornwall but, unusually, this book is a bit sci-fi. Our protagonist, Dick Young, is spending the summer at the family home of his friend, and biophysicist, Magnus Lane. The latter is conducting experiments with a drug which enables Dick to travel back in time to the 14th Century. There is never a dull moment and even when Dick is living up to his name, I empathised with him and was on his side; I opposed anyone who stood in his way even though he was a bit of a prick throughout most of the novel.

As always, her writing was fabulous. It was both easy to follow and intricate, it was vivid yet thick with atmosphere. Even though you’re back and forth from the 20th century and the 14th century, it’s not confusing instead it’s absolutely effortless. She creates such beautiful imagery and an intriguing plot an I just love her.

This is the best book of the month for me so far, the time of year I read it was a big help (cold, dark nights under a blanket!) and I would definitely recommend this to any fan of du Maurier’s writing. It’s probably not a place to start but definitely one to think about if you’ve read a few of her novels and/or short stories. Easily a 5* read!

Review: I’ll Never Be Young Again – Daphne du Maurier

INBYAI love Daphne du Maurier. Anyone who has followed this blog or knows me in any way knows I love this woman. This book however is one of the weaker ones of hers that I have read. It’s by no means awful, it’s a really good book it’s just not up to the strength of her better known books or even her first novel which I reviewed recently.

The opening chapter is just wonderful; I thought I was in for a treat. We open with our narrator standing on a bridge, ready to jump. But it just didn’t really take flight for me. Richard, the narrator, is insufferable. While du Maurier captured the male voice almost perfectly, I found him intolerable to read through.

The point of this book is, essentially, a coming of age novel. We follow Richard from this broken shell of a boy, who is melodramatic and has a lot of growing up to do, through an adventure that sees him become a man. Ultimately this was probably my problem as I, on the whole, cannot stand a coming of age story. There are few that I have enjoyed and it’s just a personal taste

As always though, du Maurier’s writing was exquisite. She has such a dreamlike quality to her writing and knows how to make an atmosphere work. She wrote quite powerfully through first person narration too, which is something that I often have difficulty getting in to. There are also some vivid descriptions of the mountains and fjords of Norway and the other places that the characters visit, particularly Paris with its cafés and boulevards – the only thing I can compare this level of description to is that of the short story Monte Vista in her collection The Birds – actually I felt there were a number of parallels between them but maybe that’s just me!

Anyway, this is by far not her strongest work that I have read but it is by no means awful. It isn’t a book I would suggest for a new reader of du Maurier to begin with but for someone who has read a few of her books and wants to explore her lesser known works, this is a good one. A solid 3/5!

Review: The Birds & Other Stories – Daphne du Maurier

thebirdsThis is the second du Maurier I’ve read this week. As expected she didn’t disappoint. I love her novels, but I think her short stories are equally as compelling. Previously I’ve read The Rendezvous and Other Stories which, though the least known of her short story collections, I really enjoyed and actually gave 5/5 so I went in to this – her most well known collection – with high expectations.

I loved it. As I expected. I loved it. There were only 6 stories and, truthfully, they were probably more novellas than a short story. They were all well fleshed out, had the signature du Maurier feel to them, the characters were superb as I’ve come to expect and ultimately, it was a fantastic collection. I was going to just do an overview but, for the sake of completeness, I’ve decided to review each story independently.

The titular story features first and The Birds is a story about a man who is plagued by evil birds. In this copy it was around 40 pages and it revolves around this man’s attempt to save his family from these evil birds. Really, it’s quite bizarre but amid all of the screeching and aggressive window-pecking it feels really intense. It was quite psychological as well, actually. I enjoyed it, I’m probably now going to be paranoid when a bird looks at me but I really enjoyed it.

Monte Verià takes up practically a third of the book. The story itself is an odd one – there is a lot of depth and suspense there and it only really makes sense once it’s fully read. Many people have said that it was too long – I agree in some respects, it was quite long and maybe it could have done with a bit of editing but her writing is just so wonderfully readable that I couldn’t put this one down. The premise is again a little weird and our narrator for this is really not the main character but the eyes through which we see the story. Essentially our unnamed narrator tells the story of his friend Victor and his wife Anna. Victor and Anna go on holiday and climb a mountain and something peculiar happens while up the mountain… I really loved this one actually. The ending was a little “meh” but on the whole this was a really good story.

The Apple Tree was a peculiar one. It follows a man who has recently been widowed who is embracing the freedom that has come from it and he notices the apple trees in the garden; one reminding him of his wife and the other reminding him of the young farm girl he once kissed. I don’t really know what I was reading when I read this, it was completely bizarre and at points I did find it hard to follow. I don’t think this was du Maurier at her best; it was good and her writing was sublime as always but it wasn’t her best.

Next up was The Little Photographer and truthfully the only thing that kept me reading this was her writing. The plot was quite lacking and the protagonist was shallow and it just dragged. If it was anyone else I probably wouldn’t have even finished it but it was du Maurier and I felt obliged. There was a slight twist at the end that almost redeemed it but… It stell felt like it was lacking something.

Kiss Me Again, Stranger is one I feel could have actually been developed more. It was a little frustrating, the narrator wasn’t particularly likeable for me but I feel that the girl could definitely have had a novel to herself. I really loved the twist in this one but, as I said, it could have done with more.

Finally there was The Old Man which is the shortest story of the collection. This was a bit nondescript initially but the ending, oh the ending. It was something else. It really just proves how wonderful a writer du Maurier is, to have to think one thing and twist it completely with 3 sentences. It’s one I don’t want to speak much about as at only 10 pages there’s not much to tell but it did make me go back and read it again with the end in mind.

Ultimately this was a good collection, the writing here is just sublime and while the stories themselves were a bit hit and miss it’s hard to not like this! I prefer her novels, I actually find them more well paced but her short stories are just little flashes of genius and I’m looking forward to the other 3 collections I have yet to read! 4/5

Review: The Loving Spirit – Daphne du Maurier

the-loving-spirit-by-daphne-du-maurier I decided to pick this up for the Underhyped Reads readathon as, aside from her big 4 novels, all of her published works have under 5000 ratings on goodreads and as I wanted to read more from her I thought this was a perfect excuse.

The Loving Spirit was du Maurier’s first novel and, wow. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love this woman, she is just beyond words. I picked this one as it was her début novel and what better way to work through her bibliography than chronologically?! This really didn’t feel like a 400 page novel, I just sped through it. du Maurier is just so wonderful at creating an atmosphere, I don’t think there’s anyone quite as good at it as she is. She’s one of these authors that just writes a scene so vividly it has a tendency to consume you, the air is crisp and you can almost taste the sea air and there is just a magic to her writing what is hard to compare anything to.

The plot itself I didn’t really have any idea about. Truthfully, there wasn’t much of a plot to be had. This book simply covers the life story of four generations of a family in a Cornish fishing village. But the lack in plot allows for one of the most wonderful character studies I’ve ever read. We start with Janet, then her son Joseph, his son Christopher and finally his daughter Jennifer and we follow them. Each of them searching for his or her own way in the world, that missing part of their soul which completes them. The way this unfolds is just wonderful.

I’m not normally a fan of a family saga type book, I much prefer a book to focus in on one character and be done with it but this, this was different. I think it’s because each of the focus characters went from open to close quite well and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. Some of it was jumpy; but I can forgive her that. Ultimately it was just amazing. It wasn’t Rebecca or My Cousin Rachel but it was wonderful in it’s own right and it just shows what an amazing writer this woman is.

The book was given it’s title from a poem by Emily Bronte and there are large parallels between this novel and Wuthering Heights. Janet is very much like Cathy and her son Joseph has a lot of similarities to Heathcliff. There is definitely a lot of influence from Bronte in this novel, more so than in her later works which were also heavily influenced by them.

Yes. Ultimately this was fantastic. I’d maybe not start here with du Maurier, but definitely recommend it to someone who has already fallen a little in love with the woman.

This is a very solid 4/5 for me.

Review: Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

RebeccaWords can never quite express the love I feel for this book. I first discovered du Maurier when I was 16, one of my best friends suggested it to me after she loved it. It’s since been one of my favourite books. I genuinely cannot put in to words how much I adore this book. It’s now one of those books that I read more slowly to just savour, to find new things in because I just don’t want to let it go too soon.

My only issue is that I didn’t have a blanket in which to snuggle in when reading this. Ideally I would have had a mighty fluffy blanket, hot chocolate, a onesie and a full, uninterrupted Saturday to enjoy this. Alas, that didn’t happen but I don’t mind. Spreading this book over several days I seemed to appreciate it more, oddly enough.

Acording to goodreads, this is the 7th time I’ve read this book. I don’t think (other than the Harry Potter series) I’ve read any other book more than twice. So I think I’m going to build on the review that I have established and edited over the years and tell you why this book is amazing.

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