This is the third book by Daphne Du Marier that I’ve reviewed this year. Those of you who read this blog regularly will know that I’ve looked at Rebecca and Jamaica inn so far and I wanted to complete the trio before the year ended. When I started this book I was looking forwards to re-entering Du Maurier’s world of Gothic scenery, despicable characters and murder most foul! In this I was disappointed. Luckily I was disappointed by nothing else. Whilst this may not be the gloomy adventure I was looking forward to it was none the less a fantastic book to read.
The story tells the tale of Dona St Columb, An upper class socialite who is tired of London life and runs away to her husband’s estate in Cornwall to try and rediscover who she is. When she arrives she finds that the creek nearby is being used by a notorious French pirate to hide and plot his next attacks on the nearby gentry. Far from being the violent, drunk and savage creature she expects, the Frenchman proves himself to be a perfect carefree gentleman and the two very quickly fall in love. Their romance is spoiled when her husband and his friend arrive to attempt to stop the Pirates attacks and all looks bleak for the future of the lovers.
I loved this book. Whilst the tone was not what I was expecting from Du Maurier it was nonetheless a great story. In many ways this is the antithesis to Rebecca. The sunlight countering the dark, the romance countering the depression, the comic elements countering the gloom. Whilst Du Maurier’s other books made me feel chills and sadness, this gave me an overall sense of warmth and joy that I wasn’t expecting from the author. It’s nice to know that books still have plenty of surprises in them for me.
One of the main things that made this book so special was the characters. Dona herself has a wonderful petulance to her that, far from making her annoying, endears her to you very early on. Her wistfulness was inspired by Du Maurier’s own boredom during the Second World War when her husband was away and she was left looking after her children. The match between the two makes Dona all the more relatable. Her Husband Harry is the classic drunken aristocrat and adds the comedy that the last part of the book would be lacking. The side-line members of the cast like William the Butler and the bewigged Lord Godolphin add their own elements making a thoroughly likeable group of people to visit. Whilst the people in Jamaica Inn annoyed me, these have the total opposite effect and I was sorry that the book wasn’t longer. I wanted to know more about them, their back-stories, their lives and dreams. In a way I was sad to say goodbye to them at the end.
So now that the trio of Du Maurier’s best known works is done, how do they rank. Rebecca has to come first. It is the Gloomy pinnacle of her works and I can’t wait to reread it in a few years. Jamaica Inn, despite what I say, is a good book. However, the ending spoiled things for me as the main characters decision went so far against her personality that it has to come in last place. This puts Frenchman’s Creek in the middle. I suppose this is due to my preference for darker stories but many others I’ve spoken with have put them in a similar order. What do you think?