March 2024
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Review: Frenchman’s Creek, Daphne du Maurier

Lady Dona St. Columb leads a life in London with which she has grown tired.  After doing something that even she finds reprehensible, she takes her children and flees to her husband’s country estate, Navron, trying her best to get away from him, his friends, and her own scandalous reputation.  While walking at Navron, she discovers someone who helps her to completely reevaluate herself, her life, and learn to be a woman that she likes rather than a woman she despises.

My expectations for this book were about medium.  I loved Rebecca and really did not care for The House on the Strand. I really enjoyed this book, though.  I tend to always appreciate books about self-discovery, and Dona does a great deal of discovering.  She has a lot of hard looks at her life and what she’s doing with it and she figures she wants something else.  That something else is actually a lot more scandalous than her current life, but she definitely grows as a person, especially regarding the decisions she makes towards the end.

Du Maurier seems to have a thing for characters without real names.  The Frenchman has a name, Jean-Benoit, but almost never goes by it.  He exists as an entity, onto which we can place our expectations of a pirate, a Frenchman, a romantic hero, and he can fulfill them.  He’s got a personality, but it’s almost as though his lack of name and real characterization makes him less distinct and almost legendary in his exploits.  I think this is a really interesting device that du Maurier uses and it really adds something to Dona’s infatuation with him; most women have a thing for the mysterious and dangerous man.

I also just love the prose in this book.  It’s sparse but beautiful at the same time.  Let me give you an example that speaks for itself, the first few sentences:

When the east wind blows up Helford River the shining waters become troubled and disturbed and the little waves beat angrily upon the sandy shores.  The short seas break above the bar at ebb-tide, and the waders fly inland to the mud-flats, their wings skimming the surface, and calling to one another as they go.  Only the gulls remain, wheeling and crying above the foam, diving now and again in search of food, their grey feathers glistening with the salt spray.

– p. 1, Frenchman’s Creek.

For me, that evokes some gorgeous imagery and is a fantastic way to set up a book about a pirate and a lady, don’t you think?  Du Maurier’s prose is very distinctive and when the story is good, it works extremely well.  This is the case with Frenchman’s Creek. The story is intriguing and the book is an absolute pleasure to read.  I had a lovely time with this, and I think you would too.

Buy Frenchman’s Creek on Amazon. It’s just been re-released by Sourcebooks and this is a gorgeous edition. If you’ve been interested in reading more by Daphne du Maurier, or you’re looking for a great, well-written piece of fiction, I recommend this book.


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