July 2024
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The House on the Strand, Daphne du Maurier

Richard Young, a man who finds himself strangely adrift without a job and spending the summer at his friend’s country house, makes trips through time to the fourteenth century with the aid of a drug supplied by said friend Magnus, a professor who dabbles on the side in strange experiments.  While in the fourteenth century, he cannot tell what is happening in the real world although he wanders around it following Roger and is witness to a series of intrigues among the old families of the town, with which he becomes obsessed while his wife and stepsons are summarily ignored.

I picked up this book because I loved Rebecca and because it was two dollars.  I figured it was time I read more of du Maurier’s work, and that desire has not dimmed, but I doubt this is a book I will be revisiting.  It simply wasn’t that good.  The plot was slow to take off and once it did, it didn’t bring any revelations.  All of the characters remain strangely detached from the reader, which makes it extremely hard to care if Dick gets hit by a car while he’s wandering around seeing things in a different time.  Now, I love medieval England, so that should probably tell you that it’s sad that this book didn’t interest me.  There just wasn’t much to the time travelling.  There are some intrigues, illnesses, and murders, but nothing special and nothing to really explain why Dick (or we) should be so enthralled by his travels, perhaps because we never actually care about the people he seems to care so much about.  The contrasting landscapes are really interesting, considering that type of thing exists all across England and other places, but are only mentioned a few times when they’re relevant to the plot.

Eventually, du Maurier does pick up the pace and it gets much more interesting once Dick’s real life starts to get a bit chaotic, and I think the end was actually brilliant, but it’s very hard to get into and it’s very hard to stay attached to it.  It’s entirely possible that it may have had too much science fiction type discussion revolving around the drug and its effects involved for me, and someone who actually enjoys science fiction wouldn’t mind as much.  Maybe someone can tell me.  In the meantime, I would recommend someone to give this book a try if he or she mentioned it, but not wholeheartedly, unless they liked science fiction.


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