Monday, May 25, 2009

Review: Frenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier

Weary of the endless social whirl of London, with its inane amusements and harsh adventures, Dona St. Columb takes her children and escapes to their Cornwall estate of Navron. She leaves behind her tolerable but frequently drunk husband Harry and flees to the quiet countryside.

Once at Navron she finds William, the butler, is the sole servant and the house is largely musty and unused. All but her own bedroom, which is freshly aired and has a curious jar of tobacco in the bedside table.

As Dona begins to relax into the rhythms of country life, she hears rumors of a French pirate plaguing the area. Soon William will prove to be Dona's link to the handsome villain and his ship, La Mouette. She will be drawn to this unlikely pirate and experience the adventure, and the heartbreak, of a lifetime.

There is a reason that Daphne du Maurier's books are classics today and that reason is her haunting use of language. Her books, including this one, are so beautifully written and so perfectly evoke the timeless, lonely quality of Cornwall that the reader feels transported.

I love the way she opens Frenchman's Creek , through the eyes of a modern visitor (well, modern as of 1941 when the book was written) who feels the brush of the ghost of a long ago tale, a tale so deep with feeling that it echos even still:

"He is alone, and yet - can that be a whisper, in the shallows, close to the bank, and does a figure stand there, the moonlight glinting upon his buckled shoes and the cutlass in his hand, and is that a woman by his side, a cloak around her shoulders, her dark ringlets drawn back behind her ears? He is wrong, of course, those are only the shadows of the trees, and the whispers are no more than the rustle of the leaves and the stir of a sleeping bird, but he is baffled suddenly, and a little scared, he feels he must go no farther, and that the head of the creek beyond the farther bank is barred to him and must remain unvisited. And so he turns to go, heading the dinghy's nose for the roadstead, and as he pulls away the sounds and the whispers become more insistent to his ears, there comes the patter of footsteps, a call, and a cry in the night, a far faint whistle, and a curious lilting song. He strains his eyes in the darkness, and the massed shadows before him loom hard and clear like the outline of a ship. A thing of grace and beauty, born in another time, a painted phantom ship. And now his heart begins to beat, and he strains at his paddles, and the little dinghy shoots swiftly over the dark water away from enchantment, for what he has seen is not of his world, and what he has heard is beyond his understanding."

This is excellent and intense storytelling, many thanks to Sourcebooks for re-releasing the novels of this classic author. All the popular pirate romances these days (Jack Sparrow included) owe a debt of gratitude to Daphne du Maurier for paving the way with Frenchman's Creek.

If you would like to enter my giveaway to win a copy of Frenchman's Creek or My Cousin Rachel, click here. You can enter until midnight eastern on May 31 and must have a US or Canada mailing address.

Frenchman's Creek is published by Sourcebooks. ISBN 978-1-4022-1710-4


Literary Feline said...

This does sound like a good one! I've been meaning to read something by Daphne du Maurier, but can't say I'd heard of this one until now. Thanks for the great review.

bermudaonion said...

I've entered to win this and after reading that review, I've got my fingers crossed.

Libby's Library said...

I sooooooo want to read this book!

Anonymous said...

Du Maurier is excellent, I've been working my way through all of her books - they're not all romantic suspense either. Glad to see Sourcebooks rereleasing them.

Michele said...

I'm reading My Cousin Rachel right now and loving it! Frenchman's Creek is up next for me! Aren't these books just indulgent??

Zibilee said...

The more I hear about this book, the more excited I am to read it. I think it sounds excellent, and since I love all of du Maurier's other books, I think I will love it. Great review!

tashiana said...

this sounds pretty good haha when i think about the plot i think of one of those cheesy romance novels with woman and a man with his shirt open lol
im sure its much better than that

Valerie said...

Interesting cover design
Not sure if I would enjoy this though..
KawaiiNeko2008 at aol dot com

Becca said...

I have read several du Maurier books and have enjoyed them all. I'm glad they have been re-released too. I have to get my hands on a copy of this one because not only do I like du Maurier I have a soft spot for pirates as well.

CLM said...

I am a huge DuMaurier fan but have not reread this one for years. I am reminded of Diana Norman's recent trilogy, which you should read if you have not. Book one is called A Catch of Consequence.

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Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.