Today I’m lucky enough to be part of the blog tour for the beautiful YA reissues of three of Daphne du Maurier’s novels, Frenchman’s Creek, Jamaica Inn and Rebecca so I’ll be reviewing Frenchman’s Creek for you. As it’s a modern classic novel, I’m blending the blog tour with my monthly Blast From the Past classic novel review. Enjoy!
Originally published in 1941 by Victor Gollancz Ltd
My edition: the gorgeous new YA chalkboard effect paperbacks from Virago Modern Classics
What’s it about?
Lady Dona St Columb is fed up with the shallowness of life at the Restoration Court. Despite always being at the heart of the court intrigue, there is a secret Dona who longs for freedom and honest love, even if it spiced with danger. She leaves London for Navron, her Cornish estate, seeking peace and solitude. But she finds that Navron is being used as a base by a pirate – a Frenchman who, like Dona, would gamble his life for a moment’s joy. Her passion and thirst for adventure have never been more aroused, and together they embark upon a quest rife with danger and glory.
I had planned to read a Daphne du Maurier this year for the Classics Challenge and then I got an email from Little, Brown offering me the new editions and a spot on the blog tour – perfect timing! So today’s post is a Blast From the Past, but it’s also a tour stop!
I had always assumed that my first Du Maurier would be Rebecca as I honestly hadn’t heard much about her other novels, but with the promise of romance, adventure, pirates and the constraints of society I was intrigued by Frenchman’s Creek. I was shocked to find how thoroughly I enjoyed it.
I was rather unsure of Dona when I first started reading; she’s not at all what I expected. From the summary I was expecting a flighty young girls in her late teens/early twenties with no ties, but Dona is nearly thirty (which she repeats as if she can’t quite believe it), is married to Sir Harry and has two young children. She seemed arrogant and self-centred and bored so I was really glad when I really started to get to know her.
Dona is fed up of her life as Lady St Columb. She’s fed up of her desires for romance and adventure being repressed by her sex and her society (the novel is set in the mid-to-late 1600s, during the reign of Charles II). She escapes London to the Cornish coast and the old house she hasn’t visited since her wedding six years ago. At the bottom of the gardens lies a secret creek and a hidden pirate ship where she meets the Frenchman – the captain of La Mouette. I loved how Dona came alive. Du Maurier’s dreamy, poetic prose perfectly captured the Dona’s heady infatuation with the Frenchman turn into love against the background of a scorching English summer. It’s both romantic and Romantic.
Du Maurier paints Dona as both a woman of her time and a woman beyond her time. Dona is tired of being closeted, of going to dinners, dressing up as expected, pretending to love her husband passionately, and feigning contentment in her humdrum, but luxurious, life. What she really wants is freedom. The freedom to go out on her own, to explore herself outside of the confines of ‘wife’, ‘mother’, ‘Lady St Colomb’, ‘woman’ is something she had never experienced until she met and fell in love with the Frenchman. He encouraged her to learn and develop new skills, he pushed her out of her comfort zone, trusted her strength and abilities and met her on an intellectual and emotional level; things she never experienced with Harry. One of the things I love most about Frenchman’s Creek is that I know that Dona will never again be the woman she was in the beginning of the novel. Though she won’t be able to be the woman she was with the Frenchman all of the time, she’ll be there below the surface: Dona will know that there’s more to her and her life that she could ever have dreamed.
I fell in love with Frenchman’s Creek and I really wasn’t expecting to. There’s romance, adventure, beautiful prose, a sumptuous setting and a cast of brilliantly drawn characters. I ordered another two of Du Maurier’s novels before I even finished this one – I could have a new favourite author on the cards.
Still not convinced?
- They’re not rebranded for a YA audience for nothing! A brilliant place to start for teens who feel a little put off by classics.
- For a book that’s 74 years old, it feels current, relevant and easy to read.
- It has pirates in it!