Friday, April 23, 2010

The House on the Strand


I haven't posted for over a week because my computer conked out twice. It's now back at home and I hope I won't have any more problems. I've actually missed blogging more than I thought. Oh and thanks to all of you who gave me some book club suggestions. I've taken note of them and I'll definitely check all of them out.

I've been enjoying reading Daphne du Maurier for the last two weeks as I'm reading two of her novels consecutively, The House on the Strand and My Cousin Rachel. Reading The House on the Strand reminded me why I love her writing so much. She's a wonderfully atmospheric author who can easily transport her reader to any time and place and the best example of this is probably her masterpiece, Rebecca, one of my favourite novels. Many of her books are set in Cornwall which for years has been on my list of places to visit one day. Maybe it's because of Daphne's descriptions of its beautiful, romantic and sometimes moody scenery. 

The House on the Strand is another one of du Maurier's novels that's set in her beloved Cornwall. It's a time travel story about Dick Young, who's staying at the home of his scientist friend, Magnus. In fact, the house mentioned in the title is Kilmarth which was Daphne's home during the last decades of her life. It served as the inspiration for this novel because it was the home of Roger Kylman, a medieval steward in 1327. At the opening of the book, Dick has just tried an experimental drug invented by Magnus which allows its user to mentally travel back to fourteenth century Cornwall. 

The first thing I noticed was the clarity of the air, and then the sharp green colour of the land. There was no softness anywhere. The distant hills did not blend into the sky but stood out like rocks, so close that I could almost touch them, their proximity giving me that shock of surprise and wonder which a child feels looking for the first time through a telescope. (page 1)

However, there's one catch in this particular time travel story - Dick is only a witness and is unable to be seen, heard or touched by the people he observes which include a steward called Roger and a captivating lady known as Isolda Carminowe. As Dick quickly becomes fascinated by their lives, he starts to withdraw from the modern world and his family and retreats more and more into the past. His time travel visits soon become an addiction that begin to affect not only his sanity but his physical condition. 

This is a strange story but completely engrossing. I could understand Dick's fascination with the people he observed in his travels and the pull it had on his life and thus his addiction to the drug. The physical effects he experienced were believable - the loss of the sense of touch, enhanced sight, nausea and vertigo. Of course, the fact that both Magnus and Dick hallucinate about the same people and time period was pure fantasy but somehow du Maurier makes it all work and as a reader, it was easy to suspend disbelief and glide along with the story. I was sorry this had to end and so I've followed it up by rereading a Daphne du Maurier novel I remember I enjoyed very much, My Cousin Rachel.  I've completely forgotten the plot and I'm loving it so far.

13 comments:

  1. Ooh, you can't go wrong with a good DDM. I read the last one of hers I hadn't read on holiday - Hungry Hill - and remembered how much I love her writing. Think I may reread My cousin Rachel too soon.

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  2. Welcome back! I was wondering where you'd been! Glad computer is fixed!

    This sounds fantastic - I so love Daphne du Maurier - I must finish my collection of her short stories. I think I've forgotten My Cousin Rachel's plot too so I look forward to your review to enlighten me!

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  3. Welcome back, I do hope that your computer is now in rude health!

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful review - I have not read it but would really like to - I love the way that you have brought out DduM's powerful way of description - a very inspiring review for last thing on a Friday!

    Bon weekend!

    Hannah

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  4. I love Daphne Du Maurier. My favourite is Jamaica Inn, which I prefer over Rebecca. Everyone I know thinks this is odd,but I can't help it. I haven't read The House on the Strand, but I must get around to it.

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  5. I have read only her biography of Branwell Bronte-you might like it-I found it beautifully written if a bit speculative-I have a copy

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  6. This sounds fantastic. I need to check Amazon for this one :)

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  7. Hope your computer is feeling better now! It is great to find another Maurier fan :) I am waiting for my paycheck, want to go buy some bookstore out!

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  8. Thanks for a great review. THOTS is one of my favourite DDMs, I've always loved time travel books & I remember this one as being very evocative of the medieval period, & Cornwall, of course. I'm about to reread My Cousin Rachel for Cornflower's bookclub, I'm looking forward to it although I find Philip annoying. Rachel is fascinating, though.

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  9. I found a first edition of The House on the Strand at the thrift store several months ago, and I've been a little afraid to read it until now because it's not in the best condition. And also: I wasn't really convinced about the plot...but now I'll have to risk it, or buy a paperback copy so I can devour the book in one gulp. Great review!

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  10. I picked this one up at the used bookstore recently and can't wait to read it. I adored Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel so I am expecting to love this one as well.

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  11. Yeah, this was a weird one but I got caught up in it too. It was part historical fiction, part sci-fi.

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  12. I adore both the House on the Stand and My Cousin rachel - they topped my rundown of du Maurier novels in February. No-one ever believes The House on the Strand will be as good as it is, but once they've been persuaded to try it, they soon convert :)

    www.lampandbook.blogspot.com

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  13. I too enjoyed The House on the Strand. It's different from her other novels. The Scapegoat has a similar feel though the plot lines are totally different (incidentally, they are the only two books that du Maurier wrote in the male voice).

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