I always am hesitant when it comes to reviewing or writing about classic literature. It’s not because I don’t like it but quite the opposite. Classic writers had the true talent for creating art but it is very often very difficult for me to pinpoint exactly why I loved a certain classic. The overall quality rather, the ability to transport me to the world seen through the eyes of its creator, the feel of the novel and how it leaves me in the end are the signs of true talent and not a learned skill. And so is the case with Daphne Du Maurier and Frenchman’s Creek.
Lady Dona St. Columb suffers from what one might call a mid-life crisis. It’s the age of Restoration in England and as she approaches her thirtieth birthday, Dona feels fed up with London, with her husband, and with herself. To remedy that, she escapes the life of boredom and aimless living by going with her two children to her husband’s country estate in Cornwall. She only seeks internal peace and to find her true self, away from the demands of high court and the phoniness of those around her. She finds peace at Navron House but not for long, because she also finds a French pirate and his crew moored in the creek near the house. And with the Frenchman’s appearance her true sense of adventure awakes. But the quest she embarks upon has its consequences which sooner or later Dona will have to face.
I thoroughly enjoyed Frenchman’s Creek. The opening of the novel seems quite different from other historical fiction. It starts with a description of the creek and Navron House in contemporary settings (contemporary to Du Maurier) and from there a reader is transported to a different time and thrown into the lives of people, who are now forgotten but who once occupied this place. I love how the nature is an omnipresent element throughout the novel. It seems to be a part of Dona, of her other self she wasn’t aware of while living in London but that she found in the country. The descriptions of the birds’ songs, of grass leaves swaying in the summer breeze, and the ominous views of the river and the creek were all very evocative and really aroused my imagination as I didn’t think they could. I found it really wonderful how Du Maurier, through her writing, managed to impose on me the changing atmosphere of Dona’s life. The first part of the book made me feel as if everything stood still, just like I imagined Dona felt about her life, bored, disenchanted and lazy, with no purpose and no goal ahead. However, as she meets the pirate and a wonderful craving for change and adventure rises within Dona, I felt my own excitement growing. I actually think that only a chosen few writers have managed to influence my mood and my manner of reading as the story progressed to such extent. Add to it the romance, the mischief and quite a few thrills, and you have a great book. Dona’s character was naturally my favorite one. This woman’s longing for change, escaping mundane life, refusing to accept that this is it, the end of the road for her speak of great courage for those times. She wants to find her own, true self and will not escape from it once it’s found. I really liked Frenchman’s Creek, it reminded me why classics are classics, endured for many generations and will be read by countless others.
Special Thanks to Danielle J. from Sourcebooks for sending me a copy of this book.