The House on the Strand – Daphne du Maurier
I blooming love Daphne Du Maurier and not because she writes of Cornish places and folk (okay partly that) but her books are so captivating and are such page turners I find myself losing hours engrossed in her novels.
I bought The House on the Strand aaages ago and to be honest I don’t even remember reading the blurb when I purchased it. Which is why when I went to read it, I found myself in a bit of a pickle – I thought I had gone mad. Gone were the female heroines of Rebecca and Jamaica Inn and in their place was a middle aged man on LSD.
Yep, you read that right. The House on the Strand tells the story of Dick, a middle aged man who has just left the publishing industry and is somewhat floating. His American wife Vita tries to organise a job for him in New York, which the reader knows he is never going to take.
Set in the sixties, Dick takes himself off to Cornwall to a manor owned by his scientist friend Magnus, who offers him drugs to experiment with during his stay. Du Maurier had clearly been influenced by the hippy Sixties movement when writing this book.
Dick takes a dose of the drugs and is immediately transported to the 1300s. He becomes addicted to them and the people in his visions, using any opportunity he can to send him back to that time, so much so it’s not only his life which on occasions hangs in the balance but those of his family too.
I will admit that I skipped over large parts of his trip back in time. Not only was I confused about how the 10 billion characters Du Maurier introduces were related to one another but I didn’t think this part of the plot was not particularly gripping.
If I am completely honest the only thing which kept me reading was the fact it’s set just down the road from my home back in Cornwall. The book is centered around Tywardreath and is set in the fictional manor of Kilmarth (actually Menabilly). There’s even a mention of the St. Austell Library – my favourite haunt in my youth.
Unfortunately I didn’t think this book was of the usual brilliance Du Maurier usually produces. This may be one for her diehard fans.