Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Review: Frenchman's Creek

Author: Daphne Du Maurier
Rating: 5/5
Grade: C - 14 and up (mild language and sexual suggestion)

Thank you to Danielle with Sourcebooks for sending me this newly reprinted edition of Du Maurier's novel originally published in 1941. I read and loved Rebecca as a teenager, and am unsure why I never sought out any of the other novels by the author, but after reading this book I will be sure to do so. I am so glad that Sourcebooks is reprinting this, and hope that it can find its way to many other people who have missed it, as I have.

On the rare occasion I have the experience where book and mood meet perfectly. This happened with Frenchman's Creek, a book I am sure that I would have very much enjoyed no matter my mood, but which was exactly the book I was seeking at the time I read it. The wild, windy March days--with looming storm, and gathering clouds, the brief hours of sunshine tempered by drops of ice cold rain, and mud-causing snow--have left me restless and wild myself, longing for escape.

And so enter Dona St. Columb, the beautiful but restless Lady, tired of London high society, longing for escape from the falsity and uselessness of her life. After a foolish escapade, and stupid flirtation, she sets off, with her two young children and their nurse, to her husband's country estate surrounded by forest river and ocean. All she wants is to find some solitude and peace--far away from the stench of the stifling London summer, and a husband who can not understand her.

Forget the children's tears, forget Prue's grievance, forget the pursed up mouth of the coachman, forget Harry and his troubled distressed blue eyes when she announced her decision. "But damn, Dona, what have I done, what have I said, don't you know that I adore you?" Forget all these things, because this was freedom, to stand here for one minute with her face to the sun and the wind, this was living, to smile and to be alone.

The descriptions of the nature and life teeming around the estate--the birds and butterflies, wildflowers and trees, creeks and ocean--bringing joy and peace to Dona and her children, are so well done that I feel as if I were there, in the Cornish countryside. I am transported away from the cold wind, the six inches of March snow I shoveled off of the walks this morning, the snow which keeps coming and will necessitate another shoveling in a few short hours. Instead I drowse lazily, being baked by the sun; I tramp through the thick woods; I stand above the ocean, the salty breeze enlivening me.

The birds were astir again, after their noonday silence, and the silent butterflies danced and fluttered, while drowsy bumblebees hummed in the warm air, winging their way to the topmost branches of the trees...

and there, suddenly before her for the first time was the creek, still and soundless, shrouded by the trees, hidden from the eyes of men. She stared at it in wonder, for she had had no knowledge of its existence, this stealthy branch of the parent river creeping into her own property, so sheltered, so concealed by the woods themselves. The tide was ebbing, the water was oozing away from the mudflats, and here, where she stood, was the head of the creek itself, for the stream ended in a trickle, and the trickle in a spring. The creek twisted around a belt of trees, and she began to walk along the bank, happy, fascinated, forgetting her mission, for this discovery was a pleasure quite unexpected, this creek was a source of enchantment, a new escape, better than Navron itself, a place to drowse and sleep, a lotus-land.

Her stodgy neighbor had warned her about pirates who have been robbing from the estates up and down the coast, and reportedly having their way with the womenfolk. Their leader a dangerous frenchman, so stealthy and with a ship so fast that he has not been aprehended. Dona had listened to the reports with some amusement, but really paid them no mind until she caught sight of the ship in the creek on her land, and at the same time found herself covered with a coat, and forced onto the pirate ship.What she finds there astounds her, there is no sign of the steriotypical pirate, but an educated, tidy, considerate artist. And beyond the peace which she had sought and found, Dona finds the adventure and passion her spirit had been seeking, and someone who understands.

...she had known then that this was to happen, nothing could prevent it; she was part of his body, and part of his mind, they belonged to eachother, both wanderers, both fugitives, cast in the same mould.

Danger, excitement, love, a meeting of souls, Lady St. Columb has found it all. Unfortunately she can not keep it all, something must be given up: her children and husband and very way of life, or the new love and adventure which she so craved. Yet events transpire that make it not even such a cut and dried choice as this.

Anyone who has ever felt the need to escape from the cage of daily life will identify with and love this book. It has found its way into my heart, and will be added to the stack of favorites I pull out when I feel in the right restless mood, and need a satisfying read.

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Kailana March 31, 2009 at 4:09 AM  

I really need to read either this book or another one by the same author... I think I own Rebecca and probably have for a while!

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