Thursday, 13 June 2013

The Written Word

The Daphne DuMaurier Collection

Last year my mother bought and read Jamaica Inn, she enjoyed it so much that she thought I should give it a try, and I did. What a fantastic read! The novel is full of suspense, thrills, romance, action and plenty of adventure, from the beginning of the very first chapter you are thrown into dark world of Mary Yellan.

'It was a cold grey day in late November. The weather had changed overnight, when a backing wind brought a granite sky and a mizzling rain with it, and although it was now only a little after two o'clock in the afternoon the pallor of a winter evening seemed to have closed upon the hills, cloaking them in mist'.'

One of the great things I find with Daphne DuMaurier's books is the description which help to immerse the reader fully. The story follows Mary Yellan who follows her mother's dying request to join her Aunt Patience at Jamaica Inn. When Mary arrives, after a depressing journey across the bleak moors of Cornwall, she finds a shadow of her Aunt Patience and her brutal husband, Joss Merlyn. Before long, Mary realises that dark things are happening at Jamaica Inn and soon she is unwillingly drawn into her uncle's dark misgivings whilst drawn to a man she cannot trust. 

I read Jamaica Inn while holidaying in the Lake District and it was a book that I could not put down. I do not want to ruin the story for others but towards the middle of the novel the atmosphere is so tense that you almost imagine being part of the story. 

 After reading Jamaica Inn my mother went and bought another of Daphne DuMaurier's famed novels, Frenchman's Creek. Set, as many of DuMaurier's stories are, in Cornwall this tells the tale of Lady Dona who finds herself bored by her the pomp and splendour on her life. She retreats back to the old family estate in Cornwall where she meets the mysterious and handsome French pirate Jean Aubrey. Many consider this story to be the most romantic of DuMaurier's novels and I would agree. Compared to Jamaica Inn the action is just as compelling and the description as fantastic as ever. Another story well worth the read.

The last of Daphne DuMaurier's books that I have read recently is My Cousin Rachel. Another novel set in Cornwall but this time told by a male character called of Philip Ashley. Philip, orphaned at an early age, is raised by his older cousin Ambrose who delights in having Philip as his heir. However, when Ambrose travels to Italy he falls in love and marries before dying suddenly. His wife, a distant cousin called Rachel visits England to speak to Philip and see Ambrose's grand house. Philip, who is suspicious of Rachel before he meets her, unwittingly falls for her. However, as times goes on he finds himself confused by her actions and his feelings towards her, suspecting that she had a hand in Ambrose's death.

'They used to hang men at Four Turnings in the old days. Not any more, though.'

I bought this book after reading some reviews. Although not my favoured of all three DuMaurier books, this story still carries a lot of enchantment and suspense. Throughout the novel I found myself changing opinions of both Rachel and Philip, questioning their relationship and actions. One review commented on the similarity between this novel and DuMaurier's most famous book 'Rebecca'. The tale is moody and brooding reflecting the character's who in turn are unpredictable and mysterious.

All three novels are great reads with plenty of suspense, drama, thrills and spills, mysterious characters, compelling plot lines and topped off with stunning, imaginative description. I've had a bit of a Daphne DuMaurier year through reading the novels above and watching Hitchcock's adaptations of Rebecca and The Birds. I also caught an ITV version of 'The Scapegoat', another novel by DuMaurier that is next on my reading list. You can watch adaptations of both Jamaica Inn and My Cousin Rachel. I have not seen the latter but if you were to watch Jamaica Inn I would go with the television adaptation starring Jane Seymour which is much more true to the original story.

Have you read any books by Daphne DuMaurier? What are your thoughts?