I count Daphne du Maurier as one of my favorite authors. She is a master of the psychological thriller and a wonderfully inventive storyteller. So, you can imagine my delight when the Classics Club spin 2 rolled lucky #6, which meant I got to read Frenchman's Creek as my next classic.
It pains and astounds me to report that I was disappointed in the book. It started off wonderfully, with a vintage DDM description of the harbor, river, and creek in Cornwall that is the setting of the book. She transports the reader from the present to the 17th century, evoking the mists of time and the timeless beauty and magic of a beloved place.
The problem is that the premise is shallow, the plot unrealistic, and the characters are wooden. I can imagine DDM conceived of the premise while walking down a narrow path from her home, Menabilly, to a creek and thought about how pirates might've hidden in the rivulet and raided the neighboring hamlets with impunity. It's a great idea, but it doesn't have legs.
The French pirates are uniformly jolly, good-natured, loyal, and loving; the English gentry they rob, with the exception of Lady Dona, the protagonist, are uniformly oafish, thick in body and mind, and sour. Lady Dona is beautiful, of course, spirited, of course--bored with her life, her marriage, her money and seeks adventure in the arms of the pirate captain, the noblest man to ever breathe. He is expert at everything--fighting, making love, fishing, cooking, leading raids, sketching seabirds, sketching Lady Dona, etc.
Lady Dona actually fakes an illness and leaves her 18-month old son and 3-year daughter, both of whom she professes to love to distraction, in the care of a nurse while she goes on a raid with her pirate buddies. Puh-leaze!
While I was reading Frenchman's Creek, I couldn't help remembering the bio I read a few years ago of DDM. She wasn't the most caring of mothers, often neglecting her own children and marriage when she was in the throes of writing, which was most of the time. I couldn't help but feel that Frenchman's Creek was little more than the author's own fantasy of leaving her children and husband and escaping into a Disneyesque AdventureLand.
The book lacked the psychological insights and tightly wound, but real emotions that characterize her other stories and that has drawn me to them over time. I'm not ready to give up on DDM--there are still books of hers I've yet to read and many I plan to reread, but Frenchman's Creek won't number among the latter.
I did have fun looking at the various movie posters, though. There are some pretty cheesy book covers too!
And, Frenchman's Creek is officially my 7th novel in the Historical Fiction Challenge...well, on my way to the Renaissance category, which has a lower threshold of 10.