Thursday, June 13, 2013

Frenchman's Creek

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.


  1. I saw that you'd drawn this book in the Classics Spin and hoped you weren't going to be disappointed when you read it. I first read it when I was a young teenager and loved it! But recently when someone else wrote about it on their blog I got it down off the shelf and started to re-read it - and oh dear, it was such a let down! I didn't finish it this time.

  2. Too bad this was such a disappointment. I found that your analysis of the roots of the work, that of a fantasy of Daphne du Maurier to be interesting, plausible and a little amusing.

    this book is actually sitting on our bookshelf. My wife bought it a few years ago but has not read it.

  3. Wow! I didn't know she had written any others besides Rebecca. Maybe I'll just watch one of the movies!

  4. Sorry about the disappointing read. I guess I won't be putting this book on my list any time soon. Hope the next book's better.

  5. DDM does sound like a crap mother. I love Rebecca, it's one of my all-time favorites, but I really disliked Jamaica Inn and My Cousin Rachel was only okay. I do love her short stories though. I have The Scapegoat on the TBR shelves, maybe I'll try and read it in July for the April in Paris blogging event.

  6. I read this one a while back a was a bit disappointed as well after Rebecca. I do hope to read more by this author though.

    Hope you've been well Jane.

  7. So I've read Rebecca and her short story collection, The Doll, and loved them both. Becuase of that I have since bought a few more of her books, Jamaica Inn and Hungry Hill. I've read the first, though I haven't written the review for it yet. I'm intrigued enough with her writing style to continue reading her, even if I don't love them as much as the two books that introduced me to her.