The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier

 The House on the Strand cover

I had a feeling that I might have read The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier way back in the early 1970s. It was first published in 1969, but I definitely hadn’t read it before. The reason I wanted to read it is that a couple of weeks ago I caught the back end of a programme which mentioned that many readers said that Rebecca was their favourite du Maurier book, but older readers tended to plump for The House on the Strand. I enjoyed this one but although it’s years since I read Rebecca I think I still prefer that one.

This is a time shift tale with the action split between the late 1960s and 1332, the setting is of course Cornwall.

Dick is married to an American widow who has two young sons, but at the beginning of the book he is on his own, waiting for his family to arrive at the house which has been loaned to them by his friend Magnus. Magnus is a professor, a scientist who has a laboratory in the basement of the house. Dick’s relationship with his wife Vita is a difficult one, not helped by Magunus’s attitude to his marriage.

Magnus asks Dick to be a guinea pig, helping in research he has been carrying out. It means that Dick has to take some liquid and report to Magnus what effects it has on him. For Dick the effects are amazing, he’s whisked back to 1332, where he can see what is going on in the area around the house he is living in. Although there seems to be no evidence of buildings which existed it seems that there was a lot going on. There was a priory and large farmhouses and Dick is a witness to murders and intrigue, without being able to do anything about them. When the effects of the liquid wear off he’s violently ill, but is unable to stop himself from repeating the experiment, wanting to find out what happens to the people who he is convinced used to live in the neighbourhood.

When Vita and the boys arrive it isn’t so easy for him to find time to take the liquid, and his behaviour causes problems with Vita

Actually it was the contemporary part of the book which didn’t ring quite true for me, mainly because I couldn’t believe in the relationship between Dick and Vita. He supposedly loved her but it seemed to be a sort of love/dislike thing and I must admit that there didn’t seem to be much to like about her.

I intend to read all of her books and only have a few still to read I think. So far I have enjoyed The King’s General most – apart from Rebecca. This book did make me think that I would like to read more about the history of the 14th century – and wouldn’t you know it – this did feature the Black Death!

8 thoughts on “The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier

  1. Oh, I loved The House on the Strand. It was the first du Maruier I read, and I read it in the summer of 1975 in Cornwall. That made it all the better. I haven’t read enough of her (haven’t read Rebecca), but also loved The Birds. It’s quite different from the movie (of course). A terrific story.

    Stay healthy and sane. Wash your hands.

    • Molly,
      I read The Birds too, as you say, quite different from the film. I wonder what you would think of Rebecca. I loved that one when I read it in the early 1970s but I have a feeling that the younger generations don’t like it as much.

      I hope you stay healthy too, I’m having to use hand cream as all this constant hand washing is making them so dry!

  2. I read this one last year and was disappointed. I didn’t find any of the characters were likeable and although the historical sections were beautifully written I couldn’t keep the various characters separate in my head. Even following the cornish geography was a challenge – and I live very close to where the story is set!

    • Sandra,
      I preferred the historical setting. I thought of you while I was reading it as I thought it was set near your neighbourhood, but it sounds like that didn’t add much to the story for you!

  3. I’ve been meaning to read this one for ages and it does sound good, but I don’t think I’m in the mood for stories featuring the Black Death right at this moment! I shall wait a few months… 😉

    • FictionFan,

      I know what you mean. The Black Death seems to be haunting me at the moment. So many books I’ve picked up and TV programmes seem to mention it!

  4. This is one of my favourite du Maurier novels, along with Rebecca and The Scapegoat. Like you, I only have a few more of her books left to read, so I’ve been trying to ration them out.

    • Helen,
      I think I only have three left to read now, apart from some short stories. Hungry Hill, The Glass Blowers, Mary Anne and The Loving Spirit. It’s years since I read The Scapegoat, I might do a re-read this year.

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