Mary Anne by Daphne du Maurier #1954Club

It’s time for the 1954 Club which is being hosted by Kaggsy and Simon

I have to admit that I’ve had a few goes at reading Mary Anne in the past and had given up quite early on, so I added the book to my new (3rd) Classics Club list, knowing that that would make me knuckle down and get on with it, sometime. Anyway that happened sooner than I expected when I realised that Mary Anne was published in 1954 – and I did manage to get through it. However I’ve read almost everything by du Maurier now and this is the one which I’ve liked least. I can see why she wanted to write it though, as the main character is based on her great great-grandmother’s life, she must have been quite some female!

The setting is Regency London where young Mary Anne is one of a large family living in poverty. She’s determined not to repeat the mistakes that her mother has, but that is exactly what she does as she marries at 15 and in no time has four children, but Mary Anne is still determined to make her mark in the world and get rich. There’s really only one way for a poor woman to do that though – on her back. It’s not a profession that really appeals to her, but when she discovers that the Duke of York is keen to take her up she jumps at the chance, she knows that it can be the path to riches for her – and it is.

Mary Anne has a huge weakness though, she’s incredibly greedy and money just runs through her fingers with no thought to the future. She has been using her links with the Duke to make huge amounts of money by selling military commissions. The inevitable happens and the Duke of York drops her, she is in dire straits. The Duke had discovered that she isn’t a widow but is still married, which leaves her open to being taken to court by her husband and prosecuted for adultery with the Duke of York implicated in the affair. He’s not at all happy!

Daphne du Maurier had lots of material to help her write this book as the actual court documents are still in existence, it must have been obvious what sort of character Mary Anne was and unfortunately she’s not at all likeable. I don’t know if it was the Regency setting but this seemed like a Georgette Heyer novel minus the charm, snappy dialogue and comedy, so for me it’s the weakest of du Maurier’s books that I’ve read.


12 thoughts on “Mary Anne by Daphne du Maurier #1954Club

  1. I am just now reading Rebecca (about 25 pages from the end), although I may have read it before, long ago. But I am fairly positive that it is the only book by du Maurier that I have read. And I want to read more books by her. Based on your review, Mary Anne certainly won’t be the first one I try.

    • tracybham,
      I loved Rebecca but I have read reviews by younger women who despised Max, I suspect I would have dealt with Rebecca much sooner though!

  2. Oh, so interesting! This is not a DDM I’ve actually come across before, and it does sound as if it suffers from characters you can’t get along with. I shall bear that in mind if I come across it… ;D

  3. I’ve read all of du Maurier’s novels now and this one is in my bottom three. I quite enjoyed the first few chapters, but got bored with all the court cases and scandals in the second half. Well done for getting through the book this time, anyway!

  4. I read this one a couple of years ago during DDM reading week and was just underwhelmed. It had potential but like you it’s my least favorite of her books. I don’t even remember the ending at this point, it was not very memorable.

    • Karen K,
      It seems that du Maurier was better at sticking to imaginary characters rather than having to write about a real person especially as there seems to be plenty of evidence so she had to stick to what was known of her personality.

  5. I too tried to read and like this book without success. I wrote something about it last year but my resulting impression was that she did nothing the men weren’t doing but naturally suffered more. That didn’t make her more likable, however!

    • Constance,
      I was struck by how naive she must have been as she was never going to win against the establishment figures involved in her court case, she just had no common-sense whatsoever.

  6. As my favourite Regency author is Austen, and I have never read Georgette Heyer, you have convinced me that tis is not for me. I really enjoyed your post though as it told me all I needed to know. I am not a Du Maurier reader either, and had no idea just how much she wrote beyond the three I knew (Rebecca, My cousin Rachel and Jamaica Inn).

    • Whispering Gums,
      I think those were the three that I ‘did’ at school. She almost always sets her books in Cornwall and I’ve always enjoyed books set there, since first reading the Blyton Malory Towers books.

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