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.


Classics Club spin #29 – Mary Anne by Daphne du Maurier

The Classics Club spin number has been chosen and it’s number 11 which means that I have to read Mary Anne by Daphne du Maurier and review it by the 30th of April. I can’t say I’m too thrilled by that as I’ve tried to read Mary Anne two or three times before and it has always defeated me – and I almost never give up on books. I also hate the old paperback version of the book that I own, which hasn’t helped.

On the other hand I definitely do want to read the book as I like to complete everything that an author writes – and du Maurier is one of my favourite authors, so perhaps this is what I need to spur me on to knuckle down and get on with it.

What about you, did you take part in the spin this time and if so did you get a book that you’ve been looking forward to reading?

Bookshelf Travelling – November, 15th


This week’s Bookshelf Travelling (originally hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness) features the shelf above last week’s. Click on the photo to see it enlarged. I must admit that most of the books on this shelf aren’t mine, but I have read a few of the Primo Levi books and intend to read the rest of them. Another book that I have been meaning to read for years is Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. It’s on my Classics Club list. This copy is a 1975 paperback and I remember that Jack bought it new, not long before we got married. Those 1970s paperbacks were so tightly bound that they’re a real pain to read, especialy if like me you don’t like to crack the spine of a book, that’s why it has taken me so long to get around to it.

Surprisingly and for some unknown reason I have my copy of The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield on this shelf, it’s a really pretty Virago hardback, I loved this one when I read it some years ago.

I have no idea why the two Daphne du Maurier books are here instead of being with the other du Mauriers. Not After Midnight is a collection of five short stories and The Scapegoat was published in 1957 and this one is a first edition, sadly it doesn’t have its dustjacket.

Are you Bookshelf Travelling this week? I’ve dropped the ‘in Insane Times’ part as I’m trying to be optimistic and hoping that things won’t be quite as crazy as they have been this year – in the not too distant future.

Other travellers this week are:

A Son of the Rock

Bitter Tea and Mystery

Staircase Wit

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!

Aberdeen book purchases – part 2

Yet More Books

The second bookshop in Aberdeen that we visited is a charity one right in the Merkat Square and as the books are all donated they sell them very cheaply. I bought:

1. The Century’s Daughter by Pat Barker
2. The Rendezvous by Daphne du Maurier
3. The World My Wilderness by Rose Macaulay
4. Beautiful Just! by Lillian Beckwith
5. Green Hand by Lillian Beckwith
6. Bruach Blend by Lillian Beckwith
7. The Spuddy by Lillian Beckwith
8. The Road Home by Rose Tremain
9. A Pack of Lies by Geraldine McCaughrean
10. Young Bess by Margaret Irwin
11. The Cockle Ebb by Isabel Cameron
12. The Herries Chronicle by Hugh Walpole This is an omnibus consisting of four books which are set in the Lake District/Cumbria area, and first published in 1939 although mine is a 1955 reprint.
Rogue Herries
Judith Paris
The Fortress

Visiting St Andrews just after Christmas I bought a lovely edition of Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, illustrated by Arthur Rackham. You can see some of the illustrations here. – also from St Andrews – Young Bess by Margaret Irwin, and the postman brought me –
In a Dark Wood Wandering by Hella S. Haasse.

That lot should keep me going for a while. Have you read any of them?

What I’m Reading

Unusually for me I have no books that I can write about, this is what happens when you get stuck into the knitting season instead of reading – and when you choose to read Miss Marjoribanks by Margaret Oliphant. This one has been waiting for me to pick it up for years. It’s a Virago and has quite small print and 495 pages, but I only have 80 to go and I’m very much enjoying it. Just in case you don’t know, the Scottish surname Marjoribanks is pronounced Marchbanks. This one has been on my Classics Club list since I joined years and years ago, and I’m now on my second list of classics.

I have still been buying books, unsurprisingly and have recently added these ones to the piles:

Recently Purchased Books

The Rendezvous and other stories by Daphne du Maurier
The Reason Why by Cecil Woodham-Smith (about the Charge of the Light Brigade)
The Double Image by Helen MacInnes
The African Queen by C.S. Forester (I could act the film myself, but if it’s on TV I find myself watching it again).
Midwinter Nightingale by Joan Aiken
Scotland’s Hidden History by Ian Armit (featuring standing stones and more)

From that place that I’m not supposed to be visiting – the library, I have:

Rosie Scenes from a vanished life by Rose Tremain
The Marches by Rory Stewart
They are both blogpal recommendations, and lastly
Le Testament Francais by Andrei Makine

That last one will count towards the Reading Europe Challenge. Have you read any of these books?

Recent Book Purchases

While we were away on our recent (football inspired) trip down to England we took the opportunity to seek out secondhand bookshops, although there aren’t that many of them around nowadays, we visited the Moffat shop when we stopped there for lunch. We each bought a book there. Then on to Penrith in Northumberland where we found another bookshop. We also visited Oswestry, Shrewsbury, Alcester, Stratford on Avon, Much Wenlock, Ironbridge and Kendal. The upshot of that is that I bought a total of 25 books, Jack bought 11, he’s always more reticent than I am! Some of them were bought in charity shops.

I didn’t find any books that I’ve been lusting after for ages, just some books from authors that I’ve read and enjoyed before, and a few from authors I had never even heard of – but I liked the look of them. Here are a few of them.

Latest Book Haul

1. Uncle Samson by Beverley Nichols. It was published in 1950 and is his observations on the American way of life. I think it’ll be a witty report on social history.

2. Rendezvous by Daphne du Maurier is a collection of her short stories.

3. Getting It Right by Elizabeth Jane Howard. I loved the Cazalet Chronicles so I have high hopes for this one.

4. Seven Dead by J. Jefferson Farjeon, a British Library Crime Classic.

5. Counting the Stars by Helen Dunmore. She’s an author that I’ve only recently discovered – sadly she died just a few months ago.

6. An Experiment in Love by Hilary Mantel, published in 1995 and very different from her Tudor books I’m sure.

I found three D.E. Stevenson paperbacks in an antiques centre for all of £1 each, they were the most interesting things in the whole place.

7. Still Glides the Stream by D.E. Stevenson

8. Crooked Adam by D.E. Stevenson

9. The House of the Deer by D.E. Stevenson.

10. The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall is a Virago which was going for 50p so although I know I could have borrowed it from the library I decided to buy it.

That’ll do for now. Have you read any of these ones?

Back to the Classics Challenge 2017

As I’ve already completed my reading for the Classics Club I decided to get stuck into Back to the Classics Challenge 2017 which is run by Karen @Books and Chocolate (what a fab blog name).
My book list consists of:

1. Redgauntlet by Sir Walter Scott
2. On the Beach by Nevil Shute
3. Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier
4. Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos
5. Montaigne Essays
6. The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
7. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
8. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
9. Doctor Dolittle and the Green Canary by Hugh Lofting
10. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
11. I, Claudius – Claudius, the God by Robert Graves
12. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Have you read any of these ones? I’ve had most of these book waiting in a queue to be read for years now and this will encourage me to get around to them at last!

The Chequer Board by Nevil Shute

The Chequer Board cover

The Chequer Board by Nevil Shute was first published in 1947 and it was my friend and one time neighbour Christine who pointed me in its direction, and I’m glad she did as it was a really good and interesting read.

John Turner, a flour salesman has been having health problems for a while, he had been badly wounded during the war and it was thought that he wouldn’t survive his wounds. He does get better but the fragments of shrapnel still lodged in his brain years later have started to give him problems, the upshot being that he is given around one year to live.

John married just before the war but over the years he and his wife have grown apart, his prognosis brings them together again and when John decides to track down the men he feels had given him the will to live again when he was in hospital, his wife helps him track them down.

It was a very disparate bunch of chaps who talked to John when he was unable to move and having to lie flat in a hospital bed. One was a very snobby RAF pilot, another was a young black GI who had been based in Cornwall, and a young corporal charged with murder. Their stories and experiences have been in John’s mind since the war. He feels they saved his life and before he dies he wants to know what has happened to them over the years.

I think the most interesting story is the one about the experiences of black GIs in Cornwall. The black soldiers were given the task of setting up camp before the white GIs turned up in Cornwall and the black men caused quite a sensation in the small town, making themselves very popular as they were very obliging, helping people to fix things that had been left neglected and broken due to the fact that most of the local men were off at war.

Everything changes though when the white GIs turn up and take exception to having to share the local pub with ‘niggers’. The US high heid yins decide that the pub will be off limits to the black GIs but the pub owner objects to that and bans the white US soldiers.

According to this book there had already been trouble in two other English towns where there had actually been shoot-outs between black and white US soldiers.

The Chequer Board goes some way to explaining Daphne du Maurier’s attitude towards the US in her book Rule Britannia. (1972)

This is the first book I’ve read by Nevil Shute and I’ll definitely be reading more.

Rebecca – part two

Since writing my first Rebecca blogpost we’ve had a quick dash up to the Aberdeen area, for one night only, but more of that later in the week.

Back to Daphne du Maurier‘s Rebecca, and I had mentioned that the second Mrs de Winter was mistakenly under the impression that her husband’s first marriage had been a success, so she compared herself with his first wife, always coming up wanting and knocking her own confidence.

Unknown to her Rebecca was in fact one of those women who should really have had a rubber stamp across her forehead DANGEROUS TO MANKIND because in reality she was a manipulative bitch who was only interested in herself and obtaining everything she wanted, whether it was her sister-in-law’s husband, estate workers or just random men she had met on her frequent sojourns in London. Which brings me to my thoughts on Maxim himself and my reaction to his actions.

A while ago I read a very dismissive comment on another blog about Maxim, describing him as ‘that murderer’ which I suppose he was, but for me it wasn’t that black and white because Maxim was the soul of patience and endurance where Rebecca was concerned. He had put up with so much outrageous behaviour over the years, and I would definitely have cracked up long before he did. Of course, Rebecca manipulated him to the end, telling him that she was pregnant and obviously the child was not his, his precious Manderley would be passed on to some nameless man’s child and Maxim would just have to grin and bear it.

Within five days of their marriage Rebecca had told Maxim things about herself which he could never repeat to a living soul. She frightened him and as they were up on a high precipice in the hills above Monte Carlo at the time, he was tempted to do her in then but he didn’t, too much of a gentleman maybe, or too shocked at the time.

Had I been in Maxim’s situation once I had got over the shock I would have taken Rebecca up to a very high cliff, to see the beautiful view of course – and firmly nudged her over the edge and I would have regarded it as a blessed relief because she was a poisonous menace to society, but then there would have been no story at all.

But you haven’t mentioned Mrs Danvers – I hear you say. Well I see her as a sort of reflection of Rebecca, her representative on earth, each of them manipulative, wicked and arrogant, safely at the top of their respective societies. Danvers is a horror.

I suppose every reader has their own image of Manderley impressed on their mind, I have to say that although I adore books which feature houses in the storyline I was never drawn to Manderley as a house of dreams. It was more like a place of nightmares, certainly not a home for the second Mrs de Winter and probably the sort of place which would only be loved by those brought up in it. But Daphne du Maurier was obsessed with Menabilly in Cornwall, which was the name of the house which she based Manderley on. On her first visit to the house the blood red rhododendrons which grew around it were in bloom, she well and truly wrote them into Rebecca. Years after she had first seen the house, and also years after she had written Rebecca, she did manage to rent Menabilly on a long lease of 25 years, it could never be sold as it was entailed and had to be handed on to the next in line for it. Interestingly, du Maurier’s children were not nearly so enthralled with the house. They were interviewed on TV some years ago and I think they felt that Menabilly was more important to their mother than they were. They just remembered how cold and uncomfortable it was.

Rebecca is of course du Maurier’s updated Jane Eyre. She was a bit of a Bronte fan I believe. The main elements are there, a grand house, wealth, a duped husband, a mousey young woman who eventually marries the wealthy homeowner and a devastating fire. However that didn’t stop a Brazilian author Carolina Nabuco from acccusing Daphne of plagiarising her book The Successor which was published in 1934.

As usual, I thoroughly enjoyed my re-read of Rebecca and I expect I’ll be reading it yet again in the future. It’s a toss up between Rebecca and To Kill a Mockingbird as to which of them is my favourite book.

You can read what I thought about The Rebecca Notebook when I read it in 2012 here.

Below is a photo of Daphne and her family with Menabilly/Manderley in the background.

Menabilly, Cornwall