Sunday, May 30, 2010
Frenchman's Creek - Daphne Du Maurier
In her haunting style, Du Maurier opens Frenchman's Creek with a meandering description of a particular part of the Cornish coast. "When the east wind blows up the Helford river the shining waters become troubled and disturbed and the little waves beat angrily upon the sandy shores." And so we are drawn to this particular era, this particular place: this secluded part of the river, the tiny village near it, and the grounds of Navron House. As Du Maurier talks of the place in present day terms, we hear an echo of what that place once was, the things that happened there and the hearts that met there..
Lady Dona St.Columb is stuck in an unhappy marriage with a man who can barely understand her try as he may. Her London life, a constant swirl of parties, concerts, flirtations with her husband's friend Rockingham seems to consume her life till one day she is disgusted by it all, and desperately wanting some distance from her husband Harry, takes her children and flees to Navron House on the remote Cornish Coast to live happily in seclusion, away from the tedium and duplicity of London. Navron House, uninhabited for many years, where Dona herself has been only once, is thrown up for the arrival of its mistress devoid of all servants but the butler, William, an odd fellow who seems to hide a secret. By and by Dona stumbles upon a creek on her grounds, the mooring place of a pirate ship that is the fear and disgust of all the gentry around. Before she knows it Dona is embroiled deep in the affairs of La Mouette and befriends the pirate himself, the elusive handsome Frenchman whom everyone seems to hate. To Dona, the creek becomes a magical place where she goes to escape her life and it isn't long before she, Lady Dona St.Columb, mother of two, finds herself falling in love with the Frenchman Pirate.
Frenchman's Creek, read during the two amazing days of thundershowers in Chennai was a welcome distraction from the rain: it was the perfect book to curl up with while the rain lashed outside. Du Maurier, rarely goes wrong and certainly not with this one. It spins such a vivid tale of love, passion, duty and most of all, of the simple life. A life where one need not be Lady Dona St.Columb with appearances to keep up, but can sit barelegged in the creek, eat freshly fried fish over the campfire, listen to a night jar. In Dona there is the yearning to be someone completely different from whom she really is and while you might not necessarily like her, you find yourself sympathizing with her.
Read the Frenchman's Creek, you will feel your heart moving in strange, beautifully sad ways and in the present day ruin that is left of Navron House, you too will see loyal button-mouthed William, poor blundering Harry, Dona and her pirate in their little creek, frozen in time, frying the fish that they just caught, for dinner.