It is time for DDM Reading Week 8-15 May, 2023, hosted by heavenali. It came at the right time for me since I have decided to read through DDM's novels, and possibly some of her non-fiction. I April I read five of her novellas; Don't Look Now, The Apple Tree, The Birds, Not After Midnight and The Blue Lenses. I really liked them, with their almost gothic stories, a sens of something terrible lingering between the lines. I could not get hold of one of her novels, so decided to read three books I have on my shelves. I read them many years ago and don't really remember too much of the stories.
I started with The King's General, a story about the civil war in England in the mid 17th century. As I understand, DDM has based her story on actual events and the actual Richard Grenville as the general, adding fictional characters, to tell a story of the devastating civil war and its casualties.
Honor Harris is a young girl in Cornwall from a well to do family. At 17 she meets Grenville at a ball and the two fall in love. They keep it secret for some time and their affair does not go down well with her family. After finally receiving the agreement to marry, Honor visits Grenville at his estate and they go hunting. Honor can not control her horse and an accident is inevitable. The accident leaves her paralysed. The marriage is called off.
Honor survives and when we meet her she is old, and has decided to write down her story. Thus, we get the story of her love, family and the civil war from her point of view, which works very well. It is a different kind of love story, maybe typical of DDM? Many of her stories about love come with obstacles. This might be the way with love stories in general, but DDM's stories have a bit of an undertone, hard to put your finger on, and you are never sure weather it is going to end happily or not.
There are very good descriptions of the war. How it effected the population, the harshness of the conditions and the violence. DDM gives you a personal account with her real, and fictional, characters. It is excellently done. She knows Cornwall very well and it is beautifully, and violently, described. It made me think of Poldark, although that story is set about a hundred years later. Maybe, the landscape of Cornwall is made for violent stories of war, harsh weather and love.
The estate of Menabilly plays a big part in the novel. DDM herself was living in a house named Menabilly when she wrote the novel. She did extensive research before she started writing the book. Many of the characters lived in the area, and part of the story is based on facts, mixed with the fictional relationship and private stories. I liked the character of Honor very much, as well as many of the other ones. However, Sir Richard Grenvile is not a likeable character at all. A rude, very egoistic man, whose only 'weak' point, if you can call it that, would be his love for Honor.
I read that this novel is only one of three that has a female narrator. Thinking of the five novellas mentioned above, only one of them have a female narrator, The Blue Lenses. I really enjoyed this historical fiction, and am happy to venture into more works by Daphne du Maurier. Next up will be The Parasites or The Glass Blowers.