Frenchman’s Creek (1942) by Daphne du Maurier
From the original review by Jane Corby in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 1942: Only Daphne du Maurier could have written Frenchman’s Creek. Only a woman — an extraordinarily articulate woman at that — could have told this tale of the Lady Dona St. Columb, wife of an adoring, stupid Britisher of title, mother of two adorable children, who ran away with a French pirate in a spirit of enchanted midsummer recklessness, and returned to take up again the realities of the life to which she belonged.
Daphne du Maurier, as the readers of Rebecca will remember, has a genius for creating romance against a background of compelling English countryside. This time she has chosen for her story a a period “in a century now forgotten,” and a place called Navron House, on the wild Cornish coast, in the wood that bordered a mysterious arm of the sea, the “Frenchman’s Creek,” as it became to a later generation.
Here the pirate who robbed stodgy British country families of jewels and plate and bestowed them upon the poor peasants of his native Brittany, was accustomed to moor his ship while making repairs and lying low until the storm of his latest exploit had blown over. Here the Lady St. Colomb, wearied of the frivolity of the London Court, went vacationing, refusing to let Sir Harry accompany her on her husband’s long-neglected estate, and met and loved “the Frenchman” and ran away with him on one of his expeditions.
The pirate ship slipped back up the creek and Dona came home. “She turned away from the quay toward the trees and the narrow twisting path that would bring her to Navron … Soon the mist would clear and the sun would come up over the trees beyond the river, and even now, as she came out of the woods and stood upon the lawn, the morning light laid a finger upon Navron, as it slept, still and shuttered.
She crept across the lawn, silver with dew, and tried the door … William (her trusted servant) stared at her as though she were a phantom — than, her heart leaping in sudden understanding, she saw the great-coat on the chair, the riding-whip, the usual disorder of arrival … ‘Sir Harry has come, my lady,’ said William.”
Frenchman’s Creek is a brilliant novel, with Daphne du Maurier and her gifts for heightening beauty, for dramatizing human weakness, at their readable best.
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