The Glass-Blowers by Daphne du Maurier (1963)

The Glass-Blowers by Daphne du Maurier cover

From the original review in The Winona Daily News, March 1963:  The distaff side of any list of popular writers is incomplete without a mention of Lady Browning, better known by her maiden name, Daphne du Maurier.

Her charming, detailed style has, over the past quarter century, provided many people with pleasant, leisurely reading.

The Glass-Blowers deals in a fictional vein with Miss du Maurier’s ancestors. She has obtained good mileage from her French relatives in several books. Her roots go back to the minor aristocracy of pre-revolutionary days, and the Chateau du Maurier still stands near the Loire River southwest of Paris.

A family through three generations

The Glass-Blowers is the story of the Busson family through segments of three generations, viewed at a glance rather than from the depth of an epoch. Their relationship to the du Mauriers, if any, is not disclosed. The family lived at the time of the French Revolution, and much of their lives are loosely involved with this event.

For insight into the workings of the Revolution itself, The Glass-Blowers is so removed from all the fracas and violence that it is sometimes difficult to recall in context that it was a dramatic time in history. The guillotine is barely mentioned, the mobs of Paris and their rioting and carnage are mostly hearsay.

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The Glass-Blowers by Daphne du Maurier

The Glass Blowers on Amazon

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Unrest and uncertainty during the Revolution

What is nicely focused is the feeling of unrest and uncertainty which existed throughout the land. The Glass-Blowers views of the Revolution is provincial. Its people are aware of the events, though not necessarily their significance, but still tend to be more concerned with their everyday lives and the troubles of their kinfolk than with the burning issues of the day.

Anyone encountering Miss du Maurier’s story of the close of the 18th century with no previous exposure to these turbulent times (if such a thing is possible) might well wonder what all the fuss was about.

The general tone of The Glass-Blowers is so far from that of such works as Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and similar melodramas that they do not seem to be covering the same revolution.

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Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier is best known for Rebecca (1938)

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Momentous happenings in a microcosm

It is by no means a dull book nor a bad book, but does deal with momentous happenings with a rather small-town outlook which is not only fascinating but probably not far from accurate.

In an era of primitive communication, people removed from any event, no matter how earthshaking, were probably more immediately concerned with their own affairs. The minor financial ventures of an elder brother thus tend to overshadow a nation’s upheaval and the birth of the Republic tends to take a back seat to the birth of grandchildren.

Daphne du Maurier has treated her people with understanding and, characteristic of her style, allows the reader to become very much at home with them. While there are better books being written, it is “a far, far better thing” than much of what is currently available.

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