Book Reviews

Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier (1943)

Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier is a 1943 novel by the prolific British author and playwright. Her seventh novel takes the form of a multigenerational family saga taking place from 1820 to 1920.

Inspired by actual events and places, the story follows the fortunes of the Brodricks, Anglo-Irish landowners who inhabit Clonmere castle.

While Hungry Hill  hasn’t remained as well-known as some of du Maurier’s more famous novels, notably Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel, Jamaica Inn, Frenchman’s Creek, and The Scapegoat, it was successful in its time. It went through dozens of editions, and like many of du Maurier’s other works, it was adapted to film. However, the 1947 movie version was roundly panned. Read More→

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The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter (1979)

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (1979) is perhaps the best-known work by British author Angela Carter (1940 – 1992). A novelist, short story writer, and journalist, she earned a reputation as one of Britain’s most original writers.

Her influences ranged from fairy tales, gothic fantasy, and Shakespeare to surrealism and the cinema of Godard and Fellini. Her work broke taboos and was often considered provocative.

The Bloody Chamber is a collection of re-envisioned imaginings (not, as often described, retellings) of classic European fairy tales. They range in length from very short stories to novellas, and include: Read More→

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The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier (1969)

The House on the Strand  (1969) is one of prolific British author Daphne du Maurier’s later novels, and perhaps one of those less widely read and not as critically acclaimed.

The story, set in her own beloved Cornwall, is one of time travel, with elements of the gothic and supernatural. The narrator, Richard (Dick) Young, gains access to a drug that transports him from the present day (and a life he finds rather dreary) to the 14th century. There, he becomes involved in the lives of those he meets, and his two worlds collide.

A recent reconsideration of The House on the Strand on the official Daphne du Maurier site, sums up the novel’s storyline: Read More→

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Rule Britannia by Daphne du Maurier (1972)

Rule Britannia (1972) was the last novel written by Daphne du Maurier, who was known for her tightly plotted, exquisitely crafted thrillers, including the iconic Rebecca (1938).

The story, set in a future version of England, envisioned the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EEC (European Economic Community), a body that was incorporated into the European Union in 1993, well after du Maurier’s time. It was almost as if she was envisioning Brexit.

In fact, the Times of London called it a “Brexit novel,” placing it among others that envisioned Britain striking off on its own in an April 2019 article by Lucy Scholes:

What are the Brexit novels? Ali Smith’s Autumn, Jonathan Coe’s Middle England, Sam Byers’s Perfidious Albion, Daphne du Maurier’s Rule Britannia? Yes, you read that correctly: nearly 50 years ago the writer famous for her 1938 bestseller Rebecca all but predicted Brexit in her final novel. Read More→

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Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee (1989)

Bharati Mukherjee (1940 – 2017), who made her life in America, has written many books about the immigrant experience. Jasmine, published in 1989, is probably among the best as it picks up on the transition in a very nuanced fashion, not sparing us the horrors, either.

It is quite likely that the author’s personal experiences have contributed to the deep insights that can grab readers and keep them riveted. Mukherjee was born in what is now called Kolkata (Calcutta at the time she was born when under Indian rule). In the course of her prolific career, she wrote many works of fiction and nonfiction and taught at a number of American universities. Read More→

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