Du Maurier is having a bit of a renaissance at the moment what with the new film of My Cousin Rachel which I very much long to see. Her tales have translated well to film as Rebecca and The Birds have demonstrated as well as the earlier version of My Cousin Rachel. There is apparently a television film version of Frenchman’s Creek (which I will seek out) but it seems to have strayed far from the novel, to its detriment.
I’m not sure why this novel doesn’t get the acclaim of the others: it is sheer delight and you don’t have to be a pirate at heart to love it (though it helps). Lady Dona St Columb flees London and her dissolute life, fed up with her stifling gilded cage and escapes with her children to her husband’s remote Cornwall estate.
She had played too long a part unworthy of her. She had consented to be the Dona her world had demanded…and all the while another Dona, a strange phantom Dona, peered at her from a dark mirror and was ashamed.
In the quiet of the house, she and the children romp in the green and the woods and the salt air and for once she’s happy. She sees a ship in the harbour one day and is struck with a strange premonition that presages her meeting the pirate captain of La Mouette. Her life changes.
‘Why are you a pirate?’ she said at last, breaking the silence.
‘Why do you ride horses that are too spirited?’ he answered.
‘Because of the danger, because of the speed, because I might fall,’ she said.
‘That is why I am a pirate,’ he said.
There are just so many good quotes:
‘It is because we are both fugitives,’ she thought, ‘there is a bond between us.’
Du Maurier recognises that ‘it’s different for girls’ but also gives her heroine genuine adventure that never feels anachronistic. This is a non-stop book that has a simple narrative and yet moments to reflect on what freedom means when we accept ties to others. Hard choices indeed. And while du Maurier is often seen as gothic, cynical and distrustful, she has her moments every bit as swoony and heady as Heyer (reading her on the journey back, laughing out loud on a crowded train).
Check out all the overlooked books at Patti’s blog. It does actually fit the heist theme (there’s a few, though the best may be the perriwig snatching 😉 hee).