Anyone who feels trapped in a mid-life crisis or just a plain old stagnant existence for a seemingly unendurable amount of time will empathize with Du Maurier's bored and beautiful Dona St. Columb and enjoy her exploits with the man of her escapist dreams, Jean, the pirate master of La Mouette. While the adventure excites and the romance titillates, Du Maurier manages, quite subtly to explore the timeless themes of true freedom versus responsibility and the changing nature of love from its first incendiary spark to the mellow flame of comfortable love of long-time partners.
Do yourself a favor and skip Du Maurier's first chapter---don't get discouraged by it, it is merely a ploy used by the author to suggest the timeless quality of love that lingers off the coast of Cornwall even to the modern day---read this chapter over again after you finish the book and it will lose its old fashioned storyteller's introduction and emit the haunting ghostlike ambiance it was meant to suggest.
Rather than look at this as the tale of an adultress as one of the other reviewers strongly points out, imagine Dona as confused, not yet content enough to live out her days with Harry, the children and the dogs until she has found her own identity and come to terms with who and what she is.
I imagine Du Maurier herself, having such questions whirl around in her own mind as she spun her tales at Menabilly--basically alone in the country while her husband was at war. The adventure of Dona St. Columb speaks of Du Maurier's own sense of restlessness and universally allows all of us to freely associate and commiserate. All of the Du Maurier heroines are trapped in worlds where they are dependent on their strong males counterparts. Du Maurier's portrayals suggest her view of woman's vantage point a dismal one---woman acquiesce; they only find a life when they do.
This is a wonderful story of a young wife who transforms from child to woman in less than 300 pages. She becomes a boy to experience the ultimate freedom that she will never have as a woman. At the end she must return to her her trap, content or discontent to know her place as a woman. I have read 'Frenchman's Creek' and listened to it at least ten times, always taking from it something new as my own life develops. Highly recommended as a real classic romance.
on February 26, 2003
If you like historical romances and can enjoy one even if it lacks the "sensuality" found in the historical romance novels typically sold today, you'll likely enjoy this story.
Set in the 17th century, this story is basically about a wealthy, bored housewife and mother (Lady St. Columb) who finds herself falling out of love with her husband and wanting a change from the life she is living, or in her mind merely "existing". Although her husband adores her, realizing she needs a break from him and their surroundings, she leaves him "for a visit" to their Cornwall estate. With her kids in tow, she expects nothing more than some peace and quiet. What she finds is a ship moored just off her property, and a mysterious but intriguing man that makes her laugh and feel more alive than she has in a while.
When she later learns that he's a pirate, the damage has been done; her attraction to him is too strong to end their friendship and budding relationship. And to make matters worse, he's equally attracted to her.
What follows is a bittersweet love affair that is hampered by the fact that she's a wife and mother with responsibilities. As if those weren't issues enough to deal with, she's also surrounded by nosey neighbors and other acquaintenances who are quite content to try and mind her business, and eventually through their actions, threaten her happiness and even her life.
While this story lacked the "fire" and excitement I was expecting, it was nonetheless a good read. Don't expect to be plunged into a whirlwind romance with a young, beautiful virgin being chased by the man she happens to captivate in a flurry of action. Expect instead, to find two mature people who know what they want out of life and who develop a relationship based upon mutual attraction and friendship, that simmers and builds slowly. There is some sensuality in the book, but it's subdued by today's standards.
In this story, you will find romance, some action, and an atmosphere that contributes to a feeling of "being there" in 17th century England and experiencing a part of what life would be like for a titled woman, and a pirate. It's an interesting, bittersweet story that had my emotions on a rollercoaster as the two individuals were forced to make hard decisions about their directions in life.
There wasn't much I didn't like about this book but if I had to pick something, it would be that in a few spots the pace was just a tad slow, and the fact that I happen to like the "fiery" (okay, real sensuous) historical romances of today. While a little more fire would have been nice, this book was satisfying nonetheless because the story is well told. I would recommend it.
on August 23, 2009
Despite some very lame attempts at movie versions of Frenchman's Creek over the years - this really is du Maurier's finest writing. With a quiet dignity lacking in her more melodramatic novels (such as Rebecca) du Maurier builds a love story in the 17th century that resonates with anyone today who finds their life unfulfilled or caged. Part of the reason that any film adaption of this novel has failed is because the plot on its own can feel silly and dated. What makes this novel such a work of depth is du Maurier's writing style itself. In du Maurier's expert hands Dona, rather than being merely a pretty, bored, silly aristocrat is believably a complex and sympathetic heroine. If many of the top "romance" writers of today were to attempt to tell the same story it would be just another swashbuckler happy-ending piece of literature debris. Du Maurier instead takes a pirate historical romance and bends it into a quiet, heartbreaking masterpiece.
on November 13, 2001
Rebecca was good. Jamaica Inn was okay. But Frenchman's Creek was great! Du Maurier really outdid herself. She took the heart of a woman and made it plain. What romantic wouldn't like this story? Pirates, adventure, philosophy and romance....better than those frilly romance books nowadays. Dona went on a quest and fulfilled it. The first chapter is boring---skip it; I put it down for a time because I was unimpressed. But it is really good. I read parts of it to people as they were working (while I joyfully read) and they kept asking, "what happened next?" Every time I would give a little giggle of glee. This is really good. Rebecca and Jamaica Inn are "dark" novels; but this is an exploration into a womans mind. I comprehend and adore Ms. Dumaurier! Another good writer found!
on July 12, 2009
I wasn't sure what to expect from FRENCHMAN'S CREEK by Daphne du Maurier, but I knew I wanted to read it. I am embarrassed to say that I have never read one of Ms. du Maurier's books (however, I do own two copies of REBECCA) and I am woefully ignorant of most classics. So when I found out that Sourcebooks was going to re-release a few of her novels, I definitely knew I had to read at least one of them.
I was so pleasantly surprised by this novel -- I really, really liked it. When I picked up the book and read the first chapter, I was afraid that it was going to be a bit difficult to read. I got a little nervous that it was going to be kind of "stuffy;" however, as soon as I read the second chapter, I was hooked. I was immediately caught up in Dona's life and her desire to flee London, her life as a Lady, and even her husband. And, I just loved all of the action and adventure packed into these pages.
I think most people will relate (at least a little) to Dona's desire to just get away from it all. The difference is that most of us would never do it in the fashion that Dona did. (I, for one, just think about it for a few minutes when the kids are driving me crazy and I want some peace and quiet -- I could never act on it!) Not only did she leave her home and husband in London, but once she was "free" she still managed to escape even further by leaving her children with a virtual stranger and running off with a pirate. I guess you could say that desperate times called for desperate measures, but I pretty sure that most women will not be able to relate to the extreme nature of Dona's actions. It does make for terrific reading though!
One of my most pleasant surprises about FRENCHMAN'S CREEK was the amount of humor in this story. Of course, Dona and her pirate were terrific characters but I loved how Ms. du Maurier brought them to life. While I didn't respect Dona for her decisions, I must say that I had a wonderful time reading about her escape; and I loved her sarcasm and her sense of adventure. Even though I found some of her actions despicable, I could almost understand them given the expectations and trappings that she felt existed in her life. I just couldn't comprehend how she could abandon her children, putting her own desires ahead of them. Of course, I could understand how she fell in love with the pirate -- he was a smart, perceptive and exciting man despite (or maybe because of) his choice of professions.
When I started reading FRENCHMAN'S CREEK, I wasn't really thinking about it as a book club selection. However, as I really got into the story and the characters, I discovered that it would make a wonderful selection. I think the themes of escapism and self-actualization make this book ideal for discussion (especially among women.) And I really liked that the book deals with these topics while also being a very entertaining and enjoyable read. I was thrilled to see that the paperback edition includes a reading guide in the back.
on September 23, 2014
My favorite novel by Daphne du Maurier is Frenchman's Creek. It's absolutely PERFECT!!!!!!!! I do not believe she
has written anything that equals it, although I'm sure, others, will disagree. Her prose is beautifully, hauntingly and
compellingly entrancing!!! One read is not enough!!! You are there in the time period, the characters leap out at you
and you must engage and allow yourself to be drawn to their intrigues!!!
on October 26, 2011
I'm interested in Daphne DuMaurier's life for more than 30 years and first heard about her through the Alfred Hitchcock movies "Rebecca" and "Jamaica Inn" (didn't care for "Jamaica Inn" or for "My Cousin Rachel").
Like most people, I read "Rebecca" first and liked it although it was not the best of her novels.
Next I read "Frenchman's Creek" and now I was really hooked and read the rest of her books. "The House on the Strand" is another favorite...too bad it has never been filmed!
Then in 1987 on my second vacation in England, we stayed at a house in the woods opposite of the real Frenchman's Creek, Helford River, outside Port Navas in Cornwall. One day we drove to the opposite side of Helford River and explored Frenchman's Creek (there is a public path, but you have to cross a house/farm similar to Navron House in the novel in order to reach that path). It still looks the way DuMaurier described it in her novel and in "Growing Pains", one of her autobiographies.
In 1995 we stayed in Polruan on the other side of the river Fowey and opposite of the small town of Fowey for 11 days. I've been to Kilmarth (the inspiration for "House on the Strand"), I've even seen Menabilly (the model for Manderley in "Rebecca") which is now inhabited by Rashleigh descendants and I went twice to Jamaica Inn, Bodmin Moor, where they have a Daphne DuMaurier room with her desk. Of course I explored Readymoney Cove as well where DuMaurier lived for a while before moving to Menabilly while it was renovated.
For everybody interested in DuMaurier's life I highly recommend to read the biography by Margaret Forster from 1993.
There is also a beautiful coffee table book availabale called "Enchanted Cornwall" by Daphne DuMaurier, it's a pictorial memoir with a map to all her book locations (helpful for any DuMaurier fan who plans a Cornwall trip).
If you take the little car ferry from the Fowey side to Boddinnick (sp?), you even get to see the house that Daphne's parents bought in the late twenties/early thirties (Ferryside) and where she spent one winter all by herself (just 17 or 18 years old) to write her first novel "The Loving Spirit" with one servant to cook for her. Her older sister Angela used to live until her death in Ferryside. Now Daphne's son Christian "Kits" Browning lives there with his wife.
Cornwall is for sure worth a trip!
I also recommend to watch the remake of the movie "Frenchman's Creek" with Anthony Delon from the late nineties. In the contrary to the old movie version with Joan Fontaine from the forties, the new version has been filmed in Cornwall. The movie locations are gorgeous.
on March 24, 2011
Dona St. Columb is a 29 year-old 17th century London aristocrat who spends her time going to plays, eating at luxurious restaurants, putting on parties, hobnobbing with other socialites, and discovering that she's sick of it. She has come to realize that her husband is clumsy and besotted, and she is becoming vain and imperious and is filled with self-loathing. On an impulse, she packs her children and her servant into a carriage and flees the city and her husband to the family estate in Cornwall. Here, she learns to live again. She gets up when she wants to, eats when she wants to, dresses as she wishes, walks around the beautiful estate, plays with her children, cuts and arranges flowers . . . and learns that there is a French pirate who has been raiding the district. Shortly after, she encounters this pirate, and thus begins the greatest and most exciting adventure of her life.
Yes, this is a romance, with a capital R, and in both senses of the word. A romance, by the way, was once simply defined as "exciting adventure", exemplified by the works of Dumas or Stevenson. Of course, romance is now defined in an entirely different way. Frenchman's Creek functions on both levels.
You see, our pirate is dashing, bold, brave, clever, handsome, wealthy, honorable (in his way), charming and witty. He loves the outdoors, is an excellent artist, is revered by his men, and craves adventure. In short, he is everything our beautiful damsel could ever want, and he brings to her life the excitement and joy she always dreamed she was destined for.
Yes, it's a bit fanciful to be sure. A little bit too perfect. But you know what? It works. Taken on its own terms it is not too ridiculous or too contrived, and it is, after all, an adventure. It's supposed to be fun, isn't it?
And when all is said and done, there is a little bit of a theme poking around in here as well. Her lover wonders,"When it was that the whole world went amiss and men forgot how to live and to love and be happy?" And she answers, "Perhaps there was a woman . . . and the woman told the man to build a house of reeds, and after that a house of wood, and after that a house of stone, and there came other men and other women and soon there were no more hills and no more lakes, nothing but little round stone houses all alike."
Well, we all have our little round stone houses. But we also have wonderful writers like Daphne Du Maurier who, perhaps for a few moments during the course of our day, can transport us to a remote time and place and give us a sense of the adventure that we all still believe we are going to have.
on January 5, 2011
Frenchman's Creek by Daphne Du Maurier is a novel about escaping life, feeling suffocated with oneself and longing for something different. Dona St. Columb is sick of her life and longing for change. She has been rebelling slowly from her husband, children and society for some time now, but she realizes that this rebelling is also not given her any satisfaction and is only causing her more pain. She decides to take her small children and leave her husband in London and travel to their family estate in Cornwall. Once their she begins to feel better, more freer and at peace. She discovers a band of pirates along the creek and soon meets their master, the Frenchman. Both are drawn to each other and begin to realize the power of love, and the Frenchman gives Dona what she has longed for without even knowing it, an adventure.
I have read many books so far by Du Maurier and I just savor them like fine chocolate. I really enjoyed this one as well. What I admire most about her writing is her ability to make such mundane, unrealistic plot lines so poetic, suspenseful and different. I think that if anyone else had written this story it would have sounded cheap, fluffy and gag worthy. Even though at times, the story does become hard to believe, it is fun and exciting. I do not know how she does it but she draws her audience in from the first page, and her books are so hard to put down.
This probably was not my favorite of hers that I have read so far, but I still find it better than most other books with similar plot lines. I enjoyed her mix of historical fiction, suspense and romance in this book. Dona is an interesting heroine, even though she is beautiful, she is far from perfect and makes many mistakes but she really does feel caged with her life and does not know what to do with herself. By contrast, the Frenchman (what Dona refers to him by) recognizes himself in Dona without even really knowing her. Their love is built on this understanding of souls and their possession of one another is intense, even at times it seems rushed and unbelievable.
on March 20, 2007
I love this little tale of escapism! How often does a woman discovers both herself and her true love, ibidem (Latin: in the same place) ? At Middle age, almost 30, Lady Dona St Columb is in crisis and "becomes a boy" off the Cornwall English shore and lives, loves, and pillages ID, EGO, SUPEREGO only to discover life and it's sacrifices can be as or more adventuresome as the Frenchman's. This romantic sojourn is reflective of DuMaurier's struggle as she patiently waits for her husband during his Military Service years. Ladies and Gents, haven't we ALL answered this Freudian question when we discover our own crossroads between the Sparkled Bells and Whistle's love and the comfortable, enduring love of the friend that we vowed to spend our lives with? Dona choosing Harry, her son and dogs, is not sad or unendurable, because she knows who Dona is now. And, the handsome scoundrel, Jean is the better for having loved her.
THE FRENCHMAN'S CREEK, set in 17th-century Cornwall, England, is an absorbing tale. Passionate, bored Lady St. Columb flees her lover and her fashionable life at Court to the peace of her husband's Cornwall estate. Quite unexpectedly, she stumbles on the mooring place of the white-sailed ship belonging to the daring Frenchman who plunders the shores of Cornwall. This Frenchman is dangerous, wanted, charming, urbane, and handsome. He is also her doppelganger daring her, Dona, to discover herself and in loving Jean, she'll love the true Dona St Columb. It is only a question of time before this philosopher-pirate captures the heart of the lovely Lady St. Columb. Satisfying, and romantic from cover to cover.
As in REBECCA and JAMAICA INN, DuMaurier introduces to the reader her most beloved character: the beautiful landscape of Cornwall in the first chapter. Other reviewers have said to skip it or read after finishing the book, but the chapter is as important as DuMaurier's "Last time I saw Manderley..." While this leading lady may not be perceived as 'dark' as the ladies in REBECCA or JAMAICA INN, the fact that Lady St Columb is a bored adulteress who becomes 'boy' on a scoundrel's ship is. Such scandalous behavior, especially set in 17th Century England had never been portrayed as DuMaurier has.
To me, FRENCHMAN'S CREEK reads as wonderful swashbuckling movie starring Errol Flynn and Loretta Young. How can a girl resist a hansome scoundral who still has some honor about him and understand's emotional and intellectual intimacy is everything to a woman?