Daphne Du Maurier

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British Books Challenge 2016 – The Round Up

Published January 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

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2016 was my fourth year of participating in the British Books Challenge. I love doing this every year and think it’s important to support our authors here in the UK, old and new. Here’s what I’ve managed to review this year in British Books!

Frost Hollow Hall – Emma Carroll

The Horse Dancer – Jojo Moyes

We Were Just Driving Around – Jon McGregor

Bella Broomstick – Lou Kuenzler

The Chamois – Daphne du Maurier

Silent Saturday – Helen Grant

The Demons Of Ghent – Helen Grant

Urban Legends – Helen Grant

The Demon Headmaster – Gillian Cross

Under The Pylon – Graham Joyce

The Versions Of Us – Laura Barnett

The Quality Of Silence – Rosamund Lupton

In A Dark, Dark Wood – Ruth Ware

Duet – Kate Mosse

Carrie’s War – Nina Bawden

The Coral Strand – Ravinder Randhawa

Defender Of The Realm (Defender Of The Realm #1) – Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler

Strange Girls And Ordinary Women – Morgan McCarthy

The Samaritan (Carter Blake #2) – Mason Cross

Moving – Jenny Eclair

Enough Of This Shit Already – Tony Black

The Boy In The Dress – David Walliams

Jamaica Inn – Daphne du Maurier

Create Your Own Spy Mission – Andrew and Chris Judge

Charm For A Friend With A Lump – Helen Simpson

A Year Of Marvellous Ways – Sarah Winman

Noble Conflict – Malorie Blackman

The Girl On The Train – Paula Hawkins

The Inventory: Iron Fist (The Inventory #1) – Andy Briggs

Alfie Bloom And The Secrets Of Hexbridge Castle (Alfie Bloom #1) – Gabrielle Kent

Alfie Bloom And The Talisman Thief (Alfie Bloom #2) – Gabrielle Kent

Notes From The House Spirits – Lucy Wood

Our Endless Numbered Days – Claire Fuller

How I Finally Lost My Heart – Doris Lessing

The Bones Of You – Debbie Howells

According To Yes – Dawn French

The Borrowers – Mary Norton

Random Acts Of Unkindness – Jacqueline Ward

The Adventure Of The Speckled Band – Arthur Conan Doyle

Maggot Moon – Sally Gardner

Sweet Caress – William Boyd

The Girls – Lisa Jewell

The Oasis Of Time – Carolyn Waugh

Author Requests – Off Key by Mark Robertson, Piano From A 4th Storey Window by Jenny Morton Potts and The Death Of Danny Daggers by Haydn Wilks

The Love Song Of Miss Queenie Hennessy – Rachel Joyce

A Dictionary Of Mutual Understanding – Jackie Copleton

Garlic And Gauloises – Hemmie Martin

Looking For JJ (Jennifer Jones #1) – Anne Cassidy

If It Keeps On Raining – Jon McGregor

Reasons To Stay Alive – Matt Haig

Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense Of The Twentieth Century – John Higgs

The Lordly Ones – Daphne du Maurier

Roseblood – Paul Doherty

The Last Act Of Love – Cathy Rentzenbrink

Tiger Moth – Graham Joyce

The Widow – Fiona Barton

The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase – Joan Aiken

The Puppet Master – Abigail Osborne

Under My Skin – James Dawson

Red Letter Day – Kate Mosse

Missing, Presumed – Susie Steiner

Getting It Wrong – Ramsey Campbell

Disclaimer – Renée Knight

Ballet Shoes – Noel Streatfeild

Among Others – Jo Walton

Chinese Whispers – Ben Chu

The Last Leaves Falling – Fox Benwell

Hogmanay Homicide – Edward Marston

 The Loving Husband – Christobel Kent

The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair

So if I’ve calculated correctly, that makes it 72 books for the British Books Challenge this year. It isn’t as much as last year but I’ve still made the target of 12 books a year which I’m very happy with, especially as I haven’t had a great blogging year with a lot of illness. 😦

Highlights from this year include Disclaimer by Renee Knight which I will treasure as not only is it a fantastic book but I also managed to meet the lady herself at Crime At The Court (hosted by Goldsboro Books, London) with my blogger buddy Cleopatra Loves Books. She’s lovely and so very talented and I will probably read anything she ever writes! The Last Act Of Love was also a hugely important and emotional book for me and I loved reviewing it with my sister, Chrissi Reads in our little “Talking About” feature which we do on occasion. Other honourable mentions go to Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig, Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller, Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier, the Forbidden Spaces Trilogy by Helen Grant and the fabulous Emma Carroll who wrote the beautiful Frost Hollow Hall. I could go on and on. I’m certainly looking forward to reading some more “best of British” books in 2017! Look out for my sign up post coming soon.

Short Stories Challenge – The Lordly Ones by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Published September 5, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Lordly Ones all about?:

The final story in this collection tells the tale of a young, mute boy who appears to finally get the love and family he so desperately craves.

What did I think?:

I’ve absolutely loved exploring this short story collection by Daphne du Maurier and reading her short fiction has just cemented her forever as one of my favourite authors. There have been only a couple of stories in The Breaking Point that I haven’t been too sure about but in general, I have found this to be a fantastic read that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. The Lordly Ones ended things on a complete high and is just as dark and unsettling as the other stories in the collection, even more so perhaps as it involves a child starved of adequate love from his parents and who appears to be at least emotionally abused (occasionally physically) on a daily basis.

The boy in question is mute and although we are not sure of his age, we know that he is old enough where he should have started communicating. His parents seem to resent the fact that Ben is not like other children and punish him at the drop of a hat which involves locking him in a dark cupboard or smacking him. Their reaction is often in response to a terrible sound that comes from the boy’s mouth when he becomes distressed and is one that he is unable to control. Instead of comforting him, the parents take out their frustration on him emotionally and physically which only leads to him feeling more confused and isolated.

Then the family go through a bit of an upheaval and move house into the countryside by some beautiful moors. The process is quite bewildering for Ben because of his communication difficulties and because his parents make little effort to let him know what is going on. He is somewhat comforted when they arrive at their new house by the gorgeous surroundings and a nice woman who meets them at the property who offers him biscuits and confides in him about some strange visitors that often come at night to try and steal food from the house larder.

Ben is intrigued by the moor visitors but cannot bear to think of them as thieves so kind-heartedly, he takes the remaining food from the larder and leaves it on the green outside the house as a gift for the night callers. However, when his parents discover the missing food, he is beaten until he can hardly move by a rather over-enthusiastic father trying to teach his son a lesson. During the night, he manages to catch a glimpse of the visitors in the garden – a strange, wild family group that have clear mother, father and child relationships and have a strong, loving bond. Overwhelmed by the connection between them all he decides to escape with them into the night where he is instantly accepted, fed and taken care of. The visitors are not all they seem however and the reader gets quite a surprise when their identities are announced leading to an abrupt and rather haunting ending.

One of my favourite things about the stories in this collection is how they all involve characters who seem to be at “the breaking point,” and often explores quite dark and uncomfortable themes. This made some of the stories difficult to read at times, especially The Lordly Ones where child abuse/neglect is the prominent theme but it was undeniably hard to put down. I hated the parents in this story so much and felt so sorry for poor Ben so it tugged on my emotions in a number of ways! Yet again, the author has proved her absolute brilliance in story-telling and I’ll be returning to re-read The Breaking Point in the future for sure.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: Tiger Moth by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Jamaica Inn – Daphne du Maurier

Published April 8, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

On a bitter November evening, young Mary Yellan journeys across the rainswept moors to Jamaica Inn in honour of her mother’s dying request. When she arrives, the warning of the coachman begins to echo in her memory, for her aunt Patience cowers before hulking Uncle Joss Merlyn. Terrified of the inn’s brooding power, Mary gradually finds herself ensnared in the dark schemes being enacted behind its crumbling walls — and tempted to love a man she dares not trust.

What did I think?:

As some of you may already be aware, I am a huge Daphne du Maurier fan. I haven’t read too much of her work yet, I’m almost finished her short story collection, The Breaking Point which I’ve covered in my Short Stories Challenge and I’ve read probably her most famous work, Rebecca and loved it, but this is only the second of her novels that I’ve had the pleasure to discover. And what a tale it is! Du Maurier takes us back to her beloved Cornwall with glorious descriptions of Jamaica Inn, a place that still stands today on the moors between Bodwin and Launceston and dates back to 1750, on an old coaching route (now the A30) and four miles walk from Brown Willy, the highest hill in Cornwall. On a holiday to Cornwall last year, I had the opportunity to visit the famous working hotel and pub (which is also rumoured to be haunted) and the beauty of both the interior and the surroundings outside took my breath away.

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Jamaica Inn, Cornwall

Image from http://www.times.co.uk

But back to the book – our main character is Mary Yellan whom when our story begins, has had a wonderful life managing a small farm with her mother. Unfortunately, her mother becomes very ill and her dying wish is that Mary should go and live with her sister, Mary’s Aunt Patience and her husband at Jamaica Inn as it wasn’t “proper” in the early 19th century for young women to be on their own. Mary has fond memories of her Aunt Patience who she remembers as an incredibly happy and soft-hearted woman with a lust for life. When Mary arrives at Jamaica Inn on a cold wintry evening (which always makes things look a bit bleaker, of course!) the woman she meets is not the fun-loving Aunt she remembers. Aunt Patience’s husband, Joss Merlyn, the landlord of the inn is a brash, intimidating bully of a man who treats everyone most of all his long-suffering wife with disrespect and contempt.

Aunt Patience has changed into a cowed, fearful woman who jumps at the slightest noise and is desperate to keep the peace at whatever cost to herself. For there are strange and terrible things going on at Jamaica Inn. No coaches seem to stop there and on certain nights, Mary and her Aunt are ordered to keep to their rooms, disregard any odd noises that they might hear (and yes, there are many) and no matter what, keep their mouths shut:

“You must never question me, nor him, nor anyone, for if you came to guess but half of what I know, your hair would go grey, Mary, as mine has done, and you would tremble in your speech and weep by night, and all that lovely careless youth of yours would die, Mary, as mine has died.”

Mary becomes unwillingly involved in one of these horrific events and is uncertain where to turn to for help, desperate to get away but realising that her duties compel her to stay and protect her Aunt. Furthermore, if she did ask for help – is there anyone that she can trust? There is Jem Merlyn, her uncle’s brother whom she instantly feels a connection with but who has a murky past of his own, the albino vicar Francis Davey who is kind to her when she has no where else to turn and Squire Bassat and his wife who also appear to have a hidden agenda.

Could there be a happy ending? It seems unlikely but there’s certainly plenty of gothic mystery, intrigue, murder and a bundle of thrills that will keep you reading until the wee hours. Once again, Daphne du Maurier surprised and delighted me with a strong plot-line, more than a few shady characters and such vivid, beautiful descriptions of the landscape of Cornwall that I was bowled over on more than a few occasions. Seeing the place itself was the cherry on the icing on the cake and I made sure that I was reading the book at the time that I visited which made the reading experience even more special. I’ll always have a vivid memory of sitting outside Jamaica Inn in the sunshine, the book open in my hands, occasionally glancing up across the moor just imaging what it could have been like two hundred years ago. My only criticism is… what on earth am I going to read of hers next? There’s so much to choose from! *rubs hands in glee*

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Interior of Jamaica Inn, Cornwall

Image from http://www.seeksghosts.blogspot.co.uk

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Short Stories Challenge 2016 – April to June

Published April 1, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Welcome to another three months in my Short Stories Challenge! The first few months of this year have whizzed by and I’ve found some great pieces of short fiction to add to my collection. Here’s the stories that will take me right through to the summer:

Week beginning 4th April

Elephants In Captivity (Part One) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Week beginning 11th April

Space by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 18th April

If It Keeps On Raining by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 25th April

The Lordly Ones by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 2nd May

Tiger Moth by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 9th May

The Shadow Tree by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

Week beginning 16th May

The Unremarkable Heart by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 23rd May

Red Letter Day by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 30th May

Getting It Wrong by Ramsey Campbell from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Week beginning 6th June

The Haunter Of The Dark by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 13th June

Hogmanay Homicide by Edward Marston from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Week beginning 20th June

What We Save by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 27th June

A Convalescent Ego by Richard Yates from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Short Stories Challenge – The Chamois by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Published January 11, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Chamois all about?:

The penultimate story in this collection follows a married couple as they trek up the mountains in Greece to hunt down the elusive chamois.

What did I think?:

When I think about Daphne du Maurier it is in almost goddess qualities and am in the process of reading everything she has ever written. However, it was bound to happen one day – a story that I confess to being a little disappointed by! The story concerns a (perhaps unhappily) married couple with the wife as our narrator for the duration. Her husband, Stephen is absolutely obsessed with the creatures known as chamois, not the fuzzy wuzzy “like to look at pictures of them” obsession unfortunately, he enjoys hunting them and displaying their heads as trophies on his walls. For anyone who doesn’t know what they are (and I had to look them up myself) they are part of the goat-antelope family and are native to mountains in Europe, although they have also been introduced to the South Island of New Zealand.

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The beautiful and reclusive chamois

“Zoo 042 edited” by Dmano at en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zoo_042_edited.jpg#/media/File:Zoo_042_edited.jpg

Du Maurier writes our narrator in a wonderful way to the extent where I felt as if I knew her personally. She is obviously unhappy with her husband yet still maintains an undeniable attraction to him even if she wonders sometimes why they are together in the first place. His mania for tracking down and hunting the creatures is becoming unhealthy, to the point where he cancels a holiday with his wife in Austria when he hears that the chamois have been spotted in the mountain ranges of Greece. Although frustrated with his “little hobby,” our narrator goes along with him to Greece to meet up with the persons that first heard about/spotted the animals, sleeping in the roughest of conditions at high altitude with only the owner of a small store, a rat-faced cook and a very creepy bug-eyed goat-herd for company, the latter giving her the chills with his eerie whistling, staring and obvious disapproval of the couple. He is certainly a character that has remained in my mind long after finishing the story, for more reasons than one…

Unfortunately, the couple are left with just the goat-herd in the end, for it is he who knows the mountain ranges and where the chamois may be hiding the best. It is here that the unravelling present in all the stories in this collection finally begins to take place. We find out exactly why Stephen is so obsessive over the chamois, we see a troubled marriage begin to knit itself together again and we see a whole new side to our narrator that I really didn’t see coming.

Even though I mentioned that this story disappointed me slightly (and that was in the ending) it’s still a brilliant and fascinating piece of writing that explores a marriage from breaking point to an eerie kind of resolution and remembrance of love that had been shared in the past. Stephen is so very unlikeable as a character, which actually made him more interesting to me but it was the wife who really intrigued me by the end of the tale. Saying that, there was so much potential for the story to go into the stratosphere excitement wise and I was pretty crestfallen when the ending came as it was nothing like what I hoped for. What I cannot deny however is the strength and beauty of the writing and I’m definitely optimistic for the final story in the collection!

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe – until the end!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: Under The Pylon by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Short Stories Challenge 2015 – October to December

Published October 2, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Image from http://www.slideshare.net/ernella32/teaching-the-short-story

It’s nearly the end of the year and here’s what I’ll be reading short story wise to see out 2015!

Week beginning 5th October

Corrugated Dreaming by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Week beginning 12th October

Beachcombing by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 19th October

A Man And Two Women by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives of Women edited by Victoria Hislop

Week beginning 26th October

The New Veterans by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Week beginning 2nd November

The Adventure Of the Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 9th November

Vuotjärvi by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

Week beginning 16th November

Bibhutibhushan Malik’s Final Storyboard by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Week beginning 23rd November

The Jesus Stories by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 30th November

We Were Just Driving Around by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 7th December

The Chamois by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 14th December

Under The Pylon by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 21st December

A Mighty Horde Of Women In Very Big Hats, Advancing by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Week beginning 28th December

The Mean Time by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Short Stories Challenge – The Menace by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Published September 4, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Menace all about?:

The Menace introduces us to Barry Jeans, a hugely popular Hollywood actor who loses some of his life force (quite literally) after years of being someone he is not.

What did I think?:

I’m a huge fan of Daphne du Maurier and am always excited when this collection rolls around again in my Short Stories Challenge as she is yet to disappoint me. This is another fantastic and quirky tale that I didn’t really appreciate until I could read it again in a quiet place with no distractions. Our main character is British-born actor Barry Jeans otherwise known as The Menace. In the movie world, we are told, this kind of name is given to an actor with certain qualities. This usually involves a brooding presence, a good profile, most probably some kind of facial scar and little dialogue apart from requisite one lined commands like “Scram!.” After a little background into how Barry got to his cult status the author describes how he appeals to both women and men:

“In a matter of months his face was more familiar to women all over the world than that of their own husbands. And the husbands did not mind. In a sense, it was a sort of compliment if a girl married a chap at all. It must mean that the chap they married was a super-Barry.”

However, Barry has eyes for one woman only – his wife May who he has been with for thirty years and defers all decisions to. May is also a forceful presence in his career, she is there in dressing rooms and on set, cooks all his meals, has him on a tough body maintenance plan and chooses his entourage – all male, without question! It is not until his current venture with Gigantic Enterprises Ltd however that the story really kicks off and things come to a head. In the movie world, the latest craze is for “feelies.” This involves the actors having to be wired up to a machine which they power using their own life-force. As Barry is having his test the company are shocked to discover that Barry is only transmitting a Force G which is not sufficient technically for the machine to work. The production staff give Barry’s “boys” twenty-four hours to get Barry’s force up otherwise they will pull the plug on the venture.

Barry’s entourage are terrified, especially for their own jobs but decide the best way to increase his force is to get May out of the way for a night and take Barry to watch the notorious dancers at Poncho Beach and for dinner with a host of beautiful women and artists. Barry is completely bored and disinterested by it all then while making a call to his wife, comes across an old and familiar face. She is Pinkie Brown and he remembers her from when he was seventeen years old, the last time in fact that he felt really alive. He ends up spending the whole evening with her whilst his entourage are going mad trying to find him before the deadline set by the production crew. Barry gets to the set on time a completely changed man but is it enough to increase that vital life force?

To be perfectly honest, I really wasn’t sure what to make of this story at first. The author gives us a lot of background information on our character which I thoroughly enjoyed as it gave a glimpse into the life of an intriguing man. Then it started with the life force and the new technology of “feelies” and I was slightly confused! On a second reading however, this story really comes alive. Only then did I appreciate the quirkiness of the style that often characterises a Daphne du Maurier story and began to feel something of a connection to Barry Jeans. Also, I just love the ending when Barry emerges like a butterfly from the cocoon, finally ready to live his life to the fullest and stand up for himself a bit more. The author uses her talent with words to its fullest with a quick wit and depth to describe the change in a man with no visible emotion to one immensely grateful to be alive. I’ll leave the last words to Daphne as an example of her humour and a short passage from the story that really tickled me:

“He walked into any place with his woman, and he just held up one finger, and everyone seemed to know what he meant. Waiters fell over themselves, guests already seated were told there wasn’t a table, and the Menace sat down with his woman watching him, waved the menu aside, and uttered the one word “Clams.”

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: Candia by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening