At the end of a trip to Cornwall in late September I started my final Daphne du Maurier of the summer – The House on the Strand (see my blogs on Frenchman’s Creek, Castle Dor and Jamaica Inn) and when I came down with a bad cold shortly after returning home it was perfect reading for laying in bed recovering.
It’s not a book I was immediately drawn to, with its synopsis of experimental drugs leading to travel back in time, but it turned out to be one of my favourite du Maurier’s, as it combines the present (well the 1960s) around Fowey in Cornwall, with the same area in the 1300s. The main character, Dick Young, being in both time periods keeps it tightly together as one intriguing story.
Dick has borrowed his long-time friend Professor Magnus Lane’s house for the summer. It’s a house they have been visiting together since they met at University and it’s an area of Cornwall that they both love, but on this visit, Dick, who is drifting in his career, his marriage, and his life, has agreed to be Magnus’ human guinea pig and to try out a new experimental drug that Magnus has been working on. With a few drops Dick finds himself transported back to the 1300s and eavesdropping on intrigue and drama involving the local monks and nobility. The landscape has changed and today’s valleys have been replaced by creeks where ships can moor up for secret assignations. Dick finds himself increasingly addicted to travelling back in time and tramping across the countryside around Par and Fowey, following the striking Isolda. This means he has to put off his America wife Vita and his two stepsons descending on him, but they turn up anyway, putting a spanner in the works of Dick’s plans. When Magnus sets off to join them things get more complicated still.
This is a fantastic read, as you are transported to both worlds, and the ending leaves you wanting more, as all good endings should.