Liz's Reviews > The House on the Strand

The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier
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's review
Aug 02, 12

Read from July 15 to 20, 2012

We recently had a holiday in Cornwall, and while we were there, my partner started talking about a Daphne Du Maurier book which was set in the St Austell area (where we were staying). She had read the book as a teenager and really enjoyed it.
We purchased a copy in Cornwall and started reading it when we got home. I was a little dubious about it, as I found "Rebecca" pretty impenetrable when I tried to read it years ago, and I thought this book would be the same. How wrong I was!
Set in the 1960s, this book tells the tale of Dick, a middle-aged man who is unsure what to do with his life. He is offered the chance to stay in a grand house near St Austell, which is owned by a childhood friend, and where they both spent happy times together as children. This friend, Magnus, is a scientist and inventor, who believes he has stumbled on a formula for a potion which will allow its drinker to travel back in time. Dick reluctantly agrees to be his guinea pig, and the book opens with his first "trip". Gradually, he becomes addicted to these "trips". When his wife and two stepsons unexpectedly arrive to join him at the house, he can't bring himself to stop taking the potion and the result is both funny and sinister by turns.
The writing is clever, amusing and suspenseful. Even though the book is set in the relatively recent 1960s, it has a charming old-world feel, which is only increased by Dick's "trips" into the 14th century. Du Maurier's attention to detail in the historical scenes is meticulous, and the world she creates is sufficiently mesmerising that you can understand why Dick is so drawn to it.
The "modern" world which Dick is forced to return to is not a particularly happy one. World War II still hangs like a spectre over Dick's generation, and the fact that his wife and stepsons are American only heightens Dick's sense of alienation and desire to get away.
Hanging over the whole story, right from the start, is a barely discernible sense of foreboding, so that it seems inevitable that something will go wrong. When it does, however, Du Maurier skilfully ratchets up the tension whilst managing to give nothing away, so that every little twist and turn is a surprise.
I really enjoyed reading this and it has made me want to give "Rebecca" another try and read other Du Maurier books.

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