On the Backlist: The House on the Strand

There is nothing like a Daphne du Maurier book. You’re probably familiar with her work, whether you know it or not–du Maurier wrote the short story that inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, and is probably most famous for her novel Rebecca, which was made into a fantastic movie with Lawrence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. (Omgosh, just thinking about it makes me need to watch it. Olivier is at his dreamiest, and Mrs. Danvers is SO CREEPY! I love it.)

Anyway. Having seen both of those, I grew more interested in reading more of du Maurier’s work, and that’s when I came across The House on the Strand. Next to Rebecca, it’s my favorite of her copious body of work. House is the story of Dick Young, a man who is in desperate need of a vacation. When his friend, Magnus, offers him a home out on the strand (shore) in Cornwall, and also a little escape in the form of a new drug he’s developing, Dick suddenly finds himself in a whole new place…and time: the 14th century, to be exact. It’s time travel, yes, but not in a cheesy, over-the-top way. Dick travels back and forth, and finds the whole experience alternately fascinating and terrifying. He knows he should stop, but he simply can’t stay away, regardless of how its affecting his life and his family. The experience is odd, and confusing, and suspenseful, and the whole thing is written in a way only Daphne du Maurier could pull off.

The House on the Strand is a masterful work of suspense, packed with heightened emotion and characters we simply can’t help but relate to. The atmosphere, too, surrounding the story, is thick and filled with rich detail. Du Maurier was a genius when it came to storytelling–one imagines she must have been great fun around a campfire.

I’ve reread The House on the Strand two or three times, now, and each time, it feels like a brand new experience. It’s one of my favorite books, and I hope you love it, too!

No sex or swearing (…that I can remember. I’m pretty sure). Dick’s testing a drug for Magnus, and ethical lines are crossed, so if your kids are reading this, it’s worth discussing. 5 stars.

First Line: “The first thing I noticed was the clarity of the air, and then the sharp green colour of the land.”

5 Stars

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