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Review: The King's General, by Daphne Du Maurier

Pages: 440

Original date of publication: 1946

My edition: 2009 (Sourcebooks)

Why I decided to read: I was interested in the premise of the book

How I acquired my copy: Borders, February 2010

Whenever I read a book by Daphne Du Maurier, I always want to go out and buy all of her books currently in print. Her books generally fall into two categories: suspense (like Rebecca or The Scapegoat); or historical fiction, like (Frenchman’s Creek or The King’s General); or something in between, like The House on the Strand.

The King’s General is set during the English Civil War. Honor Harris falls in love with Richard Grenvile, but her planned marriage to him falls short when she has a rising accident. Many years later, Richard is the King’s General in the West, and Honor is making shift at Menabilly, a house built and owned by the Rashleigh family. Daphne Du Maurier brings a piece of Cornish history to life as Richard and Honor’s stormy and often complicated relationship plays out.

Honor and Richard’s relationship isn’t what you might expect. It’s passionate, but at no time in the novel do they ever consummate it. Instead, everything is pretty much hidden under the surface, and there’s a lot that they don’t say about the past and what happened between them. I’m not sure why Honor cut him off completely after her accident, but it adds a lot of suspense to their relationship.

The historical parts of the novel are well researched, though there was a point in the middle where the plot suffered in favor of the Cornish rebellions. The novel is told from the Royalist point of view, but the author isn’t terribly partial to one side or another. There’s also a kind of mystery here, too, involving the house and mysterious visitors in the night and secret hiding spaces. It’s vintage Du Maurier, and she does this type of suspense very well in all of her novels.

Some really wonderful characters enhance the novel’s plot. Honor may be a cripple, but she’s not bitter about it, nor is she nostalgic for times gone by. She’s straightforward and honest, and she has a habit of listening in on conversations. Her crippled state makes people notice her less, and that’s why she’s the perfect character to narrate this story. I loved the tension between Honor and her sister-in-law, the grasping and selfish Gartred Grenvile, with whom she’s always playing literal and figurative games of Patience. Really, this is a well-written novel, and it’s now one of my favorite of Du Maurier’s novels. I wish Sourcebooks would reprint her books at a faster rate! Maybe they’ll reprint The Glass Blowers soon?


Joanne said…
Great review! I have enjoyed everything I have read by Daphne du Maurier, and like you, I'm purchasing new editions by Sourcebooks as soon as they are released.(Ithink the Sourcebook editions are lovely.)
Danielle said…
I think I've read more of her suspenseful works than historical novels, but I do have this one on hand (I bought a bunch of the Virago editions at one point--am glad Sourcebooks is publishing her work over here finally). I'll have to check this one out now.
Misfit said…
I'm glad you enjoyed this one, it is one of my favorite Du Maurier novels.
This is one of the few du Maurier books I haven't yet read --- it's on my shelf, but I just haven't gotten back to her recently. I was thinking around Halloween because she's such a great "fall time" author. Glad to know this one is a winner too!
Bookfool said…
You have to appreciate Sourcebooks for bringing back wonderful authors like Daphne du Maurier -- and with such beautiful covers! I've read a lot of her works, but not this one. I am now certifiably confused about which one I disliked. I can't remember if it was The Glassblowers or The Scapegoat, but I've loved every other one of her books but the book whose name I can't remember.
Sarah said…
I LOVE DuMaurier, but haven't read this one yet.
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