Original date of publication: 1931
My edition: 2003 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: I’m a huge Daphne Du Maurier fan
How I acquired my copy: the Strand bookstore, New York, July 2011
The Loving Spirit is the story of four generations of a shipbuilding family in 19th and early 20th century Cornwall. More specifically, the focus is one four members of the family: Janet, who’s story covers the period between 1830 and 1863; her son, Joseph (1863-1900); his son Christopher (1888-1912); and his daughter, Jennifer (1912-1930).
From the bleak Cornwelian landscape to London and back to Cornwall, Daphne Du Maurier weaves a fascinating story, heralding some of the novels that later made her famous. What I love about Du Maurier’s novels is that she really knew how to tell a compelling story.
While I didn’t quite buy the spiritual connection between Janet and her son Joseph (which supposedly also connects Christopher and Jennifer but gets dropped partway through the novel), I did enjoy the development of these characters over time. I love great family sagas, and only wish that this book had been longer and some of the characters more developed, particularly Jennifer, whose story got a bit rushed at the end. Also, the villain character was a little too stereotypical for my taste.
But otherwise, I really enjoyed this novel, particularly the author’s descriptions of Cornwall in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The plot moves swiftly, and Du Maurier does a fantastic story of contrasting the lives of the Coombe family against greater social and political events. Although not her best novel, this one is definitely a must for anyone who’s read Du Marier’s more famous novels, such as Rebecca and Jamaica Inn.