Original date of publication: 1972
My edition: 2004 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: I am a huge fan of Daphne Du Maurier
How I acquired my copy: The Strand NYC, July 2011
I’ve found in my experience that you can never go completely wrong with any of Daphne du Maurier’s novels—even this one, which isn’t exactly up my alley. I’m used to her books being historical fiction, suspense, or nonfiction, so I didn’t know how I would like this somewhat-futuristic one.
The novel is set on the eve of an ominous US/UK “alliance” in which American marine personnel are stationed in and around a small Cornish town. Emma is a young woman who lives with her grandmother, a famous actress who has a habit of adopting stray children. This is the story of Emma and her family, and how a Cornish town rebels against the US/UK alliance.
This book is similar to some of her other books and stories; in particular, the atmosphere of this novel reminds me a lot of the short story “The Birds.” Although the American marines aren’t outwardly dangerous at first, there’s a menacing air to them that becomes downright creepy over time. The book is described as being futuristic, but it’s hard to know exactly when this book is supposed to take place. It’s also been described as political commentary, but du Maurier’s message isn’t exactly clear—she’s a lot better at creating atmosphere as opposed to making political commentary.
As far as the characters go, mad is of course head and shoulders above the rest; I love that she’s both eccentric and humorous, especially in the way she dresses. I’m not sure, though, why du Maurier kept emphasizing people’s ages; we must hear over and over again that Mad is 79. Maybe it was foreshadowing to prepare the reader for the end of the book, but I thought that part of the story was clumsily done. Although this book is a page-turner, I don’t think that it’s one of du Maurier’s best, unfortunately.