Frenchman’s Creek

In the court of Charles II, Lady Dona St Columb bored and fed up with her superficial world, is involved in every scandal. Beautiful, careless, insolent and deliberately indifferent she aims to shock. But secretly she’s disgusted with herself and so sets out with her children and their nurse for Navron, the isolated Cornish Estate that belongs to her husband.

Free from her drunken sop of a husband and his grisly friends, she runs barefoot through the grass with flowers in her disheveled ringlets and basks in the peace.

But not for long. She sees a sail on the horizon and hears from Lord Godolphin, a local landowner that there are pirates about, led by an elusive Frenchman.

Adventure is at hand and everything her heart desires in Jean-Benoit Aubery, the elusive Frenchman. Together they crave danger and excitement. He has found that he can only truly be himself when he’s away from the trappings of society and its responsibilities but would this even be possible for a women? It’s a question they ponder over, but on Midsummer’s Eve Dona is willing to gamble everything on a moment’s joy and this turns into a story of swashbuckling fun, danger and romance.

Of course, our dastardly pirate is the only really civilised man in Cornwall. He revels in the natural world drawing carefully the birds that he sees along the seashore, Curlews and Oyster Catchers, a Heron or a cluster of gulls. And the food id delicious! Freshly baked bread and huge bowls of soup with cheese and wine or freshly caught fish cooked on an open fire by the creek. Their first meal together prepared by William the trusty go-between is worthy of any first date,

‘there on the sideboard was crab, dressed and prepared in the French fashion, and there were small new potatoes too, cooked in their skins, and a fresh green salad sprinkled with garlic, and tiny scarlet radishes. He had found time too to make pastry. Thin, narrow wafers, interlaid with cream, while next to them, alone in a glass bowl, was a gathering of the first wild strawberries of the year.’

Written in 1941, I was surprised at how modern this menu sounds!

I hadn’t read anything by Daphne du Maurier for ages and wanted to take part in HeavenAli’s Daphne du Maurier reading week. Frenchman’s Creek was such a great place to start – lot’s of fun, a real page turner but also ‘a sophisticated exploration of the human heart’ as Julie Myerson says in the introduction.

32 thoughts on “Frenchman’s Creek

  1. I really want to read this one, there’s way too few dastardly pirates in my reading. I think it will be my next Du Maurier after I’ve finished My cousin Rachel. The latter is already on my shelf, so I guess it should go first.

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    1. I’ve now read three du Maurier’s and I’m amazed at how different they are to each other. I haven’t read My Cousin Rachel yet, I hope you enjoy it!

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  2. I enjoyed this book as it had a slightly different feel to it from the other novels I have read by du Maurier. I never paid attention to the menu. Thanks for bringing that up! I found this book more escapist and exciting and less sinister than her other works. And I have always wondered how much of the real Daphne is in the fictional Lady Dona!

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    1. I’m always drawn to the food in books, it makes the characters very real – and it’s so romantic, cooking over a fire by the creek! I don’t know anything about du Maurier but I’m eager to find out if there is anything of her in Dona, I bet there is, she was written with a sense of rebellion!

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  3. That passage about the food is so enticing and vivid, I’m hooked! Frenchman’s Creek is often cited as one of du Maurier’s best loved novels, but I’ve yet to read it in spite of my fondness for Rebecca. Something to remedy in the future, no doubt.

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      1. Yes indeed! Frenchman’s Creek is set further west than my patch. I live just a few miles from Daphne’s first home in Cornwall (Ferryside in Boddinick) and quite of few of her books are set nearby. Daphne’s affinity with Cornwall just leaps off the pages!

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  4. Enjoyed the review! I’m very fond of du Maurier’s books myself (and becoming more so, after Ali’s reading week and reading all the posts). I hadn’t previously put this one high on my du Maurier list but I think I’ll now move it up; the next time I’m looking for an “escape” read I’ll have it ready!

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  5. Thank you! This is definitely an escape read, I’m really looking forward to reading more – there’s so much variety in her writing!

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