‘Frenchman’s Creek’ by Daphne du Maurier

My rating: 4 stars

As in many other of Daphne du Maurier’s books, the Cornish coastline comes to life in Frenchman’s Creek. But not only does this historical novel feature a myriad of delightful and evocative descriptions of the locations where the action takes place, it also comprises superb dialogues and many thrilling moments. The main character just falls in love with a French pirate a little too fast for it to feel fully realistic, despite both of them having captivating personalities.

Lady Dona St Columb was married to Harry with whom she had two children, Henrietta and James. Bored of the shallow life she had in the London court, she decided to retreat to Navron, her husband’s estate in Cornwall. When she arrived there with her children, she encountered a dusty house and was surprised to learn that William, the manservant, had been living there alone for a year. Only after being informed that she was coming did he hire other servants.

Soon after her arrival at Navron, she received an unexpected visit from a neighbour who informed her that a pirate, known as the Frenchman, was constantly seizing their goods. She felt some admiration for the pirate, since he had managed to fool them all. Little did she know that she would soon make his acquaintance. While walking around her property, she found the ship of the Frenchman. She tried to leave without being seen, but a man came from behind her and managed to blind her and pin her hands. She was then taken to the ship where she met the infamous pirate, Jean-Benoit Aubéry. Their first interaction is hilarious. He was totally different from what she expected, being indisputably knowledgeable. Continue reading

My Every Main Blog Post about Daphne du Maurier

I fell in love with Daphne du Maurier at first read! When I read Rebecca in 2017, it immediately became one of my favourite books of all time. I then decided to read at least one book by her every year. I’ve also taken part in the Daphne du Maurier reading week (#DDMreadingweek), which is hosted by Ali, since 2019 and this year is no exception. It has started on Monday and ends next Sunday (it runs from 10 to 16 May). I’m currently reading Frenchman’s Creek, which I hope to finish soon (I plan to publish a review on Friday), and would also love to have time to read Don’t Look Now: Short Stories.

But I already have many other posts on my blog only about Daphne du Maurier and her work if you’re interested. So far, I’ve written seven reviews, an author spotlight and a post listing my favourite characters from her novels.

 

Reviews

The Scapegoat

The Birds and Other Stories

The House on the Strand

Jamaica Inn

The King’s General

My Cousin Rachel

Rebecca Continue reading

Favourite Book Genres

Books come in a variety of genres. Some may be more popular than others, but that doesn’t necessarily influence the quality of the story nor the prose. Many genres even intertwine. I read books from various genres – literary fiction, fantasy, dystopian, historical fiction, mysteries, horror and adventure. I also enjoy reading classics, but they don’t constitute a genre, being overall just an assortment of books that have stood the test of time. Usually, I just stay away from Young Adult and cheesy romances.

Which book genres are my favourites, though? There are four that stand out from the rest.

 

Historical fiction

Books from the historical fiction genre, as the designation implies, are set in the past from the perspective of their authors. The characters and the plot may be fictional, but the author needs to conduct extensive research in order to achieve a realistic and historically accurate setting. Successful historical fiction novels make readers travel in time. Some of my recent favourite books in this genre are, for example, The Miniaturist and The Muse by Jessie Burton and The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal. Continue reading

‘Spring’ by Ali Smith

My rating: 4 stars

The third stand-alone novel in Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet suits its title. Spring, just as the season it is named after, is a book about the need for new beginnings and being hopeful even when facing a dire situation. References to Brexit, Trump and the downsides of social media are spread throughout the book, making it not only a pertinent story for the times we live in, but also an important record for those who will read it in the future.

Spring is written in the third person mostly from two different points of view, those of Richard and Brittany, who end up meeting at a train station in the north of Scotland. Richard Lease is a TV and film director who is struggling emotionally, which is conveyed via a suggestive erratic type of narration when he is introduced. The woman he loved, Paddy, has recently died. He remembers her with immense and poignant admiration.

Richard visited Paddy not long before she passed away. Although she was already ill, they discussed his next project. He was working on an adaptation of a book, set in 1922, about the fictional relationship between Katherine Mansfield and Rainer Maria Rilke, two authors who never truly met. Richard didn’t like the script nor the book, but his visit to Paddy, with whom he had worked in the past, inspired him to suggest some changes to the adaptation, which are swiftly ignored. Continue reading

New Instagram Account

News alert: I have created a new Instagram account to use only for bookish purposes. Until recently I had been using my personal one to occasionally share some pictures of books and to follow other creators. I faced a constant conundrum, though. On the one hand I didn’t want to inundate my feed with only pictures of books, because I used that account to interact with my real-life friends, but on the other hand I also didn’t want to share more personal photos there either, since I had set its visibility to public. The result was that I almost didn’t use Instagram at all anymore, despite loving photography.

To solve that problem, I’ve now made my personal account private (plus removed all followers I didn’t know personally) and created a new account to serve only as a companion for the blog, which will continue to be the main platform I use. A blog suits my need to share written opinions on books more in depth, as I personally don’t like reading long captions on Instagram.

What can you expect to see on my new Instagram account? My “plan” is to always share a picture of the book I’ve just reviewed on the blog, accompanied by a summary of my opinions (a couple of sentences) on the caption. Whenever I publish a post on the blog other than a review, I will also share a picture on Instagram that will serve as a recap of it in some way. Plus, at the end of each month, I want to post a picture featuring all of the books I’ve read with a caption focusing mostly on my favourite. Continue reading

‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ by Tracy Chevalier

My rating: 4 stars

Inspired by Johannes Vermeer’s famous portrait, Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier tells one of the many possible and plausible stories about the face that stands out from the painting’s dark background. The novel is narrated in the first person by sixteen-year-old Griet. She recalls how she came to sit for Vermeer in a historical fiction novel that features many interesting characters whose tribulations deserved to be even further explored.

In 1664, Griet became a maid at Vermeer’s household. She had to start working outside the home, because her family was struggling financially. After losing his eyesight in an accident, her father couldn’t continue to be a tiles painter and lost all his trade. Griet’s new job was not only to wash all their clothes and to buy meat or fish at the market, but also to clean Vermeer’s studio. When she arrived at their house, she was astonished at all the paintings. She didn’t have much free time to stare at them, though, as Johannes and his wife, Catharina, who was pregnant again, had five children, and his mother-in-law, Maria Thins, also lived with them.

Griet was only allowed to go home on Sundays. News about her parents and siblings, Agnes and Frans, were scarcer than she would have liked. It was Pieter, the son of the butcher at the market, who told her that the neighbourhood where her parents lived had been put into quarantine because of an outbreak of the plague. She wanted to go home immediately but was not allowed to. Pieter managed to find out for her that her sister was seriously ill. Continue reading

‘A Máquina de Joseph Walser’ (‘Joseph Walser’s Machine’) by Gonçalo M. Tavares

My rating: 2 stars

The characters in A Máquina de Joseph Walser (Joseph Walser’s Machine in the English translation) by the Portuguese author Gonçalo M. Tavares are incredibly detached. It’s not easy to connect with them. They seem to be facing a grim, harrowing situation, but their feelings and tribulations are not affectingly conveyed. Their existence in the story feels merely like a vehicle to communicate abstract ideas.

Joseph Walser is initially an intriguing main character. He was married to Margha and worked in a factory owned by the mogul Leo Vast. A man of few words, he looked like someone who was oblivious to the outside world. He was only completely focused while working. He operated a machine that required his full attention so he didn’t get hurt. Once, while returning home at night after being with his work colleagues, he saw his wife leaving a building and instantly thought that she was cheating on him. He wasn’t wrong. He soon learnt that she was having an affair with his manager, Klober Muller.

Not even halfway through the book, the characters and the plot start to be disregarded. The narration is, since the beginning, interspersed with philosophical considerations about life, war and the human existence in general. However, as events start to be just thrown into the book without having a meaningful impact on the characters’ feelings and actions, this at first promising novel (or maybe novella) becomes just a boring collection of haphazard thoughts. Continue reading

Quarterly Favourites – January to March 2021

During the last three years, I shared with you every single month my favourites from the books and blog posts I read, the TV series, films and YouTube videos I watched, and the music I listened to. However, since I was becoming bored of writing this kind of posts every month and new beloveds have been scarce, I decided to only start publishing a post about my favourites once every three months. The first instalment of my quarterly favourites will focus on the months from January to March.

Since the beginning of 2021, I’ve read five books and decided not to finish two. I loved rereading Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, a well-known dystopian novel that portrays a society in the grip of an authoritarian regime, which survives thanks to mass surveillance and a high level of gaslighting. The main character, Winston, works in the Ministry of Truth. His job is to rewrite information so it always serves the interests of the Party, whose face is the Big Brother. When he meets Julia, his life becomes even more in danger.

Other book I highly enjoyed reading was Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb. The last instalment in The Farseer Trilogy continues to focus on Fitz, a royal bastard whom we first meet as a child. Although the pacing is not always perfect, this is an overall immersive and gripping read about the difference between duty and greed for power. The ending of the series is satisfying and exciting. Continue reading

‘The Return of the Soldier’ by Rebecca West

My rating: 4 stars

The storytelling in The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West is concise. There aren’t noteworthy twists and turns. Although the characters are believable, both their personalities and states of mind could have been further explored. When we get to the end of this nevertheless enjoyable novella, Chris’s perspective is almost absent. This story is ultimately about the decisions made by the women in his life.

A long time had passed since Chris Baldry had written home from the war. The narrator, his cousin Jenny, couldn’t help but wonder why they hadn’t received any new letters, while his wife, Kitty, was more at ease with the lack of news. Neither of them could have guessed that they were about to receive a visit from a woman with information to share about him. Margaret Allington, whom Chris had loved in the past, received a telegram from him. He was in hospital and had no recollection of the last fifteen years. He thought that they were still young and together.

At first, Jenny and Kitty didn’t believe her, but they soon had confirmation of Chris’s memory loss. The next morning, they received a letter from Frank Baldry, another of Chris’s cousins, whom had recently visited him at the hospital. He advised them to get everything ready for Chris’s return home. Continue reading

Book Haul – March 2021

March felt like a good month to get more books, though since last year I’ve been trying to read all of the books that I own before buying new ones. This haul consists of both novels and short story collections, almost all of them written by women. Some have been on my wish list for ages, others are more recent discoveries.

 

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Inspired by Johannes Vermeer’s famous painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring tells the story of Griet, a servant girl who becomes the student and muse of the Dutch painter. Scandal erupts when he gives her his wife’s pearl earrings to wear for a portrait. I’ve been meaning to read this historical fiction novel for ages and hopefully won’t be disappointed.

 

Salt Slow by Julia Armfield

Julia Armfield’s debut collection of short stories is supposedly filled with lyrical prose and dark humour. How could I resist buying it? Various feelings are explored in these tales: isolation, obsession, love and revenge. Continue reading