Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne Du Maurier was not one of my favourites novels of hers when I first read it many moons ago. Curious as to whether my feelings have changed over time, and longing to read some Du Maurier at the beginning of the year, I picked this book up. Our protagonist is Lady Dona St. Columb, who travels with her children to the Cornish estate of Navron. Here she meets dashing pirate Jean-Benoit Aubery and the two quickly fall in love. However, their romance is threatening when her husband and his friend arrive at the estate from London.
Du Maurier’s love for Cornwall and the surrounding areas are apparent throughout Frenchman’s Creek. Her descriptions of the landscape are gorgeous, and give a real sense of place. Navron is captured in such exquisite detail that it is hard to believe it is fictional; one can picture it so vividly. Du Maurier’s ability to evoke such powerful scenery is incredible.
The characters as well are beautifully written. Dona is a really fun character to watch; a strong, free-spirited woman who is trapped within the confines of societal expectations. Her relationship with Jean-Benoit, plus her freedom away from London, means her character develops throughout the novel and it is interesting comparing her from the beginning of the story to the ending. There are subtle changes that Du Maurier makes which makes her an interesting main lead. My slight criticism of Frenchman’s Creek is both Jean-Benoit and Rockingham, the friend, feel a tad one-note. Jean-Benoit is obviously a highly romanticised version of a pirate which I didn’t mind, but the fact he was portrayed as Dona’s dream man felt a bit much. I would have liked more depth from him. Equally, Rockingham was a cartoonish villain. He was very dull and one-dimensional, making his scenes a bit of a chore to get through.
Frenchman’s Creek is a melodramatic, rip-roaring romance that Du Maurier fans will love. I think I appreciate the book more now than I did when I first read it; the character of Dona in particular feels more relatable, and I appreciate Du Maurier’s writing prowess a lot more. Whilst it will never topple Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, or The House on the Strand as my favourite Du Maurier works, nevertheless Frenchman’s Creek is still plenty of fun.
Frenchman’s Creek is published by Virago and you can find more information here.