After having read ‘Rebecca’ some 3 years ago I have always been very apprehensive of trying any other Daphne De Maurier (DDM) book. I did not want to spoil the memory of that lovely haunting book. But I had been reading a lot of reviews on DDM’s work on blogs and so,off I went to the store to chose my second book. “Time travel” and “fourteenth century england” were the key deciding factors in picking up “The House on the Strand” -I love period books and this seemed like an interesting concotation of contemporary and old England.
Well here for my review – I really enjoyed reading it. It was not an ‘unputdownable’ like Rebecca but it was gripping enough. The main characters are Richard Young ( sitting idle , between jobs) and his best friend Magnus Lane ( slightly eccentric biophysicist). The story is set in Cornwall and the geographic layout is quite essential to the central plot of the book. Magnus offers Richard and his family his country house, Kilmerth for the summer. Richard arrives early to set things in order and that is where our story begins – Magnus has persuaded Richard to try out a new experimental drug before his family joins him at Kilmerth.
Well, Richard takes the prescribed dose and is transported back to 14th century England. Gone is his house and in place stands a much humbler dwelling, half the village has also disappeared , to replaced by the river and expansive green fields. DDM drags Richard and in turn the reader, into the lives and stories of people who lived and breathed six hundred years ago.Roger Kylmerth, steward to Sir Henry Champeroune, is the connecting link – it is through his eyes that Richard observes the ups and downs of the lives of the lords of Cornwall – Sir Henry, Sir Oliver Carminowe, Lady Isodola Carminowe, Sir William Ferrers and others.
There were times when I felt a chill up the spine thinking what if this was really possible, what if I , where I was standing could go back to the same spot , six hundred years ago…what would I see.
The story is not just about Richard’s journey into the past – its also about how it starts effecting his present life. Richard is so infatuated by Lady Isodola that he must know what is her fate. He keeps on taking ‘trips’ in the past inspite of negative side-effects of the drug showing up. Things nearly come to pass when Magnus who has been self-administrating the drug walks into a moving train under its influence.But Richard must go back. Isodola is trapped by her husband and is plotting to escape under Roger’s protection – he must know what happens to her. Richard takes one more trip and this time the past and present are so intertwined that he attacks his wife mistaking her for the ghost from the past.
There are sevaral themes in this book – friendship and loyalty, marriage and betrayel, homosexuality, drug addiction.Two elements really made the book gripping – the parallel story line of England of the Middle Ages and Richard’s discovery of the truth behind the events that happened in the past.DDM’s vivid description of Cornwall terrain added to the whole mood of the story and really did make you feel as you were a part of that book.
Verdict : A must buy if you enjoy reading Daphne De Maurier