Like a vision seen in a dream and scarce remembered

Castle Dor book coverCastle Dor
by Arthur Quiller-Couch and Daphne du Maurier

Well what a contrast to my previous read. After lingering for two weeks over The Evenings, I raced through Castle Dor in 24 hours. Was it a case of the right book at the right time, or is it just a cracking good read? It is Daphne, after all.

Except that it’s only sort-of Daphne. This book was started by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (better known to many by his pen name Q), who Daphne knew a little as her near-neighbour in Fowey, but he was much older than her, so it was his daughter Foy (named for their beloved home town) who became a close friend of Daphne’s. When Q died in 1944 he left behind one final unpublished work of fiction: the first half of a novel retelling the story of Tristan and Iseult, set in 19th-century Cornwall. Some 15 years later, his daughter Foy persuaded Daphne that she was the perfect person to finish the book.

Knowing that in advance, it is certainly possible to spot the signs that different hands start and end the novel. But it is skilfully done, with no obvious seam. (Apparently Q’s manuscript was left mid-chapter, even.) I can tell you that the opening chapters felt more flowery and more scholarly than any Daphne du Maurier book I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot of them now). And the closing chapters had a touch of the supernatural, even spiritualism, that felt very Daphne and certainly hadn’t been so prominent in the book. But the join between the two felt entirely gradual and invisible.

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Literary tourism: Fowey

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Fowey is most famous for its links to Daphne du Maurier, but it actually has a history of attracting authors to its salty shores. The writer with probably the longest history in Fowey is Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, or Q, who moved to Fowey in 1891 and lived there until his death in 1944. He loved the town so much he called his daughter Foy. Seriously. I’ve never read any of his books but I do now have one in my TBR. Sort of. When he died he left an unfinished manuscript called Castle Dor, a retelling of the Cornish myth Tristan and Isolde. Years later, Daphne du Maurier completed it, at the request of Q’s daughter Foy who had become her good friend.

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Literary tourism: Daphne du Maurier’s Cornwall

Fowey harbour

Fowey has a lot of things going for it but let’s face it, the main reason I wanted to go there was for its links to Daphne du Maurier, one of my favourite authors. Fowey is a very pretty small town and cargo port on the south coast of Cornwall, on the estuary where the River Fowey meets the English Channel. Its centre two or three streets are packed with tourists and it has far more bars and restaurants than its own small population could support. Its steep hills afford most of the town excellent views of the water, which is always full of boats. Across the other side of the estuary you can see the villages of Polruan and Boddinick, reachable by regular ferry services from Fowey.

Ferryside

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Holiday bookses

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While in Cornwall this past week, I read two books and bought five, plus I talked Tim into buying another three that I kinda want to read too (all our purchases are pictured above). I don’t really do book bans, and any vague notions of one that I do have are always suspended while on holiday, but five books in a week feels like a lot. Then again, we found some lovely bookshops, and I always want to support great bookshops.

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July 2016 reading round-up

This has been an okay month for reading, a bad month for review-writing. But in my defence we’ve been on holiday and that’s definitely a time for reading without thinking too hard about analysis. I do have some thoughts running around my brain that I will at some point turn into reviews when time allows. I also bought quite a lot of books while we were away, which I’ll share pics of soon.

For now I have about a thousand holiday photos to scan through for highlights and half a dozen loads of laundry to wash. Ah, that coming home from holiday feeling! I have a few posts planned about our recent holiday but for now I’ll tease with this photo. There will be many more to come.

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How was your July?

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Cornwall mini-break

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Tim and I are just back from a long weekend in Cornwall. It was warm (if overcast), beautiful as always but most importantly filled with a bunch of our favourite people – a group of friends we go to the same beach with every year. That sounds boring but it is comforting, truly relaxing. I only read one book, but then we did squeeze a lot into four days.

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She would fling these pin-pricks in the air

MyCousinRachelMy Cousin Rachel
by Daphne du Maurier

I really truly thought I had read this before and that picking it up on holiday would be a re-read, but it became increasingly clear that this was entirely new to me. It’s nice when you find a new-to-you book by a favourite author, right? This was Daphne du Maurier’s last real big success, though she wrote several more books after it, and is often held up as her greatest work (yes – even greater than Rebecca, some say).

Philip has been raised by his cousin Ambrose since he was orphaned young and together they run an estate in Cornwall. Philip is a young man, while middle-aged Ambrose has never married. Until, that is, he travels to Italy for his health and meets his distant cousin Rachel. She’s a half-Italian widow in her 30s who shares Ambrose’s love for gardens and he is soon besotted. But can she be trusted? And is naïve Philip going to be forever spoiled by knowing her?

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Cornwall reads in brief

Yes, I’ve been on holiday again. This time a long weekend in Cornwall. It wasn’t what most people might consider beach weather, but that just provided an excuse to stay indoors reading while looking out at the sea and listening to the waves crash. (It’s a comforting noise, which possibly doesn’t make any sense.)

It was a lovely holiday with old friends in a place we have visited many times, so it’s like a home from home. I didn’t actually have my nose in a book the whole time – there were beach/clifftop walks, games to play, crosswords to complete, a whole lot of tasty food to eat and even (in my case very briefly because brrr) swimming in the sea.

porthcothan-beach

But I did get a lot of reading done too.

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Holiday in pictures

I have been meaning to blog about our very lovely holiday in Cornwall for a week now, but getting back to real life has been super busy. So here are a few nuggets and some photos. Hope you’re all enjoying lovely weather wherever you are.

The colours of sea and sky were impressive. The British seaside rarely looks this…tropical.
Holiday seas

Typically, I had black and white film in my camera, but I got some nice shots with it.
Throwing shapes

We finally made it to the Eden Project, which is brilliant.
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And we generally chilled out with good friends and a great location.
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Astonishingly I didn’t entirely melt in the heat and I managed to read four books in a week! Which totally justifies my packing five books, even if one of the books I read was borrowed from the holiday home, right?

If you want to see more of my holiday photos, they are in a set on Flickr.

Happy July, folks.