Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

The House on the Strand

It's OK just to like a book.

It took me a ways into liking Daphne duMaurier's The House on the Strand to realize that I was just liking it, not loving it. And that I was at some level disappointed by that.

Previously, about 11 years ago when I was around age 26 and living in Hermiston, I'd read and loved Daphne duMaurier's Rebecca. This built on my fondness for the film version Hitchcock directed: one of his more emotional works, that film. Even had family-related reasons for liking it: the copy of Rebecca came from my dad's parents. Later I passed it along to my cousin Amy Max/"Maximy" Walsh for her to keep. Why? She'd really loved Rebecca, even earlier than I had. She read it around age 12. Among other things, she fell in love with the name Maxim, felt it was a strong name in an androgynous way that appealed to her. She later took the name Max because of it. ("Maximy" is the nickname I gave her and she accepted. Combines Amy and Max.) So it seemed really right to give it to her for her safekeeping. She still has it. I smile when I visit her and see it.

Also no surprise that my Stephen King-fan side would also like King's Bag of Bones, which I read in early 2004 (a stressful time in my life and a time when I was able to use some comfort reading) and which is King's homage to Rebecca.

It took a while to let go of my impression, an unfair one, that I'd have the Rebecca experience with The House on the Strand. Once I realized that, I could more clearly see the book's pleasures. For one thing, I'm an absolute sucker for a thoughtful time travel story, which Strand sort of is: in the 1960s, narrator Richard Young and his scientist friend Magnus are able to use a drug to induce visions of real events that had happened in Cornwall, England 600 years earlier. I like that it acknowledged the language barrier: the 14th-century people Richard sees in medieval England speak French, but somehow the drug allows Richard and Magnus to understand it, and Magnus wonders how it can do that. (Presumably if they'd run into anybody nearby who spoke Middle English, they'd have understood them, too, but they don't run into that stratum of society.) Come to think of it, there's what you can consider an answer for this late in the book, if you want to think of it that way.

And the language is strong. Makes me want to read more DuMaurier, eventually.

I'm glad I eventually was able to accept the book, a good book, on its own terms.
Tags: books

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