Lady Dona, fed up with her married life, flees to the countryside in search of solace. Navron House proves to be the respite she has been searching for when her paths cross that of a Frenchman, who is being chased by the townsfolk for being a pirate. And so begins her adventure, away from the prying eyes of the town.
While Dona’s story in itself didn’t really speak to me as much, it’s Daphne du Maurier’s writing that kept me reading the book. The passages have an easy rhythm, there are a lot of descriptions of the setting, and the atmosphere created by her writing style is quite inviting.
The author uses several nature imageries to convey Dona’s story. In painting her as a selfish and headstrong woman, du Maurier subverts the trope of the quintessential heroine, one who seeks to do great by everyone.
Initially, Dona comes across as impatient and bitter. And I wondered why she wouldn’t just take the necessary decisions that would set her free from this life that she has come to detest. Her meeting the Frenchman inevitably sets her down that path… at least for a while.
Their chemistry falls into place seamlessly. There’s a stark contrast between who Dona was before meeting the Frenchman and who she becomes in his company; her wings unfurl, she goes with the flow, sets sail with the pirates, and partakes in their plans without any qualms.
In fact, there’s a lot about the main characters of this book that is different from typical historical romances. I found this to be a refreshing factor, and it definitely weighs on my appreciation of the novel.
Harry (Dona’s husband) tries very hard to please Dona, yet fails to understand her or what she truly desires. When the men of Cornwall are trying to hunt the Frenchman down, he simply goes along with it, depicting a sense of mob psychology.
Jean Benoit Aubéry (the Frenchman), on the other hand, creates a space of acceptance that she is drawn to as a moth would be to the flame. He doesn’t exert an overtly macho demeanour and makes evident just how much there is to his character.
I love that a significant aspect of the book has to do with redefining gender norms, fighting patriarchy, and stereotypes.
I’d had a different ending in mind, considering the events that transpired throughout the book. Nevertheless, it didn’t take away from my reading experience. There were a couple of scenes that I was disinterested in.
On the whole, I’m glad to have picked up Frenchman’s Creek and will continue to read more of Daphne du Maurier’s works.