Richard has never felt more ostracized and lonely before. When he is about to give up and end his life, a stranger steps in, giving him the chance to look at life differently. In Jake’s company, Richard embarks on an adventure.
Daphne du Maurier’s 2nd novel is as much a portrait of the unchanging nature of humans as it is an exploration of the lengths we go to feel alive.
This being one of du Maurier’s earliest works offers glimpses of her signature style – nature imageries, philosophical musings, and characters struggling with a sense of deep dissatisfaction.
The first few chapters make such a convincing case of Richard’s plight, that you can’t help but feel sorry for him. I did. And I had begun to expect a story of growth, new learnings, and how Jake’s guidance would be a positive influence on Richard. But that’s hardly how the story progresses.
Perhaps, it’s the author’s way of showing that not every story has a happily ever after or that regardless of one’s surroundings, their innate traits have more governing power over their lives.
With each subsequent chapter, Richard’s hot-and-cold nature, lack of consideration, and self-serving bias know no bounds. I ultimately gave up trying to like the protagonist when, in the second part of the book, he forces himself on a woman.
Calling his “relationship” with Hesta toxic would be an understatement. There is power-play, gaslighting, neglect, and an absence of healthy boundaries.
Hesta is also an underdeveloped character in that, she initially appears disinterested in his advances but seems to give in when he becomes quite persistent. We don’t really get to understand more about her motivations and backstory. That leaves her actions open to the reader’s interpretations.
I’m far too disappointed by the trajectory of Richard’s storyline to even consider this a decent reading experience.
A lot of the details about their travels flew past my head because I was waiting for the plot to move forward, and it’s such a slow-paced novel that I couldn’t be as interested in the meandering nature of the narrative as I would’ve liked.
The title of the book weighs in on Richard’s experience and what he learns from Jake. In a manner of saying, his actions have at once molded his youth and prevented him from fully absorbing the essence of it.
On the whole, this is one of my least-liked novels of Daphne du Maurier. The only thing I could appreciate about reading it is how the author depicts the theme of nature vs nurture.
I would not recommend this book to anyone.