Daphne Du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek

I love Cornwall. Have you gotten that yet?

It just feels like I have that place in the blood (and I can claim some Cornish ancestors), so any book that’s based there holds quite the draw for me. And with the re-doing of Poldark there’s quite a few who are enthralled by stories from that part of the world. Du Maurier is well known as a lover of Cornwall and lived much of her life there.

She’s author of the famed and haunting Rebecca, and also of Jamaica Inn which was dramatised again a few years ago (and her short-story The Birds inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s famous film). I’d recommend watching Jamaica Inn by the way. It was slated at the time due to poor sound quality when it aired and ‘mumbling’ by the actors, so I ignored it for quite some time, but I finally came round to purchasing it when my period drama well had run dry and it did not disappoint. Sure, some of the accents are hard to decipher, but I thoroughly enjoyed the brooding nature of the cinematography and the well-acted characters.

Jamaica Inn

Literally, this is how I look when I’m on a Cornish beach. All brooding and contemplative…and apparently muddy

 

Jamaica Inn

A rather nice-faced actor here…

Anyway, Frenchman’s Creek was on my list, and so I start my book a month for a year challenge with that. I was down in Cornwall when I began reading it, so that was rather handy, and let me just say, the opening passage is quite literally (or literary – pun oh so intended), b-e-a-utiful.

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Not the most inspire of covers. I bought this modern version to read, but because of how much I enjoyed it, I’ll be on the lookout for a vintage edition for my bookshelves

‘When the east wind blows up Helford river the shining waters become troubled and disturbed, and the little waves beat angrily upon the sandy shores. The short seas break above the bar at ebb-tide, and the waders fly inland to mud-flats, their wings skimming the surface, and calling to one another as they go.’

And on and on it goes, as though the words are the sea itself, tumbling in waves over the reader until they’re totally immersed.

Tempo and melody

Two things I love about du Maurier’s writing: it’s hypnotic tempo, and her ability to portray people’s thought patterns.

In the first passage you get the hypnotic tempo, as if you’re being pulled along, helplessly on the tide of the book and trip, trip, trip along like the words are in a silent melody of their own. Divine.

Thought patterns captured

The other thing she is so brilliant at is capturing thought patterns. She has this insightful ability to follow the trip, trip, trip of her characters thoughts in such ways as if we’re really in their heads thinking, ‘yes, I follow that, I would think like that.’ Rebecca is actually a better example of it, but Frenchman’s Creek has this aspect too.

I’m always impressed by authors who make me think in such a way that in ordinary life I never would. Du Maurier can do this to me. Frenchman’s Creek follows Dona St Columb, an aristocratic lady from the 17th century who runs away from her husband with her children to their old rambling Cornish manor, Navron. There, while escaping the meaninglessness of her life and the person it has made her become, the story is about her finding herself again and falling in love.

Perhaps not a story I condone

Normally, I’m not a fan of any story that condones extra-marital anything. And I still am not. But what I think du Maurier does so well is to capture the changing emotions and thoughts that are going on here. I don’t advocate the actions, but her writing really is electric, and that’s not to mention the pirate, smuggling, adventuring that the novel has too! And don’t be fooled, it doesn’t end like you think, just like with most of her novels.

Encapsulating words

And du Maurier always seems to capture my heart for Cornwall and the countryside, the way I see it and love it, as encapsulate in these words:

…the river would be the same as it was in a century now forgotten, in a time that has left few memories.

In those days the hills and valleys were alone in splendour, there were no buildings to desecrate the rough fields and cliffs…

Oh, it gives me shivers! So, thank you to all those people who encouraged me to read du Maurier, I will slowly be devouring her books for many years to come and I recommend Frenchman’s Creek to Cornwall and literature lovers alike.

Trivia

On a trivial note, one of du Maurier’s daughters was called Flavia, which will lead nicely on to my next post about Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley who’s heroine is also called Flavia…

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A book a month for a year

As I’ve mentioned (probably too much, I always talk too much), I have been endeavouring the follow a book a month challenge this year. You may have seen me chattering about it on social channels, and I’m now following an Instagram book club that’s doing the same thing. Does that mean it’s now two books a month? Crumbs.

The way it works

The thing I love about this challenge (which a friend introduced me to, I can take no credit much as I’ve adore to), is that you don’t start off with a list of 12 books to read through in a year. Oh no, gone are the guilt-trips and the lonely books staring at you from the bedside table in their coats of dust accusing you of a lack of affection. You see, the trick is, you only write a book on your list once you’ve read it.

Positive Lists

It’s all positive and affirming y’know. And I think it’s rather clever. So you get this immense sense of joy and accomplishment every time you write a book on your list (or type as the case may be, my book list is on my phone).

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I wouldn’t mind spending the rest of my life in a good second-hand bookshop

Trying new genres

One of the great advantages of this activity, which my friend highlighted to be before I took up the challenge, is that it pushes you to read things you would not ordinarily. It’s a grand old opportunity to dip your wordy toes in previously untouched literary waters. And I’ve found it jolly revealing. You see, books aren’t just books. They are so very different to one another because authors write so individually. So what you think you may like, you don’t,  what you think you’ll loath, you like!

Engaging with friends

As I am a chatterbox, I spoke about taking up the challenge at work and soon a few more people caught the fever and it’s been a great talking point. Although you’re not reading the same books necessarily so it can’t work like an ordinary book club, there is a sense of clubby-ness. There’s a lot of joy in saying where you’re at, if you’re leaping ahead like a reading gazelle, or woefully behind (I have been several books behind upon a certain month and caught up on holiday), and there’s a joy in chatting over what you think of the book, if you like it, if you’d recommend it.

You get a sense of other people’s tastes, and ideas about what you might read next. They spur you on and it becomes quite sociable.

What I’ve read

Rather than reeling of a great list as if I were a champ (I’m not, it takes me a jolly long time to read, however much I enjoy it), I thought I’d list my highlights so far and perhaps jot another post down on each…

Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier

Just One Damn Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

A Very Short Introduction to World War I by Michael Howard

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley

Rather varied and so far my top reads. More rambling thoughts to follow…

 

Reading and sequels

This morning I started my writing day with reading. It turns out it was quite a good idea, but if I said I did it for any other reason than to stop myself putting the tele on I’d be lying.

My name is Philippa, and I am a TV addict.

A book a month challenge

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Oh this? This is just an unnecessary picture of my outlandishly cute puppy.

It’s not really a laughing matter. I waste too much time on it, but doing my book a month for a year thing (I really should do a blog post or two about what I’ve read), has made me disciplined about reading. It’s meant I’ve read books that have been on my TBR list (To-Be-Read for those who are not geeks), and I’ve tried some real outta-left-field doozies I never would have tried.

It’s also helping me in my uphill battle to watch less TV and actually improve my mind. I wonder if some of those Regency ladies felt that way about reading? Perhaps those types were always written off as bluestockings.

Introducing, His Banyan Bride

Anyway, I have shared some cool news on my social channels, and that is to say that I have written a sequel to Fool Me Twice. Let’s not forget that my definition of ‘cool’ varies wildly from most, but I do think it’s cool. It’s my first connected novel as I’ve only written standalone previously (nothing wrong with that mind), and it’s been a real challenge and delight to include characters from Fool Me Twice in my new novel working title, His Banyan Bride. I mean, it’s quite interesting isn’t it, following up with heroes and heroines and others some time on from their original story?

What are they up to?

Are they happy?

Are they the same or have they grown?

So many delightful questions I’ve been able to answer as the author. Anyway, enough blathering, I’ve popped the blurb below, but even better, here’s a link to Chapter 1, and it’s free to read!

The widow Lady Rachel Denby will not be beholden to anyone.

 

She has had enough of being chattel and has made a deal with Viscount Arleigh, one of Society’s long-serving bachelors. A quick marriage by special licence and an even quicker annulment will see them both set up on Arleigh’s long awaited inheritance. If they can pull it off they’ll each be enjoying the independence they desire. But no one ever said anything about difficult solicitors, severe in-laws, proper manners and making a good impression.

 

In the end, the real question is not when will their deal be done, but rather will they be able to keep to it at all?

 

The second instalment of The Ladies of Worth Series, His Banyan Bride tells the story of Lady Rachel Denby, sister to Lady Rebecca Fairing of Fool Me Twice and featuring many of your favourite characters from the first novel.

The Edict FREE on Kindle – This Weekend Only!

In celebration of my birthday weekend I am offering my fantasy novel The Edict for free on Kindle!

The usual price of £3.99 will be dropped to zero over Saturday and Sunday (28th &29th July) so get downloading and happy reading! If you enjoy it then by all means pop back to the Amazon page and leave a review so you can help other readers decide if they’d like it too.

 

Just to get you excited about reading The Edict, here are some review snippets from happy Amazon peeps:

‘The Edict…is in a class of its own. The characters in the novel are extremely well crafted, especially the heroine, Kiara, who certainly knows her own mind, and heart. I can’t wait for Book 2!’

Maureen Wright

‘I absolutely loved this book! I thought I could tell what was going to happen but the plot took plenty of twists and turns which kept me guessing. I annoyed my family as I disappeared for several days as I couldn’t put it down!’

E Groves

‘Brilliant! Complex and deep while also gripping and easy to read!

Joe Leach

‘This book had me gripped from the first page, what a gift the author has for creating characters you can’t get out of your head.’

Yogime

Get The Edict on Kindle now

Selfish writing

I’m not a fan of the modern day mantra,

‘just do what’s right for you’.

Controversial, I know, but it doesn’t seem logical to me. I may be being a bit Vulcan about it (yes, that’s a Trek reference and I’m going with it), but it seems to me, only thinking about oneself isn’t doing the world any favours. When we think like that we are choosing to purposely ignore other’s feelings, desires and wellbeing in favour of our own.

Getting kicked in the teeth

That being said, my Dad always says if you get kicked in the teeth, you don’t go back to get kicked in the teeth again, i.e. if someone treats you badly, you don’t give them no consequences and carry on as normal. So there’s this fine line, isn’t there? Where we’re balancing between self-obsession and self-protection.

We understand we must love and care for others if we want to build a decent society, but what about when we feel drained and need to care for ourselves? I don’t have the answer. I guess every situation is individual, though there may be underlying principles that always remain; like loving others more than yourself, and protecting your heart because it’s the well spring of life.

Exploring writing styles

Notebook

Anyway, in the midst of working on my next novel for publication, I am being selfish. I’ve realised that if all my creative energy is directed towards publication I lose some of that pizazz I love. I get that from having my own secret world that no one else gets to go into. Exploring writing styles and characters that might not work or people might not like. I’m not ignoring my other work, but I am snatching at whisps of time to write a story just for my eyes, my heart, my soul.

Woods

I like to think this will keep developing me as an author, and give my readers better books to read. I wonder if other authors do the same? And I’m not talking about a story you never finished that will never see the light of day, but rather one you loved and finished but will remain yours and just yours.

There’s something a bit mysterious about creativity, and creating something all your own.

And here I am, trying to maintain that balance between self-obsession and self-protection.

Assertive characters

Assertiveness is something that I think is undervalued in current society.

The book Boundaries by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend describes assertiveness and setting boundaries as:

‘When to say yes, and how to say no.’

Not being aggressive, but being firm about what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to your boundaries.

Pride and Prejudice - Assertive Characters - Philippa Jane Keyworth

We might love to complain and moan to our friends, but often, we fail to grow the backbone needed to address something head-on with the person it concerns. We feel safe when we complain to those who we know care for us, but if we confront someone who doesn’t have that vested interest they might reject us.

Worse, they might think ill of us.

‘I cannot bear to think that he is alive in the world…and thinking ill of me.’

– Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

They might think we’re horrid. We’re a cow or… bull!? (is that the male insult?). They might think we have no integrity or values. Or they might just think we’re plain wrong.

Pride and Prejudice - Assertive Characters - Philippa Jane KeyworthThat’s why often, we so love assertive characters in books. We watch them word-spar and defend themselves as we wish we could. They say exactly the right thing, at exactly the right time, almost as if it were perfectly and minutely crafted…

I, for one, can never stand a push over in a book. And that is not because I cannot be pushed over sometimes. Back when they were all the rage, I read the Twilight books, and the one thing I really remember vividly when looking back is the whiny nature of Bella in the second book. Man alive did she complain, and worse, she didn’t do anything about her situation. She didn’t choose to move forward or fight for more. I CANNOT stand a character who sits and grumbles. I can’t invest in them. I begin to stop sympathising.

It really comes down to the fact I can’t admire them. And the Lord knows I love to admire a character in a book. Preferably the main character. Even if they don’t always do the right thing, I like to see that backbone, that willingness to fight another day, to overcome. That spirit.

I once described my female characters to my husband, saying they were kick-butt heroines both verbally and physically and he chuckled, saying,

‘Basically you want to be them.’

Absolutely.

 

 

An assertive excerpt from Fool Me Twice:

“Lord Avers!” Lady Rebecca responded with the same warmth she greeted every friend. “And who is this gentleman with you?”

Caro was immediately and acutely aware that it was not the voice of Lord Avers that had made her stomach turn. It was not his voice that had spoken of sweetmeats and Bergamot ices, and it was not his voice that sounded again, this time far closer to Caro’s ear.

“Oh!” continued Lady Rebecca. “It is Mr. Felton!”

“Lady Rebecca,”—the other gentleman bowed, his hat creeping into the corner of Caro’s vision—“I have been dragged here most unwillingly to order some kind of pastry for Avers’ mother’s ball, but now I see you here I am quite pleased I relented in my protestations.”

Caro turned then, using all her strength to break out of her statue-like trance. A closer inspection of the gentleman confirmed her worst fears.

“How delightful it is to see you again!” said Lady Rebecca, oblivious to her friend’s discomfiture. “I had no idea you were back from your Tour.”

“Ah, yes, the weather of Europe is nothing in comparison to that of England. I quite missed the rain, you know?” The man’s voice was full of amusement, so like it had been last night when he had accosted Caro while she played the role of another.

“Are you still a scoundrel?” One of Lady Rebecca’s fine dark brows rose, her characteristic truthfulness challenging the man playfully.

“My long-suffering parents will confirm as much.”

Caro breathed rapidly, dreading the moment that Mr. Felton would turn towards her. She reminded herself that she was not Angelica Worth today, but the fair-haired Caro. He would not recognize her—others did not. She must not panic. All would be well.

“Lord Avers, Mr. Felton, may I present Miss Worth to you both.” Rebecca stretched a hand out, gracefully indicating Caro, and both gentlemen turned their attention to the golden-haired woman dressed in dazzling aquamarine.

“Miss Worth,” Lord Avers bowed and smiled affably, “An additional pleasure to find you in the company of Lady Rebecca once again.”

“Miss Worth.” Mr. Felton, being the nearer of the two gentlemen took her hand and bent over it in a perfunctory bow.

That same boyish face Caro had seen by candlelight was before her now. By the light of day, Mr. Felton’s face still held the handsome, careless, amused expression that had captivated her for a brief moment last night. But the same face in the morning’s light was more worrying than captivating. Her legs began to tremble beneath the full skirts of her gown.

When Mr. Felton’s head lifted, he caught Caro’s eye, and the look that appeared on his face sent ice running through her veins. It was recognition.

“I say,” he said, repeating his customary exclamation, “how intriguing.”

His green eyes ran quickly over Caro’s face. They paused on her hair for a moment, his brow furrowing and then clearing, and then they returned to her brilliant blue eyes once more.

“Am I remiss? Have I not made your acquaintance before?” His brow was furrowing again. He was trying his hardest to place her face. She was praying her hardest he would fail.

“I do not believe so, sir.” Caro removed her eyes from his, desperate to keep away from his intent stare, desperate to steer his mind away from remembering.“I am sure of it, I would not forget those eyes anywhere, or….” Mr. Felton stepped back a little, looking down at her skirts as though expecting to see through them. To anyone else he looked as if he were only trying to gain a better view of the woman he thought he recognized, but Caro knew exactly the memory that was being conjured up in his mind. “You look very much like a woman I have already met.”

She colored.

“I dislike excessively to say it, Miss Worth,” said Mr. Felton, a boyish grin resuming mastery over his shapely lips, “however, I believe if we have met before as I suspect, it was in quite different surroundings.”

Clearly, he thought he was being subtle, but Caro knew the irreparable damage he could do to her. Tongues were already wagging where Caro was concerned, and his attempts at the finer arts of concealment were poor. Caro was overcome with a desire to strike him again, wishing to destroy that amused smile on his face that so carelessly put her future at risk.

“I don’t know what you mean.” Caro’s body stiffened, her voice containing the same rigidness reflected in her frame. She suppressed her urge to react and instead resurrected the feeling of satisfaction she had gained from slapping him last night.

“That exact turn of phrase,” he murmured again, still staring at her.

His words were far from proper, even to those whose minds could not fully understand what their ears were hearing. Caro was aware that other guests in the confectioner’s shop were leaning in to hear the unusual conversation from the loud young gentleman.

Both Lady Rebecca and Lord Avers had been staring at the interchange, confused—however, the latter was rapidly catching up to his friend on the gentleman’s path of assumptions.

“But that hair….” Felton murmured to himself.

He was looking at her gold curls, trying to reconcile them with the raven hair he had seen, with the wig that sat on her dressing table at home. He recognized her face, her eyes—but the hair remained her one defense.

“Yes, I do not powder my hair. My mother always told me not to because of its fine color.” At least there could be a little truth in her life of falsehoods. “I dislike the way you stare, sir,” Caro used her severest tones, trying to break through the mesmerized state the gentleman seemed to be in.

“Felton.” Lord Avers stepped forward, attempting to stop his friend before more damage was done. But his friend carried on like a runaway horse pulling away from its pursuer.

“I have never been so sure and so unsure. Are you not the lady I met last night at Mr. Russell’s?”

Again she blushed, and taking her blush to be confirmation, Mr. Felton gave her a saucy wink.

Caro shot up from her chair in a surge of red hot fury. “Sir! I must ask you to desist!”

“Mr. Felton,” he corrected, not in the least perturbed, the curl of his grin still evident on his mouth.

She was trying her best to ignore those lips, the ones that had uttered the word “pleasure” in such a fascinating way last night. She hated how his careless attitude at once riled her and intrigued her. Her anxiety was laced with a desire to meet this gentleman on the word-sparring field…but she knew better. She shook off any vestiges of her ridiculous humor. Now was the time to draw the line between her identities in indelible ink before he had a chance of furthering this course of inquiry.

“You are mistaken, sir. I can guess which surroundings you refer to, and they are the haunt of my father’s illegitimate daughter.” If the house of cards was to fall, she would be in control of its destruction, not some impertinent cad.

 

 

The Creative Psyche needs sleep

It’s amazing what sleep does for one.

The Creative Psyche needs sleep

It can be entirely too easy to dismiss the qualities of decent sleep. When we’re in this busy, fast-paced, always-connected world, sleep can often be consigned to when we’re dead.

I kind of get this mentality. As a person who loves a to-do list, to plan, to make the most of the time I have – though I’m not immune to a Netflix binge of the Shannara Chronicles – it can be easy to think,

‘Well, if I stay up for that extra hour and a half I’ll have so much more time for activities.’

True, but after keeping a mood diary for a few weeks, I realised the impact that lack of sleep has on my next day. I wake up cranky, sometimes with a headache, I have no zeal for the day, I’m irritated by everything including sunshine, and all I want is to sit down and veg-out. Suddenly that next day becomes wasted time, the wasted time I was trying to avoid the day before.

One of the clearest impacts it has is on my creativity. If you are a creative, someone who likes to paint, draw, write, craft, DIY or innovate, then you probably know what I’m talking about. It’s hard to have a stimulated, excited mind, roving over possibilities and making them into reality when your brain is half asleep.

And yet I rationalise the staying up late as making the most of time, or because I’m too busy to go to bed, and I rationalise the lack of creativity as,

‘I’ve just been too busy.’

‘I don’t have the creative mind-space.’

‘I needed a break to recharge my creativity.’

And all it really came down to in the end, was going to bed on time. If you’re a tired creative, who wants more time to do creative things, then get some sleep. You’ll find you’re more on point, make more use of the limited time you have, and feel more satisfied at the end of the day. The bonus is, you’ll often be tired enough to go to bed on time.