Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Synopsis: "The castle and the hills around it had seen a doomed love affair before, but the impulsive young woman and the impressionable young lad from Brittany with whom she discovered a love heretofore denied her knew nothing of the past. They knew only the present--a present suddenly alive with enchantment, love and danger.
Linnet Lewarne at nineteen was married to a crotchety, wealthy man forty years her senior. One day there came to the seaport town where they lived a Breton, named Amyot Trestane. Badly beaten by his captain, he decides to leave his ship and settle down in the village. Almost immediately he met and fell in love with Mrs. Lewarne, and she with him. Too young and too much in love, they continue to meet where and as they can...and suddenly tragedy comes, as it had to. Only the old doctor who brought Linnet Lewarne into the world recognizes--too late--the dark currents of the past which have brought the lovers together and will now tear them apart."
Castle Dor by Daphne du Maurier and Arthur Quiller-Couch is a very interesting synthesis on many levels. First of all, the story weaves the current story with the age-old love story of Tristan and Iseult. (I wish it hadn't been so long since I'd read that one...details were a bit fuzzy and would have been helpful.) There is a very real feeling that the past is intruding on the present and directing the events of the lives of the lovers as well as those around them. One is left wondering if it is meant as a sort of reincarnation or if it is another version of mystical time-travel (which du Maurier used in The House on the Strand). I lean towards the former.
There is also the blending of the work of Quiller-Couch and du Maurier. Quiller-Couch was very interested in Cornish history and the myths and legends of the area and he began this story. Upon his death, his daughter asked du Maurier, a friend of the family, to finish the story. The blending of the work is very well done and it is difficult to tell who is responsible for what. At a guess, I would say that du Maurier picked up the story at Book Two. I certainly do not believe that she is responsible for this image from the prologue: "The most ancient cirque of Castle Dor, deserted, bramble-grown, was the very nipple of a huge breast in pain, aching for discharge." Huh???
Overall, this is a very well told story of star-crossed lovers. The descriptions of the Cornish countryside is perfect (save for that bit above), especially in the latter chapters which I am sure is due to Ms. du Maurier. The working out of the legend/myth in the current love affair is done very adroitly and does not seem at all forced (as is sometimes the case when modern authors contrive a re-telling of an old story). And the minor characters are well-rounded and used to full effect. I do wish that Linnet Lewarne were a more sympathetic character. I don't remember details about the Tristan and Iseult story, but I do remember being more touched and involved with both of the lovers. In this version, I find myself sympathizing with Amyot far more than I do with with Linnet. A stronger sympathy for Linnet would bring my rating up to a full four stars, at the very least. As it is...three and half stars. It is very nearly outstanding on all counts.