Reading a du Maurier novel is like meeting up with an old friend; you know you are in good company and will be both entertained and amused with them for hours on end. Daphne du Maurier is one of my very favourite authors, and I am so glad that she was such a prolific writer. I aim that I have read around half of her books to date, and I have so enjoyed them all. I’ll Never Be Young Again is her second novel, and the first which uses the male narrative voice throughout, something which I think she does both wonderfully and believably.
I’ll Never Be Young Again has been introduced by Elaine Dundy, who heralds it ‘a rich source of self-revelatory material’. Du Maurier sets the scene from the very first page, and in terms of the prose style, it is just as strong as her later novels.
The novel begins with our narrator and protagonist, Richard, who is about to throw himself from a bridge in London. He is saved by a stranger named Jake, who places his hand onto Richard’s shoulder at the pivotal moment. The two men become firm friends rather quickly and travel with one another, journeying first to Norway via Finland and Denmark as sailors. The plot is very wise, and du Maurier is insightful throughout. Richard, a young and naive being when the story begins, grows up noticeably as the novel progresses, in the most realistic of ways. I did not always like him, but he was most intriguing. There is a real sense of the setting shaping the characters within it, and this has been used to great effect.
The turns of phrase and descriptions which have been used within the novel are beautiful:
“To me this was the meaning of being alive, this very sensation of the pavement beneath our feet, and the lamp shining upon a square, the smell of the warm air, the careless knowledge that it mattered little where we went with no one to care but our two selves.”
I’ll Never Be Young Again is one of the most vivid of du Maurier’s novels which I have read to date, and is a book which I shall certainly be recommending.