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Du Maurier December: Flash Reviews

All of these reviews have previously been published on The Literary Sisters, but I thought I would group them all together for my Du Maurier December project so that they are more easily accessible.  The books which are briefly discussed in this post are as follows: Don’t Look Now and Other Stories, The King’s General, The Progress of Julius and The Blue Lenses and Other Stories.


Don’t Look Now and Other Stories
by Daphne du Maurier ****
1. I love du Maurier’s writing, and was so excited about reading another of her short story collections.  This is a relatively thick tome, which is comprised of just five stories, many of which are almost novella length.
2. Julie Myerson’s introduction is fabulous, and suits the book perfectly.  I loved reading about her experiences with du Maurier’s work.
3. Each tale here is dark and grotesque, and they are very memorable in their entirety.  The collection is both enjoyable and thought-provoking.

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The King’s General by Daphne du Maurier ****
Storyline: “Honor Harris is only 18 when she first meets Richard Grenvile, proud, reckless – and utterly captivating. But following a riding accident, Honor must reconcile herself to a life alone. As Richard rises through the ranks of the army, marries and makes enemies, Honor remains true to him, and finally discovers the secret of Menabilly.”

‘The King’s General’ by Daphne du Maurier (Virago)

1. I love du Maurier’s work, as she never fails to sweep me away into other places and periods. The King’s General is no different, and its vivid scenes and settings are so very memorable.
2. The historical setting which she has chosen here lends itself so well to her plot.  I love the way in which she has based her characters within The King’s General upon real beings.
3. The characters are all so well fleshed out, and du Maurier’s writing and choice of viewpoint is engaging on so many levels.

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The Progress of Julius by Daphne du Maurier *** (1933)
Storyline: Our protagonist is Julius Levy, a Jewish boy living in France, who turns into ‘a quick-witted urchin caught up in the Franco-Prussian war’.  The novel spans his lifetime, from his birth in 1860, to 1932.

1. Du Maurier never fails to strike me with the evocation of scenes which feel so real, it is though I am there.  The sense of history here is stunning.
2. Julius’ behaviour is rather peculiar at times.  He is cruel, and the actions which he performs often feal surprising.  He is odd and rather creepy, and I took an almost immediate dislike to him.
3. The Progress of Julius feels a lot darker than much of du Maurier’s other work.  I was not overly enamoured with its plot.

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The Blue Lenses and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier ****
I love Daphne du Maurier’s books, and her short stories are especially powerful.  This collection, also published as The Breaking Point and Other Stories, promises ‘eight stories which explore the half-forgotten world of childhood fantasies and subtle dreams’.  This quote, coupled with the tales in The Birds and Other Stories, the first of du Maurier’s story collections which I read, made me hope for rather a dark and memorable collection, and that, I am pleased to say, is exactly what I was met with.  Each plotline throughout was surprising, and the twists and turns made me unable to guess what was about to happen.  The tales were startling and full of power, and I very much enjoyed them all for different reasons.

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Flash Reviews: Historical Novels (23rd May 2014)

I am still on my blogging hiatus as I write this, but the reviews which I feel I have to write are mounting up.  I thought that a good idea would be to split up the outstanding works which I have to write about into categories, and to then post short and succinct reviews about them without going into too many details.  Each will include a short summary of the story, and three thoughts about it.  The first of these such posts deals with historical novels.

‘Julius’ by Daphne du Maurier (Virago)

The Progress of Julius by Daphne du Maurier *** (1933)
Storyline: Our protagonist is Julius Levy, a Jewish boy living in France, who turns into ‘a quick-witted urchin caught up in the Franco-Prussian war’.  The novel spans his lifetime, from his birth in 1860, to 1932.

1. Du Maurier never fails to strike me with the evocation of scenes which feel so real, it is though I am there.  The sense of history here is stunning.
2. Julius’ behaviour is rather peculiar at times.  He is cruel, and the actions which he performs often feal surprising.  He is odd and rather creepy, and I took an almost immediate dislike to him.
3. The Progress of Julius feels a lot darker than much of du Maurier’s other work.  I was not overly enamoured with its plot.

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The Night of the Burning by Linda Press Wulf *** (2007)
Storyline: The novel opens in Pinsk in Poland, and follows two sisters, Devorah and Nechama, orphaned after

‘The Night of the Burning’ by Linda Press Wulf

‘The Night of the Burning’ and consequently sent to South Africa, with many other displaced children.  The novel is based upon a true story.

1. The premise of the book is interesting, and brings to light an important element of how the authorities tried to help children during World War Two.
2. The writing is quite simple, to suit its audience; I imagine that I would have enjoyed it far more as a child than I did as an adult.
3. The differences between Christians and Jews are set out well, particularly with regard to the intended audience of the novel.  It feels very informative, and I would highly recommend it for children or young adults who have an interest in history.

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‘Two Brothers’ by Ben Elton (Black Swan)

Two Brothers by Ben Elton **** (2012)
Storyline: A Jewish woman named Frieda gives birth to twin boys on the same day in which the Nazi Party is formed, one of whom is stillborn.  In the hospital at the same time, a German Communist mother passes away after giving birth to a healthy son, and Frieda adopts him.  The boys are still brought up as twins, and problems ensue when the iron fist of Nazi Germany starts to close around the Jewish race.

1. The historical background is set so well, and the period details which Elton uses throughout – from jazz to Suchards chocolate – help to ground it in time.
2. The storyline veers off in unexpected and surprising directions throughout, and holds the interest of the reader from the very first page.
3. Elton throws up so many issues of importance, and has created such a thought-provoking novel, which lingers in the mind for a long while after the book is finished.

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