Not A Review: Frenchman’s Creek, A Novel By Daphne Du Maurier

I read Frenchman’s Creek in high school. I picked it up mostly because I’d immensely enjoyed ‘Rebecca’, but it surprised me by turning out to be a love story.

Back then, it was just that: a passionate romance novel, and very well written. Now, after having denounced romance as a genre across various media and then having circled back to it, Daphne du Maurier’s book has become so much more.

At one point, I’d read a library book twice before I returned it — one of my many hacks of making do with the three-books-a-week quota that we had at school.

Later on, I lost track of how often I went back to the Harry Potter and Twilight series (go ahead, judge me). That stopped entirely once I started working.

The luxury of going back to a book wasn’t a freedom I could allow myself. I was always behind on my reading, and there was an ever-growing pile of books awaiting review.

Over the past year or so, however, I’ve been listening to more and more audiobook versions of tomes I’ve read earlier. Some narrators are a delight to listen to.

As much as I’ve been a Potterhead, I don’t know that I’d have kept going back to the books if it weren’t for Stephen Fry’s narration. But I’m often happy with not-quite-bad voice artists too; they let me dive into books amid all the increased pandemic-induced domesticity.

That’s how I went back to the Frenchman’s Creek. I listened to the Audible version, performed by John Castle. It brought much calm during a period defined by spells of crippling anxiety. 

I found the romance between protagonist Dona, Lady St Columb to polite — and not-so-polite — London society, and the French pirate just as enticing as the teen me did.

It was in the sense of serenity this work brought me that I found my freedom, my escape, even as Dona does by retiring to Navron House, her aristocratic husband’s remote Cornwall estate. 

Perhaps, this was all the more so because I’ve just moved into a tiny flat of my own.

And getting away from the drudge of a routine ironed out over nearly a decade — and getting trapped in another one, though newer — has helped me find a part of myself that’s asleep while around other humans.

A far less exciting, or charming, side than Dona, of course (I may have been slightly more adventurous than her only with my hair; I didn’t balk at the idea of taking a pair of scissors to my long curls and gleefully sent them tumbling to the floor).

Screenshot from movie Frenchman’s Creek (1998)

In fact, I’ve shunned the outdoors and retreated more than ever into domesticity. But that’s more a reflection on the current times than anything else: paranoia is the order of the day. 

And yet, the move has been liberating, and so has the experience of going back to a book that was, until not so long ago, relegated to a dusty, cobwebby nook of my brain.