Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The Loving Spirit by Daphne Du Maurier

Every writer has to start somewhere. Daphne Du Murier was just 24 years old when she published her first novel; The Loving Spirit. Du Maurier obviously decided to jump right in at the deep end for her first literary achievement and while I liked the idea of the book, I thought it was incredibly ambitious and unfortunately I’m not sure Du Murier was able to pull it off.

The book is spilt into four parts and each part is told from the point of view of a different generation of the Coombe family starting with Janet Coombe. The narration is then passed over to her son Joseph, to his son Christopher and then finally Christopher’s daughter Jennifer completes the book. I thought this was a great idea as the reader got to see not only the changes in the family within each passing generation, but also the changes in the world around them. The book starts in the mid 19th century and ends during the 1920s when enormous changes throughout the world took place both socially and on an individual level with old fashioned attitudes dying out.

Unfortunately one of the main downfalls of this book is its size (or lack of.) The Book is only 400 pages long which means that each narrator only gets around 100 pages each to tell their entire life story from beginning to end. This means that the book feels very rushed. For example by page 24, Janet Coombe has given a brief outline of her childhood, fell in love with her cousin, married him and had her first child. Because of the rushed nature it also means that commentary on the world around them is only briefly mentioned in passing and is barely given any notice giving the impression that the last narrator is very much living in the same world as the first narrator.

There are some flashes of brilliance and some very good ideas contained here but unfortunately any point that Du Murier was hoping to make gets lost within the undeveloped family saga plot.

Would I recommend it? One for Du Maurier fans who are curious to read her first novel only.

Verdict 2/5

Posted by Jess


  1. Hmm, I think I'll skip this one. I'm running out of du Maurier to read.

  2. Interesting how different a first novel can be. I love William Somerset Maugham, but when I read his debut novel last year, it wasn't very good.

  3. That's disappointing. Du Maurier does have her misses though. I will eventually get around to reading this one, nevertheless. I just noticed that my local "Books-a-Million" has several of her early novels - which I found surprising because in the past I've sometimes had a hard time locating some of her more popular novels.

  4. I think I'll skip this one too! But I guess it's good to see how she developed as a writer?

  5. Chris - its isnt her best, I do have to hand it to her though as she took on quite a big storyline for her first novel.

    Amanda - they say you get better at writing the more you do it dont they?

    everybookandcranny - I think since Virgo printed all her books again in the new additions they have become quite popular again. My library seems very well stacked at the moment.

    booksploring - I did find it interesting. Quite a few of her main themes such as Cornwall and strong fiesty women are in there but I just feel too much was packed in there.

  6. I'm not familiar with this one after having loved Rebecca and Jamaica Inn, but it does not appear like I missed much? Sorry it did not work for you.

  7. My favorite Du Murier novels are Rebecca, of course, and The Scapegoat. I've read as many as I can, but those are the only two which linger in my mind. I'm up for a Rebecca re-read almost every five years, though.

  8. I often find it interesting to read an author's early work to see how much their writing improved or changed over the years. I will probably read this one eventually, but there are still a lot of her other books that I'd like to read first.

  9. Bibliophile - well she wrote somany books that I guess its inevitable some are going to be misses.

    Bellezza - I think The Scapegost will be one of the next ones I read of her, I think the idea for that sounds really interesting.

    Helen - I think like you I would want to read them all eventually, at the moment Im just picking up whatevers in the library which is how I came to pick up The Loving Spirit. Ill be interested to read her second book now though.

  10. I've got My Cousin Rachel on my night-stand, which I have been saving for_____ (I don't know what to write in the blank). I didn't read it even on my vacation. I am curious about this book because it's her first.