Saturday, 4 September 2010
Mary Anne by Daphne Du Maurier
An historical offering now from Du Maurier as her novel Mary Anne is an account of her real life Great-Great Grandmother which lead a slightly turbulent life as the mistress of Frederick Augustus, the Duke of York and Albany.
In order to put this into historical context, Frederick’s father was ‘mad King George III’. If you’re not too sure who George III was, he was the King of England when America got its independence.
The book begins with Mary’s humble beginnings in London, her disastrous marriage and her eventual climb to the top where she becomes a mistress to various high profile men before coming to the attention of Frederick, the Duke of York. Frederick pays for a nice house and provides her with an income which is too small for the life Mary Anne has become accustomed to. In order to raise extra funds she ‘sells’ favours. Frederick was commander-in-chief of the army so if you wanted to be promoted, you could give Mary Anne a few hundred pounds and she would then fix it with the Duke. Unfortunately after a few years Mary Anne is effectively ‘dumped’ by the Duke for someone else and loses her home and possibly her children’s secure futures. Then when the Duke is called, accused of accepting bribes Mary Anne is called to testify.
This is quite an interesting life that Du Maurier has to work with here and it starts off very exciting as Mary Anne starts her rise from humble beginnings and survives anyway she can. This for me was the best part of the book and I found her beginnings and her marriage to a man who gambles away all their money very interesting. This woman surely must be admired for leaving her husband during those times and attempting to make her own way with three children in tow in a very male orientated world.
Unfortunately the last 100 pages of the book is court scene after court scene and it’s not written in a particularly exciting way and I have to admit I skimmed over quite a few of these pages. There are also countless male characters introduced here some of which are friends and some foe, but I got completely muddled here with who was who.
The character of Mary Anne could have been more developed as she come across as very feisty and determined most of the time, but when it came to her accepting bribes etc she was suddenly depicted as a victim and was presented as this being the only way she could survive. I would have liked to see her take some responsibility for some of her actions. I did find out that this book was originally intended to be a play and was going to be written for Du Maurier’s lover Gertrude Lawrence and is who the book is dedicated to. Unfortunately Gertrude died before the play was written and so instead took the form of a book which might explain some of the lack of character development.
On reflection though I found this a largely enjoyable book about an interesting life.
Would I recommend this? If you like your historical fiction and don’t mind court scenes then yes.
Posted by Jess