I delved into The House on the Strand due to my adoration of Daphne du Maurier's famous novel, Rebecca (one of my all-time favorites) as well as my deep appreciation for her other work, My Cousin Rachel. In addition to reading these masterpieces I would recommend watching both movies which were very well done. In contrast, I had mixed feelings about The House on the Strand.
Dick Young is invited to stay at his friend Magnus Lane’s house in Cornwall for the summer while Magnus, a chemist, is in London. Before Dick’s family arrives, Magnus persuades Dick to act as his guinea pig for a new substance that he claims has the ability to induce time travel. Magnus has tried this himself with only a few unpleasant side effects so what could go wrong?
I presumptuously assumed that because I relished what could be considered Daphne Du Maurier’s two most popular books that I would also love The House on the Strand. Unfortunately that was not the case. While the last 30% of the book was fascinating, I had trouble connecting with Dick’s historic time travel universe. Du Maurier does deserve praise however for the end portion of the novel, which, at times, is just as exciting as Rebecca.
I think the central obstacle that prevented me from enjoying this book more were the restraints placed on the concept of time travel. Time travel is supposed to be unpredictable and fun! So why does the time travel that takes place here need to happen in the confines of the same era every time? Why were certain interactions between Dick and the other historic figures prevented? Why are there so many of these historic figures and why do we even care about them?
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the reason DuMaurier kept returning to the same time period; it enables her to write a story within a story. However, even after finishing the novel I still don’t fully comprehend why she thought this would make for interesting reading. It was as though she spontaneously researched the 14th Century (?) in-depth and decided to clumsily weave it into the plot. Unfortunately, I still have difficulty recalling many of the ye olde characters she referenced because they weren’t memorable. Luckily, the reader can take solace in the fact that even this facet of the book improves towards the end.
What I did like about The House on the Strand, despite the grimace on my face, was the comedy of errors that is Dick’s relationship with his family, particularly his wife. Why are these two even married?? Even in light of these marital problems, I am still left wondering how Isolde able to have this siren-like hold on Dick? It would be like falling in love with a mirage… It is simply not believable. That being said, Dicks’ relationship with his wife provides an interesting juxtaposition to the latent undertones that characterize his relationship with his best friend Magnus.
Do I recommend The House on the Strand? Yes, with some reservations. Don’t expect it to be the next Rebecca or My Cousin Rachel. They are on two entirely different playing fields. Getting through the first half (at least) takes some perseverance. However, the end of the novel was strongly written enough that I was practically yelling in astonishment at the insanity of it all. That my friends is not easily done
- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Virago; 1 edition (19 August 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781844080427
- ISBN-13: 978-1844080427
- ASIN: 1844080420
- Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2.4 x 19.6 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 222 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 126,843 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)