Daphne Du Maurier’s Cornwall

A year ago we were in Cornwall, visiting Daphne Du Maurier sites. Led by our friend Jane, a Du Maurier scholar, we visited places that influenced Du Maurier’s novels. In Helford we searched for “Frenchman’s Creek,” a tale set in the time of Charles II and which includes love affairs, smuggling, and all sorts of swashbuckling adventures. In Fowey we walked on to a car ferry which took us across the River Fowey to Boddinick, where we could view from a distance (and later over a fence) Daphne’s home, “Ferryside,” where her son Kits now lives. This beautiful white house with blue shutters is perched on the edge of the water, and has the figurehead of the ship, Jane Slade, on one of the corners of the house. Jane Slade is the inspiration for the character of Janet Coombe of Du Maurier’s first novel, “The Loving Spirit.” Written in 1929, this novel tells the story of the four generations of the Coombe family of boatbuilders. We could see the boatyard that the Slades owned in the distance in Polruan.

Hiking through the nearby hills we came across a stone monument to Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, a writer friend of Daphne’s, for whom she carried on the writing of “Castle Dor,” in 1959, a decade after Quiller-Couch died. Along the way we veered off the hike to visit the church at Lanteglos, where Daphne married her husband, Tommy “Boy” Browning, in 1932. We wandered in the churchyard, in search of the gravestone of Jane Slade. In the 14th century stone church was just one small mention of the wedding of Daphne and Tommy, amidst its long and storied history.

One evening we dined at “Sam’s at the Beach” in Polkerris, in an old converted lifeboat station. On the wall we saw the name Rashleigh on the Fowey lifeboat sign – this name is prevalent in this area. Du Maurier based her book, “My Cousin Rachel,” on the Rashleigh name, and called her main character, “Philip Ashley.” Menabilly, the house that Daphne Du Maurier rented for a few years, is on the Rashleigh estate. This house was the setting for her most well known novel, “Rebecca” – renamed Manderley in the book, which is set in the early 20th century, as well as “The King’s General,” set during the time of the English Civil War (1642-1646)

I wish I had read these novels when I was a teenager, as they would have stirred my imagination and filled my world with romanticism. Alas, most of these I read 30 years later, but found them just as intriguing and entertaining. Especially when combined with physically visiting the places – what could be more delightful!

Captains Courageous! A good fishing tale

One of the things I like best about belonging to a book group is reading books that ordinarily I wouldn’t pluck off the shelf. My book group at the Maine Charitable Mechanics Association just gathered to discuss “Captains Courageous” by Rudyard Kipling. I wish I had read this years ago, when I was involved in the “Fish tales” exhibit at the Long Island Historical Society, as it gives great information about the late 19th century methods of fishing off the Grand Banks, in the form of a rollicking good tale. Who can ever forget Kipling’s description of Harvey, the main character, seeing all the fishing schooners lined up on the banks? This classic coming of age story, written in 1897, also includes what is called “a classic of railway literature” – a journey by rail from San Diego to Boston.

The Long Island Community Library has this wonderful tale, both in audio and print form. Be sure to check it out – it will impress you with its authentic voice and descriptions.

Game wardens in Maine literature

There seems to be a spate of Maine literature regarding game wardens these days. Most recently is John Ford’s Suddenly, the cider didn’t taste so good” (2012) which relates tales of 20 years of a game warden’s career. Of the fiction genre, Paul Doiron’s “The Poacher’s son” (2010) and later “Trespasser” (2011) feature a game warden as protagonist. Kate Braestrup’s “Here if you need me” (2007) shines with wit and humor but with underlying depth of seriousness about the chaplain’s life in working with game wardens and the families of victims who need their services. But despite all these recent additions to the game warden offerings, this is not a new idea to write about. There are many other books about Maine game wardens. Some of my favorites were written by Maine women writers, such as Helen Hamlin and Louise Dickinson Rich, in the 1940s – both women were married to game wardens, who took them into the wilds of Maine to live. We are fortunate in Maine to have about 75 years of Maine literature that takes us “into the woods.”

A Literary Barn Raising for Maine Author Cynthia Thayer

WE TAKE CARE OF OUR OWN: A Literary Barn Raising for Maine Author Cynthia Thayer will be held at Longfellow Books on Friday, June 1 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. There will be a gaggle of well-known authors on hand to sign their books and Longfellow Books will donate 100% of all proceeds above cost to Cynthia and Darthia Farm. Here are just some of the authors who will be with us for this special First Friday event: Liza Bakewell, Crash Barry, Brock Clarke, Melissa Coleman, Ron Currie Jr, Phillip Hoose, Shonna Milliken Humphrey, Maria Padian, Elizabeth Peavey, Caitlin Shetterly, Betsy Sholl, Monica Wood, and Colin Woodard.

This is a fundraiser for Maine author Cynthia Thayer, whose home, Darthia Farm in Gouldsboro, suffered a horrendous fire this past week destroying the entire barn, killing nearly 100 animals and burning Cynthia as she tried to rescue her sheep. Readers know Cynthia as the author of Strong for Potatoes, A Certain Slant of Light, and A Brief Lunacy but she is also a dedicated farmer and Darthia Farm is the life and livelihood of the Thayer family. Darthia Farm is a MOFGA member farm with a community supported agriculture (CSA) program and a busy farm store.

 

Escape to Paris – via films!

- not Paris, but almost!Ah, Spring in Paris – what everyone dreams of, at least I do. My friend Tifenn promises us that when we arrive at the airport she will greet us with croissants and pains au chocolat. But until that happy day arrives we can escape into films about Paris, including two that are at the Long Island Community Library: Hugo, and Midnight in Paris.

Hugo, a magical 3-D romp directed by Martin Scorsese, takes place in early 20th century Paris, specifically in the central train station. Based on the book, “The invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick (also located at LICL), this movie will thrill you with the characters, story, and visual scenery.

Midnight in Paris, directed by Woody Allen, is a different kind of period piece, alternating between modern-day Paris and the Paris of the 1920s, populated with the literary characters of Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and others.

So, unless you are lucky enough to escape to Paris any time soon, curling up with your croissants and pains au chocolat and these two movies will transport you into this other world, of Paris of almost 100 years ago.

Library Used Books Table

Next time you visit the library I suggest you check out the used books table.  You can sometimes find some gems there.  For example, on a recent visit I bought a copy of Admiral Richard Byrd’s Little America for a dollar.  Published in 1930, it was a first edition and signed by the author!

 

Curt Murley

A small library on an island on the coast of Maine