My rating: 8/10 for most of the writing – the woman could certainly put words together, though she falters here and there – see the last paragraphs of the book which I’ve included at the very end of this review – and 4/10 for the plot and characterizations. Averaged out, that makes 6/10, which is still too high, so I’m going to give it a 5/10. Brutal, I know, but it is that hard to read.
I wanted to like this book so much, and was so thrilled when I found it. It starts off so very well, but soon turns into a long, very slow motion (think frame by frame slow) train wreck. I no longer wonder why this title is one of the unremarked silent members of Daphne du Maurier’s otherwise mostly stellar bibliography.
If it were anyone else but Dame Daphne, I would have pitched it about a quarter through, if not sooner. As it was, it took me a very, very long time to work my way through it. Only its nagging presence on my “What I’m Reading” sidebar kept me coming back for more punishment.
The book, Daphne’s second (the first is The Loving Spirit, which I know I have somewhere but seem to remember having set aside many years ago as “unreadable” as well – I need to find it to refresh memory) was published when she was only twenty-four, so we have to give allowances for that. From my own advanced age – okay, I’m not that old, but twenty-four is half a lifetime away for me now – a book written by a twenty-four year old and titled I’ll Never Be Young Again is somehow more than a little ironic.
After finishing, I sat for a while thinking, “Was it the book or was it me? Did I just not get it?” So I did what I always do in cases such as this – I googled other bloggers’ reviews. And look what I found! I’m not alone! Someone else thought the very same thing. (Though she only gave it a 4/10. Ha! – take that, Doleful Dick, you whingy whiner.)
Therefore I have totally copped out and shamelessly stolen this review from Books I Done Read (tagline: Reading books so you don’t have to) which is a totally awesome, very busy (in more ways than one – you’ll see what I mean when you visit it) little production. I love it. Raych forthrightly says what we’re all secretly thinking. Spend the time on her blog which you would’ve spent crawling through du Maurier’s non-opus, and you’ll be much happier. Says me, from first hand experience of both.
January 28, 2011
This was a difficult one to read. It has those sort of circular, Catcher-in-the-Rye conversations where the point is not the content but the banality, which makes for good social critique but sloggery reading. And it’s maybe 99% dialogue, because nothing happens.
Ok so. Dick is the son of a famous author-slash-shitty father and, not having accomplished anything worthwhile by the ripe old age of maybe 21, Dick is on a bridge about to throw himself off when Jake happens by and is all, Don’t do that. Exciting! you think. And then on to page seven, where Jake and Dick go hire horses and ride through the mountains and the fjords for chapters and Jake tries to buck Dick up because Dick is sort of a whiner. Somewhere in there Dick sleeps with a girl and it is disappointing for everyone involved.
Jake exits scene left about halfway through the book via Unexpected Oceanic Death and Hesta enters, with her large eyes and orange beret, and she and Dick shack up. And this is where the whole thing gets seedy. Daphne wanted to write about the uncomfortable relationships between men and women, and she nailed it because this is The Worst. Dick spends ages trying to convince Hesta to let him nail her, complete with sulks and professions of love and more sulks. After he finally wears her down he’s all *phew* Now that I’ve had you you can give up your music and come live in my flat with me and I will ignore you while I write the Great English Novel.
So it goes. After a while (months, say) Hesta is like, I’m bored. Remember how we used to…you know. And Dick, who has been busily writing a novel (and a play! Both sure to be hits!) all this time is like, ‘You mustn’t…you musn’t be like that. It’s ghastly…it’s making a thing of it, it’s – it’s unattractive. It’s all right for me to want you, but not for you – at least, never to say.’ Ugh, right? So that when he goes to London to sell his novel (and play!) and his dad’s publisher is like, I’m sorry, but these are terrible, and he comes home to find that Hesta has left him for literally anyone else you’re all, Huzzah! Oh and also, The end.
I feel like I need a shower. It’s We Need To Talk About Kevin all over again. Du Maurier succeeded in making me feel hideously uncomfortable which, while impressive, is also unpleasant. I like my characters to be Good or Bad or a Mix but Something. I don’t like for them to wander around listlessly with no real ideas and a too-large sense of their own importance alternated with a sort of whiny comprehension of how much they actually suck.
Very good, and very skillfully done, but I didn’t like it.
So there you have it. I will leave you with the closing lines of this story, which gives you a firsthand snippet of the banal monologue we’ve had to struggle through. Here’s Dick:
From my window I look down upon the little square. The trees are green in the garden opposite. There is the clean, fresh smell of an evening after rain. Somewhere, on one of the branches of the trees, I can hear a bird singing. A note that sounds from a long way off, sweet and clear, like a whisper in the air. And there is something beautiful about it, and something sad. At first he is lost, and then he is happy again. Sometimes he is wistful, sometimes he is glad.
He seems to be saying: “I’ll never be young again – I’ll never be young again.”
“I’ll never be young again.” Thank heaven for that. Because once she got this one out of her system, Daphne went on to write her next book, The Progress of Julius, which I absolutely adore, and then Jamaica Inn, and Rebecca…
Growing pains. So glad she made it through!