Monday, May 25, 2015

Daphne du Maurier - The King's General

Published: Landmark
Bought: +Kindle Books

The King's General is set in the civil war in England that lasted from 1642-51.  Cornwall was divided between landowners who were either the Royalists, loyal to the King or the Parliamentarians who believed in a democratic rule.

Against this backdrop, Daphne du Maurier sets an unusual love story between a handicapped woman and a brash General.

The story starts 15 years prior to the civil war when Honor Harris, a beautiful debutante, is smitten by Richard Grenville. Their love is not endorsed by Honor's family as Richard is seen as a debt-ridden soldier of fortune.  Her family is forced to agree to their engagement when Honor flees her home to avoid being engaged to another man.  A freak riding accident renders Honor handicapped, and confined to a wheelchair.

She breaks up with Richard and refuses to see him.  He goes away and marries a woman for her money. The civil war of 1642 brings Honor and Richard back together. Richard cares not a whit for her disability.  Honor finds she has to nurse her beloved Richard and listen to him as he rants against  incompetent colleagues who hinder the path to victory.

Richard Grenville is every inch an anti-hero.  He is brash, arrogant, foul-mouthed.  He likes to have his own way and does not care for other people's feelings. He is not above using force to loot and pillage what he believes is his by right.  He is also an excellent soldier, but his high-handed behavior lands him in trouble.  He does not know how to negotiate with his colleagues and it loses the war for the King.  Even worse, because of his behavior, no one is ready to stand by him when he is in trouble.

The book also has another character, Gartred, Richard's sister.  Like Rebecca and Rachel, she is also a wanton woman who cares only for her own appetites, whether for sex or for money. Honor is no wilting lily either.  She speaks her mind, and despite her handicap, is very independent.  She does not allow her crippled state to cripple her mind.  She remains cheerful and a person others can depend upon.  She plays a very active role in the drama that unfolds around during the height of the civil war.

There is a lot of drama here, intrigues, battles, secret rooms, spies, ravages, escape, and arson. The characters are well etched.  Dick, Richard's effeminate son who longs for his father's approval but gets only the sharp edge of his tongue. Honor's brother, Kit who first brings a Grenville into the house by marrying Richard's sister, Gartred.  Robin, another Harris sibling who loves Gartred as well. Jonathon Rashleigh who owns Menabilly where the drama plays out.  He is Honor's brother-in-law and keeper of many secrets.

Here also, as in Rebecca, the house where they live plays a major part. Menabilly, a house that Daphne du Maurier once stayed in, was the inspiration behind this novel and also Manderley, Maxim de Winter's house in Rebecca.

This novel is not as popular as Rebecca.  The story here is more complex, as it involves a lot of intrigues apart from the main story of the love between Honor and Richard.  I would rank it as one of the best by Daphne du Maurier.

This novel seems to have something in common with The House on the Strand, a later novel by du Maurier.  I will have to re-read the book to find it out, which is not a bad prospect. I have probably read The House on the Strand as often has I have read Rebecca.


Madhulika liddle said...

Ah, I have to read this! It sounds just my type. Great review, Ava. Thank you.

Ava Suri said...

Yes Madhu,

I will shortly read and review two others by Daphne du Maurier that should be your type as well.


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