Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier is my first read of 2019. I read this a long time ago, so was happy to do a re-read as I had forgotten most of the plot. I’m so glad that I read this again as it was a fantastic read which I enjoyed so much.
Frenchman’s Creek is a rollicking, swashbuckling adventure set during the Restoration period in England. Lady Dona St Columb, the mother of two small children, is fed up with the shallow life she leads at Court. She is known for being a daring woman who drinks with her husband, his friends and their mistresses and is known to engage in wild escapades.
But Dona is bored of her frivolous life and longs to be free of all the court intrigues. After a misguided escapade in London, she escapes to her husband’s isolated Cornish estate, Navron, with her children. She tells her husband to stay in London. Dona enjoys the solitude of Cornwall but then encounters a shipload of French pirates hiding out in the creek behind her estate. They are being hunted by the local gentry for acts of piracy. Their leader intrigues Dona and she is about to have her thirst for adventure well and truly satisfied.
I just loved everything about Frenchman’s Creek. The character Dona is feisty, intelligent, brave and has a spirit for adventure. Her dialogue was fun to read as she always has something witty to say. The Frenchman pirate is also a fantastic character who adds a dash of danger and romance to this novel. There’s also a cast of fun, well-crafted characters who help keep the plot going. I felt sorry for Dona’s husband, but he was written in such a way that the reader can see why Dona wanted to escape him. He’s not a bad sort, he just doesn’t understand his wife at all.
Another thing I loved about Frenchman’s Creek, and Daphne du Maurier’s books in general, are her descriptions of the Cornish landscape. She writes about the birds who inhabit the creek area behind Dona’s estate, what it feels like to wander around in nature and sail on the ocean. She writes so evocatively about the natural world.
This might sound like your typical bodice ripping, lady-meets-pirate plot, but because it was written by Daphne du Maurier the writing is of a high calibre. Frenchman’s Creek has emotional depth and there are many obstacles that the characters have to face. It’s also grounded in reality. Even though Dona might want to run away and be free, she is also bound by the society conventions of her time and her role as a woman, wife and mother. She can’t be as free as a man. This is another theme which seems to run through Daphne du Maurier’s books.
Here’s an example of the wonderful writing:
“She had played too long a part that was unworthy of her. She consented to be the Dona her world had demanded — a superficial, lovely creature, who walked, and talked, and laughed, accepting praise and admiration with a shrug of the shoulder as natural homage to her beauty, careless, insolent, deliberately indifferent, and all the while another Dona, a strange, phantom Dona, peered at her from a dark mirror and was ashamed.
This other self knew that life need not be bitter, nor worthless, nor bounded by a narrow casement, but could be limitless, infinite — that it meant suffering, and love, and danger, and sweetness, and more than this even, much more.”
If you want to try a Daphne du Maurier book, I highly recommend Frenchman’s Creek. It’s so easy to read and entertaining.
Verdict: A book for anyone who has ever wanted to leave their responsibilities behind and run away to become a pirate.
You can also read my other Daphne du Maurier reviews below. I’m planning on reading more of her books this year.