THAT (that) wrote,

2018 Book #46 - Mary Anne by Daphne du Maurier

Absolutely lovely. It's the second one I've read by Daphne du Maurier; I also loved The Parasites.

It's a novelization of the life of her great-grandmother, Mary Anne Clarke, who in the early 19th century went from being a poor child in a back alley to mistress of the Duke of York, becoming enmeshed in scandal along the way, living extravagantly well by her wits and wile alone. It's a penetrating portrait of a fiercely independent woman who became notorious throughout England by virtue of her charm and her disarming tongue. In another era, she might have had a distinguished career of her own, but she used the levers of power that were available to her in that environment.

Not being knowledgeable about the detailed ins-and-outs of British politics and the peerage system, I'm sure that there are many subtleties among the countless intrigues that I missed, but I got the shape of it. There are long excerpts from letters, pamphlets and newspapers, which might be authentic, I'm not sure. With great skill, she places these in such a way that the stiffness of the language of the time, rather than being dry, carries the weight of subtext. Menacing politeness.

Du Maurier of course writes with elegance and rich overtones of ambiguity. Imagine that Virginia Woolf sat herself down to write in the style of Balzac.

Sometimes when I am reading a book, it brings to mind a certain person. This one continually summoned the apparition of a dear friend of mine who I haven't kept in close contact with much in later years, but for whom my affection will never die and which nothing will diminish. I wrote to her after I read it. What greater praise can one give to a novel?

Tags: 2018 book reviews
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