The King’s General by Daphne du Maurier

**This book review contains spoilers**

Plot:

Honor Harris is a strong heroine, one of a rare quality. She makes an early enemy of her sister-in-law Gartred Grenvile, and would have been destined to always stand in opposition to the Grenviles, had it not been her fate to fall in love with Gartred’s brother Richard, at the age of eighteen. Young and carefree, Honor has many trysts with her lover, with every intention of a marriage on the horizon, until a riding accident leaves her a cripple for life.

Embittered and resigned to ill luck, Honor refuses to see Richard or have anything to do with him. She may have become weak physically but she cannot abide by becoming his dependent, and eventually a burden to her lover.

By the time the Civil War breaks out, Richard has become a military man; hard, stern and detested for his arrogance all around. He has had his own life – wife and children – and has moved on for good until fate brings Honor and Richard together at Menabilly.

From here begins another part of the story for the two lovers, one where Honor will discover the secrets of the house at Menabilly, care for her lover’s son, face rebels and bear witness to treachery. Gartred will once again be thrown into her path, old sentiments aroused, accusations and hatred always looming at the surface and secrets of the house always on the verge of discovery.

The ending, like all of Maurier’s books, is unconventional, unexpected and with the power to leave the reader emotional.

Characters:

Honor

…is the undisputed heroine of the story. Her invalidity confines her body but not her soul. Her scruples are brought into question at various times, as she follows Richard from camp to camp, but her love proves stronger than the accusations of people. She cares for her family with as much ardour as she cares for those who bear no relations to her.

Richard

…is not the kind of hero you would expect. He is arrogant, strict and loud, the kind to capture everyone’s attention in the room and command them too. He has little love for indiscipline and strays as a man on several occasions, but he is loyal to a fault. He is true, in every sense of the word, the king’s general.

Gartred

…the villain of the story. Flaunting her beauty, seducing men, cheating even, she is one who knows how to get her way and does whatever it takes to get her desires. She is spiteful and in a manner, responsible for Honor’s tragedy.

Dick

…is Richard’s son, though in every which way, his opposite in demeanour. It is his role, that is every bit as powerful as the other three characters’, although his shy and diffident manner doesn’t let it on, not until the end.

Behind the Scenes:

The first U.S. edition of the book

Daphne du Maurier’s story may be fictional, but it is inspired by real events and characters, to the extent that Menabilly, where the story is set, is a place where the author herself lived. She had help from Oenone Rashleigh and historian A.L. Rowse in researching the background to this story, to accurately depict Cornwall and Devon during the Civil War of 1642-1651. The story’s inspiration came from a skeleton discovered during the renovation of the house.

Is it Recommended?

Yes. If you love a gothic tale, one with no monsters, but with enough twists and unexpected turns, Daphne du Maurier should be your go-to-author. This is the fourth book of hers I’ve read, and though I rate it lower than the others because it slows down in the middle, the beginning and the ending are great enough; the story could have emerged in no alternate way.

Rating: 4/5

Read: 20 Mar ’15

Genre: Historical Romance | Published: 1946 | Pages: 298

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