Virago Modern Classic #509
Castle D’Or was the final, unfinished, work of the distinguished Cornish writer Arthur Quiller-Couch (pen-name “Q”). And so it is a pity that Virago has left his name off the cover of this edition.
Daphne Du Maurier, at the request of Q’s daughter, completed her dear friend’s work some years after his death. It has to be said that she has done a wonderful job – she has mastered his style, and I have no idea where the join is.
So don’t pick up this book looking for Daphne Du Maurier. You won’t find her. But if you enjoy her writing you might just enjoy Q too. She held him in high regard.
And she wasn’t the only one – Helen Hanff wrote a whole book about him!
I hadn’t read Q before, but Castle D’Or has definitely left me interested enough to seek out more of his work.
It is a retelling of an old legend – the tragic love story of Tristan and Iseult – set on the north coast of Cornwall.
Iseult is recast as Linnet, who married the local publican who offered a good match before she had any notion of what love was. And Tristan is recast as Amyot, a French seaman. Both are utterly believable three-dimensional, and very fallible, human beings.
Maybe too fallible. Linnet is a little too petulant at times, and Amyot a little too unflappable. But I think you have to give the author the benefit of the doubt. This was an unfinished work, and who knows what he might have refined given the chance.
And you can’t doubt the passion. The love affair is utterly believable, vivid and haunting.
The story is set against the background of a village community. The people are lightly, but clearly, sketched and their lives provided a good contrast to the drama that impinged upon it.
Doctor Carfax is a pillar of that community. He has studied the differing accounts of Tristan and Iseult, and recognises what is happening. He acts to try to prevent tragedy, but can he? Is it all too late?
Castle D’Or isn’t perfect, but it is a lovely, atmospheric piece of old-fashioned story telling.
I sat down and read it in an evening.