Treveryan by Angela Du Maurier

An elegant manor house, set on the wild Cornish coast; a house that captures the hearts and souls of those who live their. A story of love, secrets, and their consequences, with wonderful gothic overtones.

It might be Manderlay but it isn’t, this is Treveryan. The creation not of Daphne Du Maurier, but of her elder sister, Angela. Two sisters, and two very different writers; but, of course writers with the same background, and with many of the same influences.

Angela’s writing lacks the subtlety, the nuances, that made her little sister’s books so special, but her storytelling has such passion, such conviction, and she had a wonderful way of catching changing gear and really grabbing the attention with the final sentence of a chapter.

Treveryan is by no means great writing, but I loved it, and I found it very, very difficult to put the book down.

TreveryanIt tells the story of Bethel.  Her idyllic childhood at Treveryan, her growing up, her falling deeply in love, are painted in such vivid colours. But Bethel’s dreams were shattered when her father died, suddenly, unexpected, in mysterious circumstances. It was then that the terrible secret of Treveryan is revealed to Bethel and her brother, Veryan.

Bethel and Veryan know what they must do, that they must live rest of their lives together, in the Cornish home that they love. Their sister, Lerryn, was too young to understand, but it time they would have to draw her into their plan.

And though Bethel’s heart was broken, she knew that she was doing the right thing, and she gave her heart to her siblings, and to her beloved Treveryan.

But one sibling broke ranks, and their relationships, their lives, their world, fell apart.

I can’t say more that that.

But I can say that Treveryan is a wonderful story of a heroine and a house, with everything you could want in a gothic novel. A little slow to start, but the story soon hit its stride; it was over the top, but in a very good way.I didn’t always find Bethel sympathetic, but she was captivating, and I understood that she was what her life and her situation had made her.

I’m afraid that not all of the characters were so strong. And I could pick out other flaws. The dialogue is a little flat, writing is a little uneven, and there are times when the story lurches into melodrama. But I found more to love. Angela Du Maurier brought Cornwall to life, and I never for one moment doubted that she knew, loved and understood. The story was dramatic, it was emotional, and, for all that it was over the top, it rang true.

I’ve seen it suggested that the success of Rebecca inspired Treveryan, and maybe it did, but they are very different stories. And Treveryan has less in common with Rebecca than Rebecca has with Jane Eyre . Rebecca is the better book, but, for all that Treveryan has a similar setting, there is much more to set it apart. It harks back to a much older gothic tradition, and it really should be allowed to stand or fall on its own merits.

The final chapters are wonderfully unexpected and dramatic. There was an easy way out, and it is to Angela Du Maurier’s great credit that she didn’t take it.  Because the path that she took was quietly heart-breaking, but it was the right ending.

2 responses

  1. Thank you for this review, Jane. I only discovered the existence of a du Maurier sister a week or two ago and haven’t even added her to my overwhelming list yet. Talk about being overshadowed by a sibling! So I was really happy to find out a bit more about what she wrote and how you liked it!

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