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Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier

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Miss Moppet
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Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier

Post by Miss Moppet » Sat May 26th, 2012, 6:35 am

As she began work on this 1943 saga, du Maurier told her publisher, Victor Gollancz, that it would be 'endless, full of birth and death, and love and disaster.' Especially disaster. The story begins in 1820 as Copper John, patriarch of the Anglo-Irish Brodrick family, prepares to mine Hungry Hill for copper. Unfortunately, he neglects to ask permission of the hill first, and for the next hundred years, malevolent as Caradhras, it visits its vengeance on one generation of the family after another.

The book, while long by wartime standards - the first British edition has tiny print and incredibly narrow margins - isn't long enough for a chronicle of five generations. Successive family members are born and rapidly grow up only to be whisked from the scene by the latest catastrophe, which has often been telegraphed pages in advance. The men, apart from Copper John, are flawed and weak; the women are stronger, but overwhelmed by circumstances. By the beginning of part four I was wishing the Balrog would just come out of the mountain and put them all out of their misery.
However, this was exactly where the book started to pick up for me. Du Maurier's most powerful novels focus on a single drama played out among a small number of characters, and are written in the first person. Hungry Hill has a vast cast, a wide scope and third-person narration. Towards the end of the book, when the narrative concentrates on telling the story of the last days of the mine and of the impact of its closure on the community, it becomes much more compelling. This is a novel about decline and decay, a theme all too relevant to a twentieth-century readership who had lived through two world wars and the Great Depression and were about to witness the final days of the British Empire. It's not exactly an escapist read, but on the other hand it's not as good as it could have been. Like the mine itself, it's an ambitious undertaking which suffers from fluctuating fortunes and in the end, fails to pay off as richly as hoped.

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Madeleine
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Post by Madeleine » Sat May 26th, 2012, 11:06 am

I have this one on mount tbr, it was finally published a few years ago in the UK. Sounds like a worthwhile read, but suffering from "early book" syndrome ie a lesser known work when the author was still honing her skills.
Currently reading: "Fear on the Phantom Special" by Edward Marston.

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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Sat May 26th, 2012, 12:18 pm

Thanks Moppet. I can't believe how much of this I'd forgotten. I read this when I was inhaling every Du Maurier book I could get my hands on.
At home with a good book and the cat...
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Miss Moppet
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Post by Miss Moppet » Sun May 27th, 2012, 7:43 am

[quote=""Madeleine""]I have this one on mount tbr, it was finally published a few years ago in the UK. Sounds like a worthwhile read, but suffering from "early book" syndrome ie a lesser known work when the author was still honing her skills.[/quote]

It is definitely worth reading Madeleine. I'm glad it's back in print as for years it was OOP and I was disappointed that my Daphne du Maurier Companion (ed Helen Taylor), which has introduction to all the Virago reprints, didn't include Hungry Hill (because it wasn't yet republished). In fact my next task is to reserve a library copy of the new edition so I can read the introduction!

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Post by Vanessa » Sun May 27th, 2012, 2:50 pm

I have this on my TBR pile, too. Actually, I have all Daphne du Maurier's books on my shelves, some read and some not.
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

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