Monday, August 1, 2011

Hooked from the Start? Part Two: Daphne du Maurier

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." This is the first line of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, one of the most memorable of opening lines. I don't remember how old I was when I first read Rebecca--perhaps I read it in college or during my first year of teaching.

Rebecca is the most famous of du Maurier's books but the novel that stands out the most in my mind is The House on the Strand. According to Wikipedia it was considered as science fiction but to me, it was my first foray into time travel. The book mesmerized me.

And the first line: "The first thing I noticed was the clarity of the air, and then the sharp green colour of the land." No, the first line was not the reason I started reading the book. I read it because I loved du Maurier's books. But the time travel element hooked me and has been the greatest influence on a series of time travel novels of my own, which I'm writing now. I read the novel in the early 1970s and the aspect of time travel lived on in my sub-conscious. In subsequent time travel novels by other writers, the protagonist interacts with the people of the culture he/she is visiting. Not so in The House on the Strand. The male protagonist took a drug that transported him back in time to early 14th century England and he was an observer only except that as he followed one of the inhabitants of that time period, he traversed over 20th century terrain, not noticing where he was in reality. My time traveling protagonist will be an observer also but she won't be drugged. Her ability to go back to the past will come from something inherent inside her and from ancient relics that she touches.

Of all the novels I've read, The House on the Strand is the one that has influenced my way of thinking about time travel and how I want to write my own time travel novels.

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