Daphne du Maurier’s The Glass-Blowers gives much to applaud but also much to mourn.
Despite her father’s warning, “If you marry into glass, you will say good-bye to everything familiar, and enter a closed world,” Magdaleine Labbé marries Mathurin Busson.
Refusing to be just wife and mother, she carves out role in business and as community social worker among the isolated community of glass blowers.
The eldest of her children, Robert, though a skilled glass worker, prefers to live by wits and charm in the orbit around Royalty. His brothers and sisters are more interested in keeping warm and fed.
When the monarchy falls, the family is divided as well. And they are sucked into the Civil War that followed hard on the heels of crop failure and the French Revolution.
After setting readers up for a tale more creepy than Rebecca, du Maurier fails to follow through. Magdaline’s adjustment to life deep in the forest is sketched in a few sentences.
Much of the story’s events arise from the fallout of national politics on rural France, a topic that rarely appears in most historical fiction.
Yet even French history from revolution to Napoleon back to monarchy again is subjugated to the story of the opportunistic Robert. That story could have been set in any era.The Glass-Blowers By Daphne du Maurier Doubleday, 1963 348 pages 1963 bestseller #8
Photo credits: du Maurier photo from dust jacket of The Glass Blowers, above left; Abres 3 by CalCent, above right.