Hungry Hill doesn’t dig deep enough

Abandoned mine shaft on Cornall coast
Abandoned mine shaft

Hungry Hill is a novel book jackets refer to as a “sweeping saga.”

It’s what I call a stupendous bore.

In 1820, John Brodrick opens a copper mine at Hungry Hill near Doonhaven.  A  local man resentful of English takeover of Irish land, predicts the Brodericks and their estate will come to ruin. Daphne du Maurier spends the rest of the book showing the prediction come true.

Each succeeding generation of Brodericks  is more foolish than the last.  By 1920, there’s nothing left but chimney stacks and regrets.

Du Maurier fails to do more than just sketch characters and settings. The Dame tells us what we’re supposed to see, but it’s like looking for pictures in clouds. The facts are so flimsy, we can see any projection we wish.

The story line is equally superficial. We’ve seen all these plots before: The loving wife dying in childbirth, the mine-owner falling down his own mine shaft. The whole novel gives the impression of paper dolls manipulated by a child mouthing lines from her storybooks.

When John Henry realizes that he, like all the Brodricks, cares for nothing but his own comfort, it’s too late to do any good for the family or for du Maurier’s poor readers.

Hungry Hill
By Daphne du Mauier
Doubleday, Doran  1943
402 pages
1943 bestseller # 8
My grade: C-

Photo credit: Cornish tin mine by dubock

© 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda Aragoni

I read. I write. I think. I make big ideas simple. I help teachers teach expository writing to teens and adults. In my free time, I read and review old novels.

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