In The House on the Strand, an historical novel meets a sci-fi novel.
The two don’t get along well.
Dick Young gladly accepts the offer of longtime friend’s Cornwall estate, Kilmarth, for his family for the summer. Dick and Magnus were in university together and remained close until Dick’s marriage.
Dick’s wife, Vita, disliked Magnus from their first meeting.
Magnus, an academic researcher, has secretly stumbled upon a drug that takes people back in time.
Magnus wants Dick to take it and report his findings.
The first dose transports Dick back the Kilmarth environs in the 14th century. Each time he takes a dose, he becomes more interested in the historical figures than in his own era.
When Magnus is found dead, apparently after attempting to commit suicide, the story twists to a halt.
Daphne du Maurier provides diagrams showing who married whom, but readers need a guide to who is sleeping with whom to make sense of the historical part of the book.
The 20th century portion makes more sense, but even though du Maurier has Dick narrate the story, both plots feel detached from him. Sadly, Du Maurier’s characters have no more personality than figures in someone else’s nightmare.
The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier
Doubleday, 1969. Book club edition, 308 pp. 1969 bestseller #10. My grade: C.