Nightjar
  • Paul Jameson

'Rule Britannia' by Daphne Du Maurier

I really enjoyed this.

Perhaps it was Du Maurier's 1930s voice in a 1970s setting that I loved. The eccentricity of the writing, of Mad and her boys, Cornwall itself. And then there was the context of today; it might have been painting our current political landscape, and that made me give an ironic laugh. Quite a few ironic laughs to be fair, and shake my head in despair at times; such is the uselessness of politics and politicians, bearing in mind this was written a good fifty years ago. Indeed, there was a referendum, a coalition government, the withdrawal of Britain from Europe; a financial crash, the threat of nuclear weapons, and all set against the peaceful backdrop of a takeover by a friendly big brother (the US) to create a puppet state. I might have been reading tomorrow's papers. (Here comes Donald Trump) And so I did find myself chuckling constantly.


That said, I can see why some people might not like 'Rule Brittania'. Du Maurier's characters are larger than life caricatures, all eccentric beyond reckoning. A drama queen (quite literally), her dresser, a straight-laced, pompous son and six adopted boys - a shout-out to JM Barrie's eternal 'Lost Boys' - and with all of them watched over and cared for by a demure granddaughter (and there be Wendy). So it is, using this strange family as the central stage, the US 'invade' the UK, peaceably by by force. Its troops, ever friendly, meet with the stubborn locals of Cornwall and a close-knit community that was (and still very much is in places) Little England.


And Little England, does not like it!


A nation of shopkeepers, as Napoleon whispered, unites; farmers and doctors together as military might is snubbed and murder committed. But is it truly murder in such circumstance? And of course murder does lead to...


Escalation! Personally I thought it a great story, quite crazed and typical of Du Maurier's dark mind. I certainly didn't see the end coming until the end, and that's never a bad thing. What one couldn't get past though, despite the crazy setting and characters, is Du Maurier's uncanny reading of the political future. Her mind was always thus. If you fancy and easy read by a classic author, then this is it. Good fun!

 

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