Castle Dor, Arthur Quiller-Couch and Daphne du Maurier, Little Brown and Company, 1961, 288 pp
I don't recall how I first heard about Castle Dor. I think it was reviewed by one of my Goodreads friends. Since I am doing a completist reading of du Maurier's novels, I added it to my list.
Castle Dor was an incomplete novel by the very literary and august (according to my research) Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. He died before finishing it. The du Mauriers were friends of Quiller-Couch so his daughter asked Daphne du Maurier to take over and write the rest of the book.
The story is based on the Celtic myth of Tristan and Iseult. Even I, who have only dabbled in mythology, know that tragic story of star-crossed lovers. In this version, which is set in the early 1840s near the Fowey River in the Cornish countryside, certain individuals unknowingly play the parts of the main characters in the legend.
The setting and the slipstream notion of people reliving a story from centuries earlier was the idea of Quiller-Couch. In the prologue he imparts the imaginations of a local doctor who spends the night waiting on a birth by standing on the ancient earthwork of a ruined Castle Dor and begins to fancy that he can perceive the sorrowful tale of those who lived there far in the past.
I loved the concept: "All England is a palimsest of such (quarrel, ancient feud, litigation), scored over with writ of hate and love, begettings of children beneath the hazels, appeals, curses, concealed travails." I was however challenged by the original author's rather florid and wordy style.
In several reviews readers have claimed that the continuation of the writing by du Maurier is seamless. I could tell right away when she took over, partly I suppose because I am familiar with her voice. Suddenly about a third of the way through I could read smoothly and easily without having to reread almost every sentence several times.
Then the book became a pageturner though it never lost that time travel essence. I ended up loving it and feeling as sad as if I hadn't know the lovers were doomed. I admired the skill with which she and Quiller-Couch placed the elements of the legend into the realities of life in the 1840s.
I am glad I read it.
(Castle Dor is available as an ebook by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)