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The House on the Strand: 04/28/08
Daphne du Maurier wrote great beginnings and great endings but sometimes she got lost in the middle as she did with The House on the Strand. This novel comes late in her writing career in 1969, just before her collection of short stories, Don't Look Now.
Coming on the heels of A Traveller in Time I couldn't help but see similarities between the two books. Here, though, the reason is science, not magic. Biophysicist Magnus Lane has created a serum that when ingested allows one to experience the past. He convinces the narrator, Dick Young, to be his guinea pig although he does partake of the serum too from time to time.
At at time when LSD was part of the pop culture scene, it's easy to draw connections between the drug and the time travel formula that Dick and Magnus take. Just as LSD can cause flashbacks, Dick ultimately learns the true negative effects of the serum, first in the tragic death of his mentor and then in his own physical condition.
Frankly though, I found Dick's trips back to the 14th century rather dull. What kept me reading was not the fates of Roger and Isolda but the tension between Dick's attraction to Magnus and his duties to his American wife and her children from a previous marriage. Like in My Cousin Rachel (1951) there is a strong homosexual subtext that is ever present but rarely acknowledged, certainly not the with frankness of the stories in Don't Look Now.