Castle Dor

Castle Dor by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch and Daphne du Maurier is the first book I’ve read for the What’s In a Name 2 Challenge ( a book with a “building” in its title). It’s also been on my to-be-read list for at least a year. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch was born in Fowey, an English professor, writer and critic, the editor of The Oxford Book of English Verse (1900), who wrote under the pseudonym “Q”.

Although not as good as Rebecca it’s an interesting book, mainly because of its joint authorship and its retelling of the legend of the tragic lovers Tristan and Isolde. It was Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch’s last unfinished novel and Daphne took it over at the request of his daughter after his death. It came at a low point in her life and I think she struggled to complete the book. The first part (by Quiller-Couch) has a more mysterious, mystical and dreamlike atmosphere than the latter part which is written in a more straight forward and somewhat chatty style.

Place and time are fluid as events from the past are repeated in the present and the characters are held by something stronger than themselves, linking them inexorably to the past. The land itself, its history and above all the ancient earthworks at Castle Dor are central to the story. Castle Dor, an “ancient cirque, deserted, bramble-grown”, once a bastion “filled with men commanding this whole wilderness now grass mounds, sleeping under a quiet sky.”

There are different versions of the Tristan and Isolde legend and these are explored in the story by Dr Carfax and his patient Mr Tregentil. Set in Cornwall in the 1860s, Dr Carfax recognises the signs that Linnet and Amyot Trestane are unknowingly re-enacting the tragic events that befell Tristan and Isolde. He tries to to keep them apart but from the moment she heard his name and met him

… she had a strange sensation of something breaking out of the past to connect itself with something immediately to come.

And Linnet too late realises 

 … that bliss is transient, that nothing perfect lasts… 

4 thoughts on “Castle Dor”

  1. I read this one a couple of years ago thinking I would love it–I love the story of Tristan and Iseult and thought a retelling of it would be great. I didn’t enjoy it, however, and found myself slogging through it. I’ve enjoyed the other novels I’ve read by du Maurier, thouh (and Rebecca is a favorite of mine, too). Perhaps that low point in her life came through in her writing and and having a book started by one author and completed by another was just too jarring for me. I do need to read some of her other books this year, though.

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  2. Danielle, I’m glad it wasn’t only me who found it disappointing. After reading Castle Dor I had to re-read Rebecca to see if I still liked it – maybe my reading taste had changed – but no, Rebecca was still as good as when I first read it! I’m gong to read some more Du Maurier this year too.

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