The King's General

It's cold. I have hot cocoa to warm my hands, but my other hand holding the book is still freezing. Never mind, I still have to read. Why? Because I'm re-reading The King's General! It is one of Daphne's less popular books but I find the story irresistible. A historical novel set in the time of England's Civil War, it contains many real life characters.

Honor Harris has a vivid recollection of meeting her brother's wife Gartred Grenvile. Even at the young age of 10, she is able to see behind Gartred's mask. Everyone has fallen victim to her beauty and charm, but not Honor. In her childish way, she mistrusts Gertrude. After her brothers death, Honor thankfully believes that she has seen the last of the 'Grenviles'. Never was she more wrong. The Grenviles and the Harrises are to play further roles in each others life for decades to come.

At eighteen, Honor Harris and Gartred Grenvile's brother Richard Grenvile fall in love. Whether their love is consummated we never know. What we do know is that they never marry; they are torn apart only to meet years later. Yet their love endures. Richard Grenvile is now Sir Richard Grenvile: the King's most trusted general. The King has fallen and soon Oliver Cromwell is in reign, but Richard will do anything to protect his King.

The love story between Richard and Honor is anything but conventional. At times, I was left wondering how their love, not only survived, but strengthened over the years. What was the magnetic quality that drew them towards each other. Richard is anything but a gentle lover. He is cruel and ruthless; so much in fact that Honor fears he will lose what influence he has with the King and his trusted men. I never thought I could ever love a novel which did not end happily. The King's General proved how wrong I was.

The novel takes place mostly in 'Menabilly', an estate owned by the Rashleighs. The house is the one on which she based her descriptions of Manderley in the novel Rebecca. Daphne had always been fascinated by the house and the legend of the bones found in the buttress. With a little bit of imagination and some history, she fashions a love story that you almost believe is true - or at least wish it to be so.

I felt that this book was different from Daphne du Maurier's other novels because the narrator, Honor Harris, is a strong young woman who has no qualms about who she is. She has a confidence and maturity, even at eighteen, that is lacking in some of her other narrators. She reminds me a little of Mary Yellen, the protagonist in Jamaica Inn. Her realistic and matter of fact attitude is refreshing after the uncertainty and under-confidence of the narrators in I'll Never be Young Again, My Cousin Rachel and even a little in Rebecca (you know it's true). Unlike them, Honor has always known her mind and what she intends to do. Her strength is what gets her through her.....let's just say 'sorrows' , and what allows her to let the man she loves go.

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