Sunday, June 24, 2012

I'll Never Be Young Again by Daphne du Maurier - A guest review by Bree

I’ll Never Be Young Again is Daphne du Maurier’s second novel, first published in 1932. In the opening pages we are introduced to Richard (‘Dick’) the son of a great poet – perhaps one of the greatest literary voices of his time. A frustrated writer, by choice or design, Dick has fled the country home after a confrontation and is now perched on a bridge, intending to end it all. As he watches the passers-by, he hopes that one of them will save him, even constructing an elaborate fantasy of such a rescue. But then someone does save him.

And so Dick meets Jake, who will become one of, if not the most important person in his life. Jake convinces him that to end it would be unwise and together the two of them take passage on a ship. They pay for their passage by working, travelling to Oslo. When the ship goes into dry dock, Jake secures some horses and the two travel around Europe – by horse, by foot, by boat. It is on their way to France that tragedy strikes and Dick finds himself alone until he meets Hesta, a beautiful American studying music. In her, he thinks he has found everything that he needs in order to be who he thinks he is.

I’ll Never Be Young Again is du Maurier’s first attempt at male narrative voice and she creates quite a complex – and I must say, not entirely sympathetic – character in Dick. Whilst there are several moments that give the reader cause to feel for him and his situation, much of the story is spent portraying him in a rather unflattering light, especially during the time of his relationship with Hesta. Their relationship seems progressive for an Englishman of his time, even one living abroad, as he and Hesta live together without marrying – with Dick expressing absolutely no desire to marry or have children, stating that would ruin everything. However their relationship seems a power struggle, each attempting to have the upper hand by either bullying or cajoling the other into what they want. It’s a back and forth of assertiveness and apologies.

What interested me significantly more was the relationship between Dick and his rescuer Jake. What seems like just a good Samaritan doing a nice thing suddenly becomes more as Dick latches onto him and Jake sees no reason for Dick not to. They spend so much time together, it’s like Dick views Jake as a surrogate father, or perhaps the father he wished he’d had, following him wherever. Jake’s shady past is glossed over rather romantically and Dick barely turns a hair at this when you’d expect more questions to be raised. Jake is also a man of very few words, which makes his motivations and actually his whole character difficult to really understand and assess. He is strangely tolerant of Dick’s immaturities and the bad decisions he makes, always in the background patiently waiting for him to come to his senses. I would’ve thought that Dick’s time spent with Jake would’ve helped him mature and become a man but the way in which his relationship with Hesta went proves that primarily Dick remained self-absorbed and also self-indulgent, wilfully blind and uncaring of Hesta’s thoughts and feelings, actions which end up coming back on him late in the novel.

The only other du Maurier book I’ve read is Rebecca and this one definitely did not resonate with me as much as that one did. However this does contain some clever writing and some very complex characterisation and I was very impressed with how du Maurier nailed the male narrative. I may not have always liked Dick, but I certainly found him very convincing! I did find this very interesting and it has made me more determined to read more of her work because she’s an author that I have woefully neglected so far.


You can find Bree blogging at All the Books I Can Read. Thanks for guest reviewing for us Bree!


  1. I'd forgotten about this one. Du Maurier is very good with the male voice, I think she uses that in House of the Strand and The Scapegoat.

    1. I'll definitely have to give those 2 a go. I really enjoyed the way in which she used the male voice here. Thanks!

  2. This is another du Maurier book I have never really heard anything about.

  3. New to me as well and I thought I had read all her books!

  4. I'm not familiar with all Daphne du Maurier's works so this one was new to me. I enjoyed your thorough and thoughtful review.


  5. Isn't the key twist in this book the way Dick finds that, having encouraged Hesta to become a sexual being (for him!), he's not so keen when Hesta becomes a party animal who likes sex for its own sake? That's quite an insight for a 23 year old writing in 1928.