One of my Christmas gifts to myself was a boxed set of Daphne du Maurier novels. I started with the cheerlessly titled I'll never be young again. It was her scond novel and written hen she was only 23. Written in the first person, it is the account of the self-absorption and depression of the son of the nation's greatest poet. The narrator is extremely unappealing and the novel barely sustained my interest in the first, somewhat derivative half of the novel. The writing really begins to shine in the second half with the account of the hero's relationship with an America musician in Paris. I was constantly aware of the writer's youth as I read it, given that I plan to read a consecutive selection of her novels, and the second half had a much more mature, sure-footed style.
Then I read Julius which was infinitely more engaging and reminded me of both M R Lovric (currently my favourite historical novelist) and Patrick Suskind. It is a riveting and colourful account of the rise and sinister rise of a half French, half Jewish entrepreneur, his cruelly impoverished childhood during the Franco-Prussian wars, his adolescence in Algeria and his rise to power and massive wealth in England. The settings are richly observed and the pace as energetic as that of the fascinatingly repellent hero the novel depicts. The character of his daughter is like a preliminary sketch for the first Mrs de Winter in Rebecca. This second novel seems much less dated than the first I read, with only the Orientalist references to race and skin and the rather clumsy use of the term 'psychological' to give it away.