The House on the Strand.

by Daphne du Maurier

Hardcover, 1969

Call number




Doubleday (1969), 308 pages


Richard Young needs a change of scene. Though the Cornish town remains familiar, Richard finds himself flung back to the 14th century.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Misfit
"We are all bound, one to the other, through time and eternity". While vacationing at the Cornwall home of old chum Magnus, Richard Young is convinced to act as guinea pig for his friend's latest experiment - a drug that enables the mind to travel into the past - although the body stays in the
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present. Richard's "trips" take him to the 14C where he is soon so wrapped up in the past that it becomes as addictive to him as a drug - or is it the drug itself that is addictive? Are the lives of those in the past so much more important that his wife and step-sons become a hindrance to his journeys? Did these people really exist or do they only exist in Richard's mind? Although Richard's mind is in the 14C while on the drug, his body is not and as he walks in the footsteps of those in the past it leads him into some very close calls when his mind returns to the present. He could be standing anywhere - the middle of a road, on private property or in the path of an oncoming.......

Nope, I'm not telling and to say much more gives the whole thing away - half the fun is the guessing and unexpected twists in the story. Although the segments in the 14C were well written they were a bit confusing to me at times, but don't spend too much time trying to sort those relationships out. IMO they were mostly background and the main focus were the parts in the present day. Du Maurier is superb and understated as always, and this one will definitely leave you guessing all the way to the very last page and beyond.
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LibraryThing member justabookreader
Time travel and the 14th Century…what more can one want in a book? OK, a lot more, but let’s go with these two as the starter for this one.

Richard Young is staying at his friend Magnus Lane’s home in the English countryside. Magnus is a chemical researcher at the University of London and has
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concocted a drink, that when taken, will transport a person to the 14th Century. The one catch is that the traveler cannot touch any person while on the trip or they will be instantly hurled back to the present rather painfully. Richard, while waiting for his wife and step-sons to arrive, agrees to take the potion and report back to Magnus with the results. The potion has the same affect on Richard as Magnus and they compare their trips to the past observing the daily lives of the people who used to live in the same area where Magnus’s house is. Richard becomes fascinated with the past so much so that he keeps returning to see one particular woman that he has become obsessed with. His sense of reality takes a turn and he starts to have trouble deciphering the past and the present which frightens him but not enough to stop him from taking what is left of the potion like some madman believing he can change the outcome of the past. The results of his actions make the present a terrifying place for both Richard and his family.

Time travel in books can sometimes go bad but Du Maurier does something that makes it work --- she makes it unbelievable. That might sound odd but stick with me. For a good portion of the book, Richard isn’t sure what he’s seeing and he isn’t sure he should believe it. When he starts to believe, things go off track in his life making him wonder if what he thinks he believes is true. Even when some historical research proves that the people he saw and observed on his trips were real, he still isn’t sure what to think or believe. Life becomes difficult for him on so many levels and it seems as if you’re watching a man on the brink of madness. How Du Maurier does this is fascinating and makes the whole idea of time travel so fantastical and terrifying at the same time.

Richard was not a person I liked at first. I didn’t dislike him either but he’s a selfish person and one who doesn’t seem to think, or care, much for his family which is truly annoying. Magnus however was a character I would have liked more of. His ambiguity makes it work though because you get back to the idea of Richard slowly falling into the depths of madness without Magnus around.

There is so much to like about this book. The fantasy element is done well, and even though you’re not sure if it truly exists outside of Richard’s mind, it works and is believable. There are rules and consequences to the time travel and I like that. A free system wouldn’t work here and Du Maurier creates a system that fits perfectly within the confines of the story. The characters all have some sort of flaw that makes even the annoying ones likable, to a degree. You do in the end sympathize with everyone which I wasn’t prepared to do half way through the book.

I will be adding more of Du Maurier’s books to my list. Her writing is wonderfully descriptive and at the same time sparse, as if she’s giving you time to ingest it all.
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LibraryThing member NinieB
If I could give this book six stars I would. Fabulous time-travel fiction. I have probably read it six times in my life and will read it again regularly.
LibraryThing member lostinavalonOR
"At a crossroads in his life, Dick Young agrees to experiment with a new drug his friend Magnus is developing---a drug that offers him an extraordinary escape route from his own unsatisfactory world. Transported to the fourteenth century, Dick witnesses the vivid life of the Cornish manor of
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Tywardreath: its intrigues, adulteries, and violent deaths seen through the eyes of the strangely compelling Roger. Increasingly obsessed by Roger and the magnetic Isolda Carminowe, he resents more and more the time he must spend in the modern world... Despite Magnus's warnings and the shocking example of the tragedy, Dick escapes more often and more recklessly into this other reality---and, in a final, defiant risk, throws his whole life into the balance."

Though I absolutely LOVED this story, it didn't turn out at all how I'd hoped! Du Maurier is one of my very favorite authors and this book combines the greatness of her Cornish tales with exciting historical England and a great time travel story. I will definitely keep it in my permanent collection. Read below for more...but beware, spoilers ahead!

***spoilers ahead!!***

I was really hoping that Dick really was being transported---that it wasn't all in his mind. I wanted his final "trip" to be one where he was able to stay forever and interact with the people of the past and they with him. I hoped that bottle C was the experimental drug that would allow that to happen and was so very disappointed to find out that it was all just in his head after all! I later read a biography of Du Maurier that discussed the places in this book as being significant to her in her actual life. Interesting!
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LibraryThing member nglofile_reads_2008
I'm struck by how much more I liked this book upon a second reading. It's even more surprising given the lack of truly empathetic characters.

The story and structure are well-executed, and I suppose it is additional research and study that has helped me to appreciate the writing so much more.
LibraryThing member Gwendydd
I found this book rather disappointing. The premise is really fascinating: the main character travels in time by taking a drug that unlocks a sort of collective memory in his brain, and he hallucinates about events in the 14th century. I really like this idea of time travel, and the complications
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it causes: he moves around in the contemporary world while he hallucinates about the 14th century, so he will be suddenly jarred into the present when he bumps into a modern building or almost gets hit by a car.

But this isn't really a book about time travel. It's a book about drug addiction. The narrator enjoys his time travel, despite some of the horrible physical side-effects. He behaves like a typical drug addict: he lies to his wife, is very secretive about his activities, is very jealous of his opportunities to take the drug, and spends all of his time looking forward to his next trip. He eventually endangers his family, and continues to endanger himself despite the obvious risks involved.

The medieval storyline isn't very interesting - not much happens, and there is nothing particularly compelling about any of the medieval characters (although one of the reasons the narrator keeps traveling to the past is that he has a crush on one of the medieval women). There is decent closure to the medieval storyline, but the focus of the book is really the narrator's drug addiction and its dangerous effects. Unfortunately, it's hard to sympathize with his addiction: he is so obviously destructive to himself and his family, and the medieval storyline hardly seems worth the risk.
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LibraryThing member Bookmarque
I’ve read these sorts of time traveling novels before, but this one was better than most. The detail of the lives of the people in the past were very compelling. In a footnote, it was said that du Maurier researched some actual people who had lived in her village in Cornwall and that is probably
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why it seemed more real than other books. As a matter of fact, I’m reading a new novel that takes place 20 years after Rebecca’s death and some of the same family names are appearing in that book as are used in this one.

The relationship that Richard has with the professor who created the drink is weird. The professor is gay, apparently, and Richard is very lately married to a widow with 2 boys. The professor has come up with an elixir that supposedly taps into brain chemistry that houses racial memory. I couldn’t quite figure out if it would work no matter where you were physically, or if like in another book, you needed to be in a place or near an object that was very old and you would go back to see it in former times. And to what time? That was unclear also. Why were the professor and Richard taken back to 1360 or so instead of 1720 or 1566? Was it the beginning of the town and the buildings life or what? Or was it arbitrary? If it was, why did they both go to the same time? Why did they witness different events? I don’t think that either of them were related to the people from the past, so why did they have memories of them? Very strange. But it was intriguing.

I couldn’t stand his wife. She was a pill. Of course he couldn’t explain his weird behavior and she immediately thought it was some other woman. Then she thought the professor had got him into something and she was still pissed even when he was killed (while wandering through the countryside in the other time, he was hit by a train) and left the house to Richard, she still held a grudge. I was happy when he broke with her and stayed in the house alone. But then he had run out of elixir. He had come to the end of certain events in the past and was satisfied, but then at the end, his hand got all wavery and he was going in and out of the other time (or so I conjecture) without the elixir. I kind of didn’t get if that’s what the last sentence was supposed to mean or not.
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LibraryThing member sturlington
The House on the Strand is a historical-time travel mystery by Daphne du Maurier. Dick, a disillusioned book publisher with a shaky marriage goes to his friend's house in Cornwall for summer holiday. The friend is a research scientist who persuades Dick to take an experimental drug, with the effect
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of transporting him back to the 14th century, where, as an onlooker, he becomes passionately involved in the lives of the people he observes. The mystery is not so much whodunnit, but what's going on here? Although there is murder and plotting going on as well. An unusual book, The House on the Strand did not end the way I expected it to, and the ambiguous ending still has me puzzling.

As a side note, I think this would make a terrific movie.

Read in August 2014 for the MysteryCAT challenge.
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LibraryThing member leslie.98
An interesting plot, well-written but for some reason the narrator didn't ring true to me. Something about his narrative seemed feminine and I had to keep reminding myself that it was a man speaking. It also seemed a bit unbelievable that he didn't seem to worry about the risks he was taking
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wandering about with no awareness of the present-day conditions - even after his friend is killed and he is almost killed himself!

I did appreciate the deliberate ambiguity of the ending - we are left to decide for ourselves whether Dick has been time-travelling or just hallucinating.
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LibraryThing member ejj1955
I read this many years ago but was pleasantly surprised to find how well it stood up, I thought, after all this time. Interesting story of a man who takes a drug developed by a friend; the effect of the drug is to take him back to the 14th century, where he can observe events without being seen.
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This world becomes more real to him than his own life, and he's annoyed when his wife and stepsons join him.
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LibraryThing member sarbow
Time travel - with a twist! Rather than the typical story, where a historic character gets transported to the modern world, (or vise versa)...this one involves a drug that makes the user see what's A happened in the past, while he is still physically in the present. There are complications to this
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version of time travel too! Well worth a read!
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LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
Dick Young and his old college chum (and biophysicist), Magnus Lane, are working on a potion that can send a person back in time. Their potion is in the planning stages and when we first meet Dick he has just tried to time-travel for the first time. His trip is successful and he finds himself in
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the 14th century. The travel itself is more mental than physical. While Dick's physical body stays in the 20th century it's his mind that is actively in the 14th century. This explains why Dick can walk, as if a ghost, thru the past undetected. Unhappy with his 20th century life - married to a woman with two boys from a previous relationship, Dick finds himself traveling back to the 14th century recklessly. It becomes an addiction to stay "connected" to the people of the time, particularly an attractive woman named Isolda. The story ends in tragedy, as it only could. Because it hasn't been researched properly, the drug gets the best of Dick and Magnus in the startling conclusion of House on the Strand.
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LibraryThing member murraymint11
The concept was intriguing, but the chapters in which the narrator went back to the 1300's were pretty boring. I simply did not care what was going on with those characters. Lord So-and-So was cheating on Lady Whoever etc. etc. It was difficult to track the relationships. The thing that kept me
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reading was the sub-plot set in the narrator's real life. The increasing tension between the narrator and his wife, and his increasing addiction to the time travel drug, were well written.
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LibraryThing member curlycurrie
As usual Daphne does not let me down. This is a timeless story that could have been written this year, not in the late 1960s.

The story is of a time travelling potion which allows the main character to travel back in time to visit his local area. The two times blurr for the character with profound
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The story was intriguing and ingenious. Well worth a visit.
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LibraryThing member anneearney
It took me a long time to get into this book, but I'm not sure why. The main character takes a drug that causes him to hallucinate that the is seeing what happened six hundred years before and he becomes more interested in these people than in what is going on in his current life. From there, it's
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a struggle between the past and the present for his attention. About halfway through the book, I found the past story more interesting as well and from then on it was a good read.
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LibraryThing member john257hopper
A fascinating story about time travel under the influence of drugs between 1960s Cornwall and early 14th century in the same places, greatly changed over the intervening centuries. The narrator becomes more and more involved in 14th century life, finally getting confused between details and
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personalities in that century and his own. It has some shocking consequences, especially the implied final event. Very good, with some of the same air of mystery as Rebecca, albeit very different in many respects. Only slight criticisms are that the characters are a bit cliched and some of the description of the landscape drags a bit. But the author clearly loved her Cornwall.
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LibraryThing member Meredy
Six-word review: Time traveler becomes addicted to past.

Extended review:

From the perspective of decades, du Maurier's 1969 novel about a secret drug that transports the user to a hypnotically attractive other world seems to be a cautionary comment on the tune-in-turn-on-drop-out culture of the
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I don't know enough about du Maurier and her social environment to know if she'd have been moved to deliver a warning about the seductive dangers of inhabiting an alternate life through the use of mind-altering substances. What is more likely, perhaps, is that the author was exploring once again the experience of a relatively innocent protagonist plunging into a life of someone else's creation and struggling to find his or her way in it. This is a theme I recall from both Rebecca and The Scapegoat, the only other two novels I've read by this author.

Unfortunately for me, I found the world of the novelist's creation even more disorienting than did her character, Richard Young. The fourteenth-century setting created by du Maurier and intermittently visited by the disembodied presence of her twentieth-century protagonist is fraught with unnecessary navigational difficulties. I'm always a little wary of a novel that includes a multigenerational family tree in its frontmatter. In the present case, I stuck a Post-it on the chart and referred to it many times, sometimes repeatedly in the course of reading a single page, and I still couldn't keep the characters straight. Not only are there two unusual three-syllable surnames beginning with C (Champernoune, Carminowe) and two important secondary characters beginning with O (Otto, Oliver), there are three Joannas and three Henrys. I'm afraid the amount of blurring caused by this much visual confusion detracted considerably from my enjoyment of the story.

It seems, indeed, that the author was a little confused herself at times. One clear entry in the genealogy, for instance, shows a family with a son named William and his two siblings. In the text we are told that the family consists of two boys and a girl; moreover, the younger two are referred to as William's brother and sister. And yet the chart shows the three as William, Elizabeth, and Katherine.

I also had some trouble tracking the geography and topology. In the immediate and historic vicinities we have Tywardreath, Treverran, Trenadlyn, Trevenna, Trelawn, Trefengy, Tregest, and Treesmill. So many of the comings and goings sounded just alike that I pretty much gave up trying to hold the locations and relationships in my head.

Further complicating the chronologic movements of Richard Young was the fact that different sensations accompanied his leaps in time--sometimes a smooth transition, sometimes a jarring and even sickening jolt--and I thought we were supposed to perceive or at least look for a pattern in these effects. If they had any significance, however, it was never explained, so I was paying attention to an element that was given emphasis without meaning.

And finally, the aspect that was probably the most unsettling to me was not spatial or temporal but emotional. Richard Young struck me as a pretty cold-blooded character. Despite his protestations of affection, he seemed to feel no particular warmth for his wife and not much for his two stepsons. He clearly disliked his wife's best friends. And he didn't even seem to have much of a reaction to the loss of an important relationship; his main concerns seemed to be pragmatic. Consequently I found it hard to believe that his supposed romantic attachment to one of the fourteenth-century women was anything more than a one-sided physical attraction to a woman whose chief allure was unattainability.

In sum, what promised to be a suspenseful yarn featuring a trippy Jekyll-and-Hyde magic potion and depicting the sinister side of addictive hallucinogens was instead a sort of narrative muddle that led me on to a disappointingly unresolved ending. I usually enjoy time-travel tales, no matter how implausible, but this one was simply unsatisfying.
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LibraryThing member bookaholixanon
An incredible book! Historical fiction and time travel, with a poignant personal narrative surrounding the main protagonist tying the two together. Has du Maurier ever written anything else like this? I ask because I've not read very much of her other work, and so it's quite possible that long-time
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fans of Daphne du Maurier will simply hate this book. Seems inconceivable to me, but I mention the possibility just so as not to raise expectations unduly. I would think that if nothing else, it's worth reading even for du Maurier aficionados just as a change of pace, and just to see how (well) she handles this (these) different form(s).
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LibraryThing member ghr4
Set in the atmospheric landscape of Cornwall, "The House on the Strand" concerns a young man's experiments with hallucinogenic drugs and resulting "time travel" back to mysterious characters and events in the 14th century. Set in the 1960's, our protagonist, Dick Young, becomes increasingly drawn
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(perhaps "addicted" might be more accurate) to the past, which he finds far more interesting than his current life with his wife Vita and young stepsons. Daphne du Maurier, a skilled hand at suspense, has crafted a compelling story with keen psychological insights. The characters are well-developed, particularly Dick and Vita, whose banter and interactions realistically reflect martial tension and conflict. I will confess that I generally found the chapters concerning the 14th century events quite baffling in their complexity, and the numerous similar-sounding characters and place names equally exasperating. Consequently, I merely skimmed those sections; but Dick's subsequent recaps in the present day adequately summarize all the reader needs to know. The open-ended surprise twist perfectly caps the tale.
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LibraryThing member thesmellofbooks
I love this book!
LibraryThing member lydia1879
This is a terrible cover, but this is probably my favourite book by Daphne du Maurier so far.

The plot is about a guy who travels to his friend's old manor house and takes a drug that allows him to travel back in time to medieval France, or something similar. This novel is about his obsession with
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that time, with the drug, and how his own faults and flaws affect his family.

I adore this book. It's powerful, it's incredibly well-crafted and it has an incredible ending. du Maurier's writing is incredibly atmospheric, as always. The environment is a character, the house is a character and an incredible feature in the novel.

I really like the relationship between the two male friends - it's complicated, it's layered, there's a little bit of tension, too.

I loved the texture in this novel, I love how easily and seamlessly du Maurier creates tension. If you like suspenseful, nouveau gothic literature with a touch of homoerotic tension, The House on the Strand is the book for you. c:
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LibraryThing member mms
First read when I was all of 12, I still love the imagination that sparks this book.
LibraryThing member PetreaBurchard
With DuMaurier, you don't realize until it's too late--you're being enchanted. It's been a long time since I read a book I couldn't put down, but this was it. It wasn't the characters so much but the place, the atmosphere of it I kept wanting to return to. And DuMaurier's pacing is expert. I loved
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"The House on the Strand."
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LibraryThing member mirikayla
Don't really know if this qualifies as science fiction, but there's time travel, so I'm going to count it. I found it strangely addicting, much like the protagonist's own journey, even though parts were a little slow due to over-description. The setting is very different, but you can tell she's the
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same person who wrote Rebecca. Which is also a book I love.
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LibraryThing member CollectorOfAshes
I read this novel some time ago, and it has to rank as one of the most boring implementations of time-travel in all of fiction. First, the main character doesn't go anywhere. He just "sees" the past while still in the present; this eventually ends up as you might expect. Second, nothing really
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interesting happens in the past. Third, the relations between the past and the present are not interesting, either. The story just meanders on, showing the main character becoming increasingly obsessed with a past that means little to the reader. And the ending -- geez -- you can see it coming a mile away. I'd never read Du Mare and this book convinced me that he was a writer of singularly uninteresting, unemotional prose. But if you need to get to sleep, this is your book.
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