The Loving Spirit

Rating: 0

Daphne du Maurier

The Loving Spirit is the story of many generations of a family of shipbuilders and sailors in England. The story begins with a young woman named Janet who is drawn to the sea but, because she is a woman, can't fulfill her dream to travel, have adventures, and find a passionate love - the combination of these traits are what du Maurier calls "the loving spirit" in Janet. Instead, Janet marries a prominent ship builder in her town and has many children, including one son who shares "the loving spirit". This spirit is passed down to two children in each generation until finally two of Janet's descendents, both inheriting the loving spirit from her, meet and fall in love and acquire everything in life that Janet couldn't have. Along the way, hardships and loses hurt the family but they struggle along supporting each other, even if they don't all have Janet's "loving spirit".

I found the story of the family as a whole and their efforts to adapt to war, a decrease in demand for wooden ships, and urbanization of their surroundings much more interesting than the quest of "the loving spirit" to find fulfillment. One of Janet's grandchildren runs away to London and we get to see him trying to reconcile his provincial values with the shallow, liberal behavior of the city. Janet and her chosen descendents could be very selfish at times without much justification, but their family for the most part stood by them. Janet hated that she couldn't go to sea because she was a woman, but she did manage to marry a good man and have a great deal of autonomy in her family, as compared to most of her sisters and female children.

Janet's relationship with her son was also slightly disturbing - they loved each other both as mother and son and as the embodiment of perfect male and female love. The later eventually overshadowed the former, and strong incestuous overtones came out. Because du Maurier wanted Janet to act as the mother to a new "loving race", some of the early "loving" characters would be closely related by necessity, but this relationship wasn't appealingly romantic.

The Loving Spirit ends up being more of a typical romance novel than du Maurier's more famous book, Rebecca. While the former retains the credible writing and intricate plot of the later, there was too much attempt to build on the mythology of "the loving spirit" which didn't end up being compelling. It is not a bad book, and is certainly better than any mass produced romance novel I've read. but I don't really recommend it. A weak '0'.


Review written July 2001.


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