Review: I’ll Never Be Young Again by Daphne du Maurier

I’ll Never Be Young Again was Daphne du Maurier’s second novel, written when she was only twenty three years old. It’s different from the other books of hers that I’ve read so far. It doesn’t have the suspense or the gothic feel of some of her other works – this is more of a psychological, character-driven book. It’s the story of Richard, a young man who has grown up in the shadow of his famous father, and his struggle to find his own identity. I’m not really a fan of ‘coming-of-age’ novels, but I’m glad I chose to read this one. It certainly seems to be one of her least well known novels –  and I was concerned that this might mean it wasn’t very good. Well, I can tell you that it is good and I enjoyed it a lot more than I was expecting to.

The book opens with Richard – or Dick as he prefers to call himself – standing on a bridge, preparing to jump. Immediately the reader is intrigued, wondering what has happened to drive him to suicide.  At the last minute Dick feels a hand on his shoulder – this is Jake, a complete stranger who saves his life and becomes his closest friend. The first half of the book follows the adventures of Dick and Jake as they leave England and sail to Scandinavia together in search of a new life. The second half is the story of Dick’s relationship with Hesta, a girl he meets in Paris.

The whole book is written in the first person from Dick’s perspective, which is significant as it was apparently the first time Daphne du Maurier wrote from a man’s point of view – and I thought she captured the male voice perfectly. The only problem I had was that I just didn’t like Dick very much. I found his immaturity and whining very irritating – although I understood that the point of the book was to follow his development from an insecure, selfish youth into a sensible, mature adult. Eventually he does begin to grow up and want different things out of life, but this comes too late in the book for me to be able to warm to him. However, the book is so well-written I could still enjoy it even with such an unsympathetic narrator. Her writing is absolutely beautiful and quite dreamlike, as she lets us get right inside Dick’s head and share his thoughts and emotions. There are also some vivid descriptions of the mountains and fjords of Norway and the other places that the characters visit, particularly Paris with its cafés and boulevards.

This would probably not be the best Daphne du Maurier book for a newcomer to begin with, but it’s a good choice for someone who wants to venture away from Rebecca and read one of her less popular novels. A word of warning, though – if you’re going to read the Virago Modern Classics edition, leave the introduction until last as it gives away the entire plot, including the ending (this is good advice with any book – I’ve learned from experience never to read the introduction first).

This is my first book for the Daphne du Maurier Challenge hosted by Chris at Book-a-rama. I wasn’t planning to take part in this challenge until I discovered my local library had almost all of her books. I’m looking forward to reading some more of her work during the next year, as there are still a lot of her books I haven’t read yet. This book also counts towards the 1930s challenge as it was a contemporary novel published in 1932 and set in 1930s Europe – and also the Typically British challenge.

Pages: 304/Publisher: Virago Press (Virago Modern Classics 515)/Year: 2005 (originally published 1932)/Source: Library book

16 thoughts on “Review: I’ll Never Be Young Again by Daphne du Maurier

  1. Aarti says:

    I must admit the title of this book is a bit dramatic for me, especially when you say the main character is irritating! I haven’t read Du Maurier before, but I really hope to some time- she seems universally liked.

    • Helen (She Reads Novels) says:

      Yes, Dick is high on my list of irritating characters! I hope you’ll have the chance to read some of Daphne du Maurier’s books sometime, though I don’t think I’d recommend starting with this one.

  2. Amanda N. says:

    Hmmm, I’ve never heard of this one before. I’ve only read Rebecca, and have a few other of her titles on my reading wishlist. I think I might add this one as well.

  3. Nymeth says:

    Though I do love the Gothic feel of her later work, a character-driven novel sounds good to me too. I’ll probably leave it for after I’ve read more of her well-known books, but I’d like to get to it sometime.

    Oh, and I’ve also learned the hard way not to read introductions first :\

  4. everybookandcranny says:

    I haven’t read this du Maurier book. And here I’ve been saying that The Scapegoat and The House on the Strand were the only two novels that du Maurier wrote in the male voice. oops! I’m looking forward to reading this one. Thanks for your well done review.

  5. vinodkbhatia says:

    This was the third Du Maurier book that I read. The first two books being Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel. I read Rebecca three times and each time I read it I thoroughly enjoyed it and of course I have seen the movie, I do not remember how many times. Even though the movie was made way back in 1939 and it seems it was made only in recent times. The movie was very well directed by Alfred Hitchcock and the release was delayed by one year because of Gone With The Wind.which was also made in 1939 and under David O’Selznick’s banner. Otherwise there would have been a clash of two great movies made in the same year and under the same banner. Rebecca was equally a great movie.

    The book I’ll Never be Young Again moved be emotionally a lot since I was also brought up under the influence of a very dominating father and I could not establish my own identity during his entire lifetime, though it was after he was gone that I came to realize that he loved me tremendously. Yes, truly after he was gone, when I was thirty years old, that I realized that I’ll never be young again to enjoy his love and deep concern for me during his entire lifetime, which he never showed to me and which he never expressed to me in his entire lifetime.. This was the book that made me cry a lot after I finished reading it and the title of the book very much is akin to my own life

    I think the story is very well handled by Du Maurier since it resembles more my life which is a true aspect in itself of some one’s life and the title very befiitingly adds to the subject matter of the book

    • Helen says:

      Vinodkbhatia, thanks for commenting. I can see that this book must have a lot of personal meaning for you. I found it a very moving story too.

      And I agree, Rebecca is a great book and movie!

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