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The Loving Spirit by Daphne du Maurier
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The Loving Spirit (1931)

by Daphne du Maurier

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» See also 58 mentions

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Janet Coombe is a victim of her time and gender. She longs to know the wildness and freedom of the sea-faring life, but in Cornwall of the early 1800s, all that Janet may do is marry and raise a family. She ends up marrying her cousin, a staid ship-builder and raising six children with him. Janet is overjoyed when her boy Joseph, fulfills her secret dreams and becomes a sailor, eventually captaining his own ship - a ship built by his brothers - named the Janet Coombe. Through the trials, tribulations and tragedies which strike her family, Janet holds on to her lively and loving spirit and passes that on to the later generations. I really enjoyed this book, Daphne du Maurier's debut novel. I give it an A+! ( )
  moonshineandrosefire | Aug 26, 2017 |
The Loving Spirit is my church book club’s November selection. All of us remembered reading and loving Rebecca when we were in high school. Well for some of us that was 30-50 years ago! So we were really excited about reading her very first novel, The Loving Spirit. I am afraid from early discussions, the consensus is that this book is just weird. There are some good things about it, but the first of the book is just creepy, and that is creepy-bad not creepy-good. Not sure if it is just our modern outlook on things as opposed to the worldview of the 1930s. So I’ll hit the good and then share the bad.

First the story – Janet is a free spirit, longing to have adventures and sail the seas, but as a young woman in the 1830s she must settle for life as a wife and mother. She loves her husband and children, but the deep spiritual connection with her son, Joseph, keeps her dreams alive. The book spans the lives of four generations of Janet’s family – her son Joseph, grandson Christopher and great-granddaughter Jennifer. The restlessness found in Janet is repeated through the generations causing personal and relationship problems for all the characters. There is also a strand of betrayal and bitter hatred that Janet’s son Phillip brings to the story.

Good points — multi-generational saga, well-developed characters, good look at the struggles women faced from 1830s to 1930s, indictment of Victorian manners. Beautiful prose, interesting story. Amazing that this complex novel was written when du Maurier was just 24.

Bad points — creepy relationship between Janet and her son, Joseph. The relationship bordered on the incestuous, at least from a 21st century perspective. Spiritual ambiguity — existence of God, existence of eternal justice. Amorality and situational ethics.

Now to be fair, this novel is purely secular and the worldview does not line up with the traditional Christian worldview. I expect a good amount of discussion from our group, which is really what we are looking for. ( )
  vintagebeckie | Nov 21, 2013 |
The Loving Spirit is the story of four generations of a shipbuilding family in 19th and early 20th century Cornwall. More specifically, the focus is one four members of the family: Janet, who’s story covers the period between 1830 and 1863; her son, Joseph (1863-1900); his son Christopher (1888-1912); and his daughter, Jennifer (1912-1930).

From the bleak Cornwelian landscape to London and back to Cornwall, Daphne Du Maurier weaves a fascinating story, heralding some of the novels that later made her famous. What I love about Du Maurier’s novels is that she really knew how to tell a compelling story.

While I didn’t quite buy the spiritual connection between Janet and her son Joseph (which supposedly also connects Christopher and Jennifer but gets dropped partway through the novel), I did enjoy the development of these characters over time. I love great family sagas, and only wish that this book had been longer and some of the characters more developed, particularly Jennifer, whose story got a bit rushed at the end. Also, the villain character was a little too stereotypical for my taste.

But otherwise, I really enjoyed this novel, particularly the author’s descriptions of Cornwall in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The plot moves swiftly, and Du Maurier does a fantastic story of contrasting the lives of the Coombe family against greater social and political events. Although not her best novel, this one is definitely a must for anyone who’s read Du Marier’s more famous novels, such as Rebecca and Jamaica Inn. ( )
1 vote Kasthu | Jan 7, 2012 |
Loved this book, couldn't put it down. Many of Du Maurier's hallmarks can be seen here: passion, drama, suspense, and the always beautifully described landscapes of the Cornish coast. Knowing that this is her first novel made it easy for me to forgive any weak spots; indeed, I hardly noticed them once I got into the story. I was too hooked on what would happen next! Very satisfying read. ( )
1 vote beatlemoon | Sep 13, 2010 |
I fell in love with this book just pages into it. "The Loving Spirit" is Daphne Du Maurier's first novel and amazingly enough I liked it better than quite a few of her latter ones.
The story is a very romantic tale told through four generations of the Coombe family. And the author has thusly broken it into four books to offset each generation. It's all about the sea and the land and what draws one to the sea and how it can be or become generational. She quotes Emily Bronte several times throughout the book and one can definitely see the influence of that author within this one.
Book 1: Janet Coombe; the main character wishes she had been born a lad and wants the freedom to do all the things that are acceptable to lads but not lasses. She wants desperately to go to sea and only menfolk can go to sea. In this book she also tells of Janet and a much older male cousin becoming intimate friends, which is frowned upon by her father. Janet marries Thomas, a shipbuilder and as they have their family she develops a strange relationship with one of her sons, Joseph right from birth. It is as if they are tele-connected in some way that she is not with her other children.
Book 2: Joseph Coombe; the main character in this book is the intimate son of Janet. He does what his mother wanted to do and could not. He becomes a sea faring man. He sails the seas in a family built ship named after his mother and called the "Janet Coombe". The figurehead is also a likeness of his mother. Joseph seems to feel his mother's presence with him as he is sailing.
Book 3: Christopher Coombe; the main character in this book is the son of Joseph Coombe and desires, as his father wishes for him, to become a seafaring man and take over skippering the "Janet Coombe". However he finds it not to his liking and jumps ship in London. He works, marries, has children, and writes home about his life but his father cannot forgive him for abandoning the sealife and disowns him to self and family. His sister, after some many years writes to him of his father's sickness and Christopher decides to take his family and return home to Plyn, Cornwall.
Book 4: Jennifer Coombe; the main character in this book, Jenny, is the daughter of Christopher Coombe and was only six years old when her father died. And yet it falls to her to bring the family back together to a productive life and to finish the "Coombe" saga.
This is a romantic, adventure of the highest kind. There is something for everyone in this book. I loved it and cannot wait to read it again one day soon. ( )
2 vote rainpebble | Oct 1, 2009 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maurier, Daphne duprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Roberts, MicheleIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Janet Coombe stood on the hill above Plyn, looking down upon the harbour.
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There are two sets of Virago Modern Classics covers. Please don't change the covers of the earlier editions - when adding books, look through the list for your edition
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Plyn Boat Yard is a hive of activity,  and Janet Coombe, born in turn of the 20th century Cornwall, she longs to share in the excitement of seafaring: to travel, to have adventures, to know freedom. But constrained by the times, instead she marries her cousin Thomas, a boat builder, and settles down to raise a family.

Janet's loving spirit - the passionate yearning for adventure and for love - is passed down to her son, and through him to his children's children. As generations of the family struggle against hardship and loss, their intricately plotted history is set against the greater backdrop of war and social change in Britain.
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Cornwall, 1900s. Plyn Boat Yard is a hive of activity, and Janet Coombe longs to share in the excitement of seafaring.

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