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The Loving Spirit by Daphne Du Maurier
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The Loving Spirit (original 1931; edition 1968)

by Daphne Du Maurier

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Title:The Loving Spirit
Authors:Daphne Du Maurier
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The Loving Spirit by Daphne du Maurier (1931)

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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 |
This wonderful début novel from Dapne du Maurier, written in 1929 and first published in 1931, puts her on the map amongst the greatest of British writers. This story is set in du Maurier's beloved Cornwall, not far south from Plymouth. A story which spans generations of one particular family.

What I love about this author's novels are the settings, the descriptions which always evoke visualisation for me. I could see Janet Coombe standing on the clifftop, I could see her son Joseph commanding his schooner, his brothers running the boatyard and the mean, dispirited younger brother Philip Coombe dishing out his malice. Without giving away too much detail and posting spoilers, I won't divulge anymore. However, we are given the history of the Coombe's from Janet as a young maid about to marry through to her great granddaughter, Jennifer. As the story unfolds, we get to know the strong, longing for the sea that runs through the generations. I picked this copy up in the library sale for 20 pence, it was the first time I had heard of this book written by du Maurier. Not one of the well known novels such as Rebecca, Frenchman's Creek and Jamaica Inn, but well worth reading, particularly for fans of this author. ( )
  booketta | Nov 17, 2013 |
Because I admire Du Maurier's classic works, I thought it might be interesting to go back and read the books she wrote in the order that she wrote them. I began with her very first novel, "The Loving Spirit," which she completed in 1930. It is said to have been inspired, in some ways, by "Wuthering Heights," and the book's ambitions are not small. It's a dynastic story that begins with the strange quasi-incestuous love affair between a mother and her son (beginning before he was even born!?) and follows that mother's "Loving Spirit" through at least some of her offspring and their children.

Du Maurier handles most of it very competently. The story is fairly engrossing and held my interest. It felt a bit 19th-century in the way that it characterized people in the story. It is no masterpiece, but not at all bad for a first outing. ( )
  CandaceVan | Apr 16, 2013 |
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 | Feb 1, 2012 |
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. ( )
  Kasthu | Jan 7, 2012 |
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Janet Coombe stood on the hill above Plyn, looking down upon the harbour.
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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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