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Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier
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Hungry Hill (1943)

by Daphne du Maurier

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Showing 5 of 5
Set in Ireland and covering the time span of a century, from 1820 to 1920, the story follows five generations of the Anglo-Protestant Brodrick family from the moment John Brodrick of Clonmere prepares to establish a copper mine on Hungry Hill. But because he neglects to ask permission of the hill first, the family is cursed by the descendant of the previous land-owning family, the Donovans, evicted to make room for the Brodricks. As we follow the fate of each successive generation, it becomes clear that the mine has given the Brodricks their fortune, but not their happiness.

I agree with another reviewer that the extent of the novel (just over 400 pages) doesn’t allow for each of the five generations to be followed in depth; instead, the narrative zooms in and out of an individual’s story at will, often missing out several months or years at a time, and a member of the family, whose fate the reader has followed for a long time in the novel’s time frame, is then suddenly and unceremoniously dispatched in the course of a sentence. Additionally, the plot, with the exception of the last featured member of the Brodricks, appears to be set in a historical and political bubble so that the characters concerned are seemingly unaffected by events unfolding in Ireland and Great Britain at the time and aren’t interacting with each other in a historical context (e.g. colonial wars and the Crimean War only get a fleeting mention, and the Irish potato famine in the 1840s and early ’50s, which would have had an enormous impact on the rural population, doesn’t warrant a mention at all). Where the progression of decades does make itself felt is in the subtle progress being made in terms of miners’ rights and their use of machinery and mining processes, though the latter are seen as a natural investment in order to march with the times, and the former are only grudgingly granted by the Brodricks, keen to obtain the greatest margin of profit. And though the plight of the miners is acknowledged, I couldn’t help shake the suspicion that du Maurier’s political and class affiliations were lodged firmly with the gentry on the whole, as throughout the novel the reader repeatedly encounters the stereotypical images of the lazy and work-shy Irishman with a fondness for drink and racing who can’t be trusted, whereas the English generally are well educated, disciplined and/or hard workers.

The novel is written firmly from the male point of view, and yet it is the women who prove the stronger characters and the men, the weaker (John Brodrick, ‘Copper John’, excepted). There were a number of occasions when I wanted to yell at the (male) member of the Brodricks to get his act together and do something, rather than just sit in an armchair and mope, full of self-pity. And yet at the turn of the last page I felt strangely ambivalent: glad for the book to be finally over but also feeling that several characters linger on in the mind. ( )
  passion4reading | Aug 2, 2017 |
I close this book with sadness. (Spoiler? Not sure how far to take that definition.) It is a dense book covering the lives of several generations of men and women--though pretty much all told from the male POV--of a landlord family that was imposed on the Irish countryside in the 1700s and has been imposing itself on the people in small ways and large ever since. The period covered is 1820-1920, from the building of a copper mine to its end. Du Maurier doesn't get into the heads of the Irish people, despite letting the injustices be known, and at times we wonder "whose side" she's on. The protagonists are not always sympathetic characters, but neither are they utterly without our sympathy. They are sometimes aware of the injustice of their relationship to the land and people, but never enough to do anything about it. I found myself crying out for one life to be wholly well lived; there is sorrow in every generation, but there is triumph as well, on a small, personal scale, and there is love, even when misunderstanding is there as well. The resentment of the family that was displaced by the newcomers twists them into unpleasant characters; but are not our arrogant landowners unpleasant, too? A complex, subtle novel, weighty and sorrowful, and yet not without ever-unfurling hope. ( )
1 vote thesmellofbooks | Mar 28, 2016 |
One of the fun things about coming to a new book is figuring out what kind of story is being told, and I like it when the author doesn't telegraph it too much. Here, for instance, I wasn't sure if this was gonna be a gothic tale of Morty Donovan's curse on the Brodricks, or a "classy romance" like Rebecca, or social commentary on the miners and their plight and the hard obtuse men in the high castle, or an epic-sweep potboiler like Edward Rutherfurd or James Michener. It comes closest to the last, but Du Maurier has too classical a sense of pacing and structure to throw in the kitchen sink, like those worthies--she limits it by and large to the story of one family, and because it's the family that owns the whole bundle and she doesn't try to make them better than they are, I mean were, I mean could have been if they had really existed, it doesn't come across either as self-indulgent class apologetics, which would have been the major danger. Instead, the main theme of the novel turns out to be education, and how raising a family is like growing a garden or maintaining a stately house or expanding a copperworks. (Hint: If you're lucky, you won't get a parent who gravitates toward the last of those metaphors.) Each generation and each individual patriarch brings a certain orientation to the baffling task of investing in flawed human capital on which th whole firm depends but which is also fallible and which, most importantly, you love--and as we see by the end, that sequestered, pater-dominated Victorian vision of the family not only owes a lot to Victorian capitalism, a moral philosophy whose central metaphor is investment of resources in anticipation of return, but also to the world of ealry industrial capitalism, where the family still looms so large and the fundamental social situation we have today, based not on investment but consumption--the malleable, self-creating individual still yet embedded in uncontrollable social forces--has not yet emerged. It's clear by the end, even, that the long Victorian dream is over and Henry-John, the last head of the family we meet, has been shaped by the intrusion of history in the form of the Irish uprising and Word War I into a character who will never have the springloaded sense of agency of his great-great-grandfather, Copper John. The mine closes because we're not builders anymore. But in the meantime there was that period where the capitalist classes thought they could build a clan of lions and scions withthe same kind of patience they did a mine, and it's fascinating enough to watch here that I don't give more than a mild shudder at the privilege that neither they nor, unfortunately, the author, really knows how to examine; a mild shrug reading about Hal working in the mine as it's closed down and all it amounts to for him is an "authentic experience" of poverty that would be as dispiriting as a rich kid's Africa volunteer trip if he didn't get beaten up and devoured by the mine and made into a kind of "copper Jesus," a much more twisted view of things but one which we can't be surprised at from Du Maurier, who also wasn't any better than she should have been and had the middle-class worship of property and the people to whom it arbitrarily accrues--and thus, a relatively accepting attitude as the last opportunity for this to become a novel with a social conscience sails by. ( )
  MeditationesMartini | Oct 7, 2012 |
The Brodricks of Clonmere gain great wealth from the power of Hungry Hill that they make into a mine, extracting the copper the mine provides. The Doonovans were the original owners of Clonmere Castle and they resent and curse the Brodricks success. For generations the feud between the two families has been going on and on until it reaches it startling eruption.
This novel is a bit different from other works by Daphne du Maurier, it deals with a large span of time from 1820-1920, and has a large cast of characters none of which are more important than others as they all build on each other and become important as the novel progresses. Romance scenes in this novel are not as huge foundations as they are in her other books like Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, or My Cousin Rachel. The romance that goes on in this book more builds up on other elements of the novel. Even though I found this book to be a little different from some of the other books that I have read by Daphne Du Maurier I still really enjoyed Du Maurier’s ability to create a unique cast of characters all of whom has faults but readers can still fall in love with these characters, despite their faults. The only thing I would have liked better in this book would have been more descriptions of the mines or mining lives, to me this was the only part of the novel that I had a hard time imagining or becoming real. I don’t think this was the best of Daphne Du Maurier’s novels that I have read thus far I still really enjoyed the style because it was different and I thought it showed how versatile she is as an author. ( )
  Renz0808 | May 8, 2011 |
"I have the silver, you have the land". Du Maurier recounts the lives of several generations of the Brodrick family, landholders in Dunhaven Ireland starting in 1820 when "Copper John" Brodrick cements a deal to start a copper mine at the base of Hungry Hill. John's main priorities are the business and its profits, with little concern for the day to day welfare of the miners and their families - enflaming a long-standing family grudge that leads to a curse on the Brodrick family. The story of the family continues with subsequent generations as Copper John's sons and his grandsons battle to maintain the mines and the family fortune with the fluctuating price of copper and tin, along with their own personal and mental battles. The story finally culminates in 1920 as the last of the line John-Henry returns from the Great War in 1920 to reclaim the family estate and finds himself unwittingly involved in the Irish rebellion with unexpected consequences to him and the family home Clonmere.

Overall, this was quite a good read despite a stereotyped character or two (it was written in the 1940's) and a storyline a bit on the predictable side. While it might not appeal as much to those readers used to Du Maurier's usual fare, i.e. Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel, her writing is superb and understated as always and IMO raises this from a three to a four star read as the reader sees the viewpoint of both the Landholder and the difficulties of the Irish tenants. Still tops with me in multi-generational family sagas is Susan Howatch's Cashelmara- don't miss it. ( )
1 vote Misfit | May 10, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maurier, Daphne duprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Auerbach, NinaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book One, Chapter 1 (Copper John, 1820 - 1828): On the third of March, 1820, John Brodrick set out from Andriff to Doonhaven, intending to cover the fifteen miles of his journey before nightfall.
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Like her, he chatted of trivialities, being amusing for the sake of being amusing, exaggerating often, skimming over the surface of things because it was easier than finding the depths. (p. 296)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
VIRAGO EDITION:
The Brodericks of Clonmere gain great wealth by harnessing the power of Hungry Hill and extracting the treasure it holds. The Donovans, the original owners of Clonmere Castle, resent the Brodericks' success, and consider the great house and its surrounding land theirs by right. For generations the feud between the families has simmered, always threatening to break into violence...
Haiku summary
The Brodricks' fortunes
rise and fall mining copper
for a century.
(passion4reading)

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'Hungry Hill' is a passionate story of five generations of an Irish family and the copper mine of Hungry Hill with which their fortunes and fate are so closely bound.

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