R22. The Parasites by Daphne du Maurier

Year Published: 1949
Pages: 318
First Sentence: It was Charles who called us the parasites.

I'm really not sure where to begin with this one, so we'll have to go straight in to the summary. Maria, Niall, and Celia Delaney are three semi-siblings. Maria is the daughter of their "Pappy" by some mysterious woman, Niall is the son of their "Mama" by some mysterious man, and Celia is the daughter of Pappy and Mama. Pappy is a famous singer and Mama a famous dancer, and the Delaneys' famous parents cart them around early 20th century Europe and basically neglect them.

After Mama dies in a tragic accident, Maria goes to a theatre company in Liverpool, Niall goes to boarding school, and Celia continues touring with Pappy. But it seems to be during this time that their roles become cemented: Niall and Maria develop a confusingly intimate relationship, and Celia becomes her Pappy's caretaker as a way of avoiding her own life.

I've read two other books by Daphne du Maurier: Rebecca, which I think is her most famous one ("Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again"), and The House on the Strand. I enjoyed both of those books a lot more than this one. Rebecca has a much stronger story, and The House on the Strand has much stronger themes. The Parasites, meanwhile, just sort of is.

Maria and Niall aren't very likeable characters and although I found Celia a bit better, she's clearly just sort of a doormat. Furthermore, I found the relationship between Maria and Niall to be really creepy. These are two people who were raised together but apparently (?) become physically intimate at some point. I'm pretty sure there's something in attachment theory that says that that shouldn't happen. (It isn't on the scale of Francesca Lia Block's Wasteland, or anything, considering that Maria and Niall are aware that they're stepsiblings throughout their lives, but still, ugh. Wasteland was oddly less creepy, in some ways.) Of course, this has everything to do with their characterization as parasitic, but it wasn't fun to read.

The book wasn't all bad or anything by any means. There are quite a few good secondary characters, and the scenes between them and the Delaneys can be quite good. Pappy is great, and so is Niall's sugar mama, Freada. But this definitely isn't a must-read, and I'd recommend Rebecca long before The Parasites.

(Fun but irrelevant fact: I inherited all three of the Daphne du Maurier books I've read and one other one, which will probably show up in a post soon, through my great aunt who died a couple of years ago. I'm not sure about the others, but this book must've actually first belonged to my great grandma, since her name is written on the first page.)

The tragedy of life, though Niall, brushing his hair with the ebony brush and too few bristles that Pappy had given him on his twenty-first birthday, was not that people died; but that they died to you. All people died to Niall, except Maria. Therefore Charles was right. I live and feed upon Maria, thought Niall, in her I have my being, I lie embedded deep in the guts of her, and I can't escape because I don't want to escape, ever... ever...

Current Distractions, Belated November 2011 Edition

NaNoWriMo took up most of my time in November. In fact I have very little else to say about the month, because mostly I was just writing. I've been reading Anthony Burgess' essay collection But Do Blondes Prefer Gentlemen? instead of starting a new book that would distract me from the writing (as an aside, Burgess is brilliant and if I can be half as smart as he is someday, I'll be happy), but finally a couple of days ago I started in on The Parasites by Daphne du Maurier, so that'll be the next review I'll post. I actually read a couple of other books that I could've reviewed and posted about last month, but left them too long without writing the reviews, and if the book isn't fresh in my mind I can't review it, so.

All of the health problems that I think I've been mentioning over the course of probably the last six months or so finally came to a head on the third last day of November, when I came home from work with a fever that I couldn't really shake for the next week, whereupon I went to see a doctor who told me that I had pneumonia. Woo! (Fun fact: I've had pneumonia once before, during the summer when I was probably about eight years old. All I remember from that time was being incredibly weak, and too hot to eat anything other than popsicles. Here's hoping this doesn't become a frequent thing for me.) Anyway, this whole pneumonia thing has kind of scared me, and now I'd really like to get myself sorted out and start taking better care of myself, which means even less time for the blog, yet again.

Oh, and also I should mention that I've been watching a lot of The X-Files. I had a dream at the beginning of November that had something to do with me saying how Dana Scully was my hero multiple times, which I took as a sign that it was time to dive back in (I've been watching it sporadically for something like a year or two now), and ended up watching season 5, the movie, and season 6 in quick succession. Now I'll be breaking again for another few months, before returning to watch what I hear was the show's descent into terribleness over the final three seasons. By the way, The A.V. Club provides their usual astute commentary on this show.

Anyway if you're still reading, stick around because I'm not going anywhere, I'm just really lazy.