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Daphne du Maurier - The Parasites
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The Parasites

by Daphne Du Maurier

There is a scene in The Parasites where the characters discuss an after-life where each person is forced to watch a playback of their lives... every single moment of their lives... perhaps with an audience of angels.

The novel is a bit like that scene, except the characters are all alive and in full vigour. But they are forced, by a death, to each review the key details of their lives. That death is the death of a marriage. We, the readers, are the audience.

The 'parasites' of this novel are three half-siblings living in 20th century England, two of whom develop a very close relationship. They are labelled parasites by the husband of one of them. The idea - that a husband can become jealous of the relationship that exists between his wife and the man she loves most - her step-brother - is at the centre of the novel.

The novel commences with that explosive argument. The argument in which Charles - the husband - accuses his wife, Maria, and her two step-siblings of being parasites. The novel traces the events that lead up to that scene. It is a form of purgatory for the three to recall some of the more painful events they lived through. It is here that the novel is flawed: trying to reconstruct three eventful lives in a novel long enough to comfortably carry perhaps just one truncated biography.

What is missing throughout is an account of just how Charles - who is an outsider in the telling of the story - came to the decision to marry his contemptibly shallow wife. And what insights and strains lead him eventually to despise her and to confront the failure of his marriage. Though to be fair, it is possible to draw conclusions from some of the hints given. And this is a novel where it is necessary to try to catch the hints and to join the dots.

The three parallel narratives make for a sometimes disjointed novel, although Du Maurier uses this parallel narrative to very good effect at the very end of the story.

The Parasites is a book to be read (and sung) out loud and the reader, Eleanor Bron, does a very good job.

Published by BBC Worldwide and read by Eleanor Bron.

Litrev Rating

Overall 3______

Suspense 5______
Characters 3______
Plot 3______
Audio 4______
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