SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.
Title: The House on the Strand
Author: Daphne du Maurier
Page Count: 298
Genre: Literary fantasy, Gothic fiction, Time travel
Tone: Mysterious, Atmospheric, Suspenseful
1. Were you caught up in the book right away? Did you find it hard to follow?
2. How did you feel about the narrative moving back and forth between time periods? Several critics have commented on the immense skill with which du Maurier keeps tension on both levels. Would you agree?
3. Which time period /storyline did you find more interesting?
4. What was your opinion of Richard, the narrator?
5. Being the straight-laced man that he was, why did Richard try Magnus’ drug in the first place?
6. How would you characterize the relationship between Magnus and Richard?
7. What differences were there in the ways Magnus and Richard approached the experiments?
8. Why do you think Roger was used as the link/guide/alter ego?
9. Why did John Willis corroborate Richard’s testimony at the inquest?
10. How important to the story is Vita? Why so?
• Did you like her? Feel sorry for her? Were you increasingly annoyed by/with her as Dick was?
• How would you characterize Richard and Vita’s relationship? Why is this so?
• Why didn’t Richard tell Vita about the drug, especially after she became suspicious of him having an affair and acting so erratically?
• In Latin, “Vita” translates as “life”. Do you think this was an intentional choice for du Maurier? What might this understanding add?
11. Did you trust Dr. Powell? Was he right to release Richard when he did?
12. What was the allure for Richard to keep going back to the past?
13. Would you agree that this is a “story of addiction”? If so, was he addicted to the drug itself or to the stories he witnessed?
14. Was Richard actually time-traveling or merely hallucinating?
• Were you satisfied with Dr. Powell’s theories at the end of the book?
• If it were the drug, why did Magnus and Richard travel back to same period?
15. Would you say the tone of the story is approving? marveling? objective?
16. What did you think of the end of the book? Was it satisfying to you?
• What really happened to Richard?
• Du Maurier once wrote, “What about the hero of The House on the Strand? What did it mean when he dropped the telephone at the end of the book? I don’t really know, but I rather think he was going to be paralysed for life. Don’t you?” Does her statement surprise you?
17. This book was written in 1969. Is the subject still topical? Would you recommend this book to others?
18. How do du Maurier’s descriptions deepen and reinforce the themes in the novel?
19. Growing up, du Maurier disliked the expectations and limitations of being a girl. How well does she write the male perspective? What other attitudes toward society are revealed in her story and characters?
20. Du Maurier’s only disappointment with The House on the Strand was that a film version was not made. It was her favorite of all her books, and she had written it almost as a film script. Do you think it a story that could be successfully adapted as a movie or miniseries?
Daphne du Maurier author site
author interview from Kilmarth, a central location in The House on the Strand
BBC article: “Walking in du Maurier’s Footsteps”
“The Cornwall of Daphne du Maurier”, originally published in British Heritage magazine
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