In the High Peaks

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Years Between, a Play by Daphne Du Maurier

The Years Between is a play I've read this month for the Back to the Classics Challenge, hosted by Karen at Books and Chocolate.
Although the play was first performed in November 1944, its publication date is recorded as 1945. The action of the play takes place in 1942 and in 1945 shortly before the war ends in Europe in May.
Deborah and Michael Wentworth are the owners of an estate in the English countryside. They have one son, who is 10 years old. Michael is in the military, and at the beginning of the play, Michael leaves on a mission, only to have his plane crash in the North Sea. When the play opens in 1942, the Wentworth Family is informed that Michael's plane has gone down over the North Sea and he is assumed missing. Months pass and there is no news of survivors.

Michael's seat in Parliament has been left vacant, and soon Deborah decides to fill his seat and serve out his term. She throws herself into the work of governing and receives great satisfaction from it. She and her son are well supported by Richard, a close family friend who owns a neighboring manor house.

I won't let on anything of what happens in Act II, which takes place in 1945, and I've left out much of Act I (1942).
I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed this play, especially from a historical viewpoint because it reflects the emotions and issues and politics of some upper-class people in England during World War II, of which Du Maurier was undeniably a member.

The play is illuminating regarding many of the themes and undercurrents in people's lives at this time, such as the following:
Women assuming responsiblities for jobs and positions formerly reserved for men and receiving satisfaction and fulfillment  from them.
The problems of readjustment to the status quo when men return from war in 1945, both at home and in the community, which Du Maurier presents as equally difficult for both those at home and those who were abroad.
The questioning of the nature of intimate connections between husband and wife after spending years apart. (This theme is highlighted and is extremely interesting.)
And last, but not least, opposing viewpoints of wartime socialism in Great Britain, the great experiment, which brings the controversy right to the forefront of the play. Will this new way of organizing and conducting society continue after the war? Will there be support for it to continue by the upper classes? By the rest of Great Britain's citizens? And it becomes clear in the Final Act, the author's doubts about the future of such a society.

If you have an interest in this period in Great Britain's history, I'm sure you would enjoy and be stimulated by this play. I found it to be extremely interesting.

This play is difficult to get a hold of in the U.S. I ended up purchasing a copy from a used and rare books dealer  in Rochester, New York, via I'm sure it would be just a bit easier to obtain in the UK.



  1. I'll definitely have to get a hold of this one. I really like her novels although again - she was a bit weird.

    1. Hi Katrina,
      I do agree that her fiction is quite "different," in the sense that she had odd sensibilities, for sure.
      I had you in mind as the ideal reader for this play. It is not long, and I read it in two days easily.
      And most important, Katrina, I would so enjoy discussing the play with you. I do hope you can find it and read it because I'm dying to discuss it with someone, especially someone like you who has a strong knowledge of the history of the times.

  2. I had no idea that DMM wrote any plays. This sounds fascinating—I like the timeframe and premise, and you can always count on Daphne to throw in some psychological twists. I wonder when it was last produced?

    1. Hi Jane,
      I, too, had not a clue that Du Maurier had written plays. When I read her bio online, it mentioned she had written two plays, as I recall. I also read that The Years Between was staged in 2015 in England, which would have been its 70th anniversary--hope I'm counting right. And it certainly has a psychological twist or two, that's for certain. If you do read it, I'd love to discuss it with you afterward, about all those things that are considered "spoilers."

  3. This sounds right up my alley. Have you read Farthing by Jo Walton? It is set on a country estate just after WWII on the premise that the Germans won. Its mystery isn't very riveting but the interaction of the ruling class is!

    I have been thinking about you when they show how cold it is in the Adirondacks. I hope your heating is good and your pipes don't freeze (of course, that is my wish for everyone in Boston too - well, for anyone, really!).

    1. Hi Constance,
      I haven't read Farthing, but will most certainly look it up. Sounds fascinating.
      As far as our frigid temps lately, the worst was minus 17 F. We've lived here since 2005, and twice we've reached -24 degrees. That's our lowest overnight temperature since we've lived here. But we have had lots of winters where for days at a time we've been ten below, five below, etc. as a high temp for the day. That's not too bad unless there are strong winds and thus a very bad windchill.
      Today was 17 degrees at the house, but in the woods, where I was snowshoeing, the temperature was 14 degrees according to the thermometer attached to my pack. It was not too bad, out of the wind. I don't mind the cold much, except when it's -35 degrees F windchill, which it was on Monday.
      Our pipes are good--we take the usual precautions. I'll confess that I'm always glad to return home to a book and a hot drink!!
      We lived in the Boston area until 2005. I was born there.