daphne du maurier gifted us with a strange last novel, and i wouldn't expect anything less from her. it is a macabre satire with murder and mayhem, and coloured by the politics of du maurier in her last years. she asks, what if britain had joined the european common market only to be bankrupted by it, and saw no other alternative but to unify with their once rebellious sons in north america, and form a new country, the USUK?("you suck" seems intended, especially with the potential currency, the ducat, remarked upon for its "unfortunate rhyming associations" suck it? fuck it? i couldn't decide -- du maurier allows herself the luxury of profanity in this book more than any other) but as soon as the american troops land to help manoeuvre the country into the new coalition, things begin to go awry. someone gets murdered and things get weird, and weirder, and rightfully so, when the main character is an almost eighty-year old actress named "mad" whose household includes a twenty-year old granddaughter who narrates the action, a dotty housekeeper named dottie, a decrepit old dog, and six unruly adopted sons who won't be ruled by anyone but mad. mad and her crew recruit the neighbours, and other good folk of cornwall in thwarting what seems more to them an american occupation than a union.
i think the ending isn't very effective: a tad trite and a little more than convenient (and confusing - there are still a few things that don't make abundant sense to me). i also think du maurier hopes you know that she knows that she is joking, and i'm not sure that's always readily apparent, and perhaps her tongue is barbed a little more sharply that what is generally palatable (and sometimes i think she worries too much and tries to point out to us that she is using stereotypes for a reason). i also wish she'd taken a page from philip k. dick and placed the action of the book in an alternate reality of England rather than trying to entrench it too much in our current timeline: the contemporary references date and defuse the book. but i really liked it, too. a lot of the time it is sheer lunacy and some scenes in this book quite shocking for their matter-of-factness so sometimes laughter was tinged with anxiety. it is an entertaining book. it is also a book that does ask very good questions that impact us today: what happens in the face of capitalism's decline? and how far people will go to serve whatever ends they choose to pursue? but then of course, she has to tell her prince philip joke twice. :)
i'm wavering between three and four here.