Reading progress update: I've read 40 out of 329 pages.

Rule Britannia (Virago Modern Classics Book 120) - Daphne du Maurier, Ella Westland

Long quote ahead.


This section was written in a way that sounds very realistic. It's the sort of press conference or speech that could well fit into the current state of politics which make it utterly frightening.

However, I love how Du Maurier balances it against comedic elements. 


In this scene, the family is being visited by a colonel of the occupying American forces. The youngest of the family, 3-year-old Ben, has yet to learn to speak.

"They grouped themselves around the television, and as they waited for the picture to appear the colonel murmured sotto voce to his hostess, ‘If he says what I think he’s going to say, this is a very great day for our two countries.’

Right on cue, as if in answer to Colonel Cheeseman, came the voice of the Prime Minister in full spate, bang in the middle of a sentence.

‘… we had no alternative, and we ask for no alternative; for the union that has been offered to us, and that we have gladly and gratefully accepted, is one which will bring new strength, new determination and new hope for the future, not only for our two peoples but for the whole of the free world.’

His face and shoulders appeared on the screen as his voice dropped to a more solemn note.

‘You will ask yourselves why we have kept silent up to now, why, in fact, we did not take you into our confidence days, even weeks, ago. My friends, we have been living through troublous times. The breakdown of our partnership within the European community and our withdrawal from it, due to no failure on our part, brought great economic difficulties, as I feared would be the case and as I warned you at the time, and our political autonomy and military supremacy were also endangered. ‘Now, thanks to our old allies and new partners, we are threatened no longer. The great combination of the United States and the United Kingdom, to be known henceforth as USUK, need fear no one. What we have to give is theirs, what they have to give is ours. We are a great and common people. I am proud to tell you that Her Majesty the Queen is at this moment on her way to Washington, to stay at the White House with the President of the United States, not only as his guest but as co-President of USUK. The President, in his turn, will enjoy a short period of office in Buckingham Palace.

‘Once again, you may ask, why were the people of this great nation not informed that these momentous changes were to take place? Because’ – and his voice dropped lower still – ‘it was essential, for the success of our enterprise, that no word of the project should become public knowledge until the union had come into being. Every loyal citizen will welcome this partnership as one of the greatest advances in our long and glorious history. But within the last few months a small minority – prompted by powerful groups in other countries with opposing interests to our own – have succeeded in causing grave disruption to our economic stability and to the peaceful rhythm of our daily lives. The damage caused has been out of all proportion to the insignificant numbers of those involved, and their cunning is such that few people outside their ranks have understood the perils to which their actions were exposing our nation. We could not run the risk of allowing this small body of malcontents to jeopardise the success of our great project. This is why you have woken up this morning to find our new allies already gathered on this island. I would ask you, wherever you meet with either our own armed services or those of the United States, acting singly or together, to give them your full co-operation. More than this, give them your friendship too. Citizens of USUK – long live the President of the United States, long live the Queen, long live our great and glorious people and the heritage we share.’

The Prime Minister’s voice rose to a higher note, he threw back his head and squared his shoulders, and as his image faded the picture of the two flags, the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes, took its place, accompanied by the strains of the joint national anthems. The silence in the library was profound. The two American officers were standing to attention, or rather endeavouring to do so, for both held between their hands, like an offertory at church, the plates on which lay the uneaten slices of Mad’s cake.

Emma did not know whether to laugh or cry, and she looked to her grandmother for a lead. For the first time, however, this was not forthcoming. Mad’s expression was inscrutable. She continued staring at the television long after the picture had dimmed and the music had died away. The tension was broken by the sounds of children’s excited laughter coming from the hall.

Colin ran into the room, dragging Ben by the hand, his angel face triumphant, his eyes like stars.

‘Ben can talk!’ he cried. ‘Ben can talk! He heard the anthems on the telly and he’s spoken his first word!’

Mad held out her arms to both boys, but for once they disregarded the gesture.

‘I taught him,’ declared Colin. ‘It’s all my doing.’

Emma turned to the two American officers.

‘He’s three years old,’ she explained hurriedly. ‘We were afraid he would never learn to speak, although he understands everything.’

Colonel Cheeseman smiled.

‘I guess this is doubly an historic occasion,’ he said, ‘and I’m proud to be in on it. Come here, little fellow, and let’s hear what you have to say.’

Ben rolled his eyes towards Colin and Colin nodded his head. Ben wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and walked slowly forward to the colonel.

‘Sh …’ he began, ‘sh …’, then paused, as though to summon greater strength.

‘Come on, son, don’t be afraid,’ said Colonel Cheeseman. ‘This is the finest moment in your young life, and maybe in all of ours as well.’

‘Shit!’ said Ben."

Ok, it made me laugh out loud. It is not at all the tone I had expected in a Du Maurier novel.