The Ghost and Mrs. Muir – a book review
Title: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Author: R. A. Dick (Josephine Leslie)
Publisher: Vintage Books
Price: $14.95 (USD, Amazon.com)
I didn’t discover this gem of a book until after I’d watched the movie on Netflix – I’ve now seen it seven times and counting, it’s a really good movie – and learned from the credits that it was based on R. A. Dick’s novel of the same name. I ordered a copy of the movie and the book, and read the book over two days.
The story begins with newly widowed Lucy Muir who, after discharging the debts left behind by her late husband, decides she wants a life of her own – preferably one that is far from her pushy and interfering in laws who insist on treating her as though she were a silly child rather than a grown and widowed woman with two children.
After enquiring at the local house agent’s, Lucy learns of Gull Cottage, a beautiful little house by the sea in Whitecliff that is supposedly haunted by the former owner, Captain Daniel Gregg. Despite attempts at interference from the house agent, Mr. Coombe, who tells Lucy exactly what he thinks would and wouldn’t suit her, she is successful in renting it.
As it turns out, all the rumours about Gull Cottage being haunted are completely true.
Captain Daniel Gregg, a plain spoken sailor who “lived a man’s life” and then died in Gull Cottage unexpectedly, has terrified previous prospective tenants out of their wits – and out of his house – but Lucy is determined to stay and the two come to an agreement as Lucy settles into her new and independent life in Gull Cottage.
I admit that as I read the book, I did picture Rex Harrison (Sexy Rexy!) and Gene Tierney in the title roles, but here, Captain Gregg’s language is even stronger and more appropriate to the way you might think a former sea captain would talk (when he was practising restraint in the company of a lady, anyway), and Lucy seems feistier and her struggles to speak her mind and be heard are more apparent.
I felt sorry for and amused by movie-Lucy – Eva is really an annoying martyr in the film – but book-Lucy was someone I admired from the start. She makes up her mind early in the story that “…if this was a new life, she must begin at once to lead it in the way she meant to go on.”, and so she does. She refuses to be bullied into doing what others feel is right for her, even when standing up for herself is frightening or tiring. With some encouragement from Captain Gregg, she learns to make hard decisions based on what needs to be done, and not half-baked sentiments that she doesn’t really hold to anyway.
Another part of the magic this book holds for me is that Gull Cottage becomes more than just Lucy’s refuge and fresh beginning, I felt it was mine, too, as I read.
When you’re away from the things that interfere with learning about who you are, and what you want, and how you might go about getting those things, living becomes easier. Simpler. You have the luxury of minding your own business without having anyone else’s thrust upon you whether you want it or not. That in itself is a treasure beyond price. I haven’t found that place in my real life, but I can find it in this book, even if just for a little while.
Of course, Captain Gregg completes the happiness to be found at Gull Cottage; for all that he is a spirit, he is as human and full of mischief and mistakes as any mortal man. The conversations and arguments Lucy and Captain Gregg have bring out the best in each other – they push and shape one another and are better for it.
Even if you’ve already enjoyed the film version, if you’re looking for a good story and a great place to escape to, you couldn’t do better than Gull Cottage in Whitecliff.