Other people’s words about … the sea (again)
I could see the sea from the terrace, and the lawns. It looked grey and uninviting, great rollers sweeping in to the bay past the beacon on the headland. I pictured them surging into the little cove and breaking with a roar upon the rocks, then running swift and strong to the shelving beach. If I stood on the terrace and listened I could hear the murmur of the sea below me, low and sullen. A dull, persistent sound that never ceased. And the gulls flew inland too, driven by the weather. They hovered above the house in circles, wheeling and crying, flapping their spread wings. I began to understand why some people could not bear the clamour of the sea. It has a mournful harping noise sometimes, and the very persistence of it, that eternal roll and thunder and hiss, plays a jagged tune upon the nerves.
by Daphne du Maurier
I’ve quoted from Rebecca before. It’s one of my favourite books. The unnamed narrator’s character — shy, very English, young, terribly lacking in confidence — is exquisitely drawn. The plot is an absolute cracker. And if you want to find out how to use short sentences to build suspense (and I mean short! sentences), read the last half of the book. I have never seen them used so effectively. Stop reading at your peril.
And then there is the sea. It’s almost a character in itself in Rebecca. Here in this quote, and elsewhere, the sea is a dark, brooding presence. We’re not talking sunshine and sun tans and happy childhood memories here. This is a sea that threatens and menaces, that fills the reader with a terrible sense of foreboding.
You know me by now. These won’t be the last words I quote about the sea. But honestly? I think they will always be, for me, up there with the best.