Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Daphne du Maurier Companion, Helen Taylor (Editor)

"Daphne du Maurier is one of Britain's best-loved authors, her writing captivating the imagination in a way that few have been able to equal. Rebecca, her most famous novel, was a huge success on publication in 1938 and brought du Maurier international fame. This enduring classic remains one of the nation's favourite books.

In this celebration of Daphne du Maurier's achievements, today's leading writers, critics and academics discuss the novel, short stories and biographies that made her one of the most spellbinding and genre-defying authors of her generation. The film versions of her books are also explored, including Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca and The Birds, and Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now.

Featuring interviews with her family, essays by contemporary authors, and a long-lost short story by the author herself, this is the essential companion to Daphne du Maurier's life and work.
(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

The Daphne du Maurier Companion is a fascinating look at the personal and professional life of Daphne du Maurier (1907 - 1989), one of Britain's most popular authors. She was an extraordinarily talented author who created such memorable gothic tales such as Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, Frenchman's Creek, and the short story, The Birds, and many of her novels and stories have been made into equally popular adaptations for film, theatre, and television. I'm very intrigued by the "story behind the story," and often an examination of an author and his/her creations is as fascinating as any thrilling work of fiction. I first discovered du Maurier in high school when I read The House on the Strand, and I believe this was my first experience with an historical time travel plot -- I loved it and moved on to Rebecca, another great favorite of mine, and have been a fan of her writings ever since.

A deeply complex person, Daphne was raised in privilege as a daughter of a famous actor, Gerald du Maurier. Surrounded by artists and intellectuals, she was encouraged to explore and live life adventurously "like a man" (her father had daughters but wanted a son), and it is no secret that Daphne had psychological complexities in her personality that identified with a male voice and point-of-view -- this manifested itself in both her personal and professional life, and when the reader begins to examine her writings, some of the dark psychological torments of her characters could easily be a reflection of her own inner feelings. She strongly resisted the label of "romantic writer" -- she felt her writings were much more complex and addressed deeper issues. While her adult children have spoken openly about their mother's life and sexuality, they insist that there are no secrets about Daphne that are not already known; the author put a fifty year embargo on her personal diaries, so it will still be quite some time before the public can have access to Daphne's private thoughts.

The book is divided into five parts and is written in an easy and engaging style.

Part 1 - Daphne du Maurier by the People Who Knew Her
Inerviews with her adult children and her editor.
Part 2 - The Lasting Reputation and Cultural Legacy of Rebecca
In-depth analysis and discussions of her most popular novel.
Part 3 - Daphne du Maurier's Writings
A summary of each of du Maurier's novels and stories (with no spoilers).
Part 4 - Daphne du Maurier in Adaptation
A discussion of film adaptations of her work, with particular emphasis on Hitchcock's creations.
Part 5 - A rediscovered short story.

A wonderful handbook for all Daphne du Maurier fans -- her passion for the landscape and nature is evident in many of her novels, and her ability to describe a sense of time and place is sheer poetry. Here is a lovely passage from Frenchman's Creek, and hearing it read in her own voice is wonderful. Enjoy!

4/5 stars
Title: The Daphne du Maurier Companion
Edited by Helen Taylor
424 pages
genre: nonfiction


Danielle said...

(First time commenting although I have been visiting regularly for the past couple of months.)

Debussy and Daphne du Maurier reading Frenchman's Creek (my favourite of hers) = heavenly pleasure. This is a very timely post for me as I have just begun reading Justine Picardie's Daphne, a novel which partially tries to imagine what went on in Du Maurier's life during some of the "silent" years. I am having a slow start, though - the writing is not quite managing to pull me in yet. I have actually begun sneaking sideways glances at The House On The Strand. It was the first Du Maurier novel for me, too, but while I recall loving it the story escapes me. A reread beckons if I continue to struggle with Picardie's book. Anyway, thank you for an inspiring blog post!

Joanne said...

Welcome, Danielle! So glad you left a comment as I was able to visit your Romantic Armchair Traveller blog -- it's wonderful and we have many similar author fvorites. I intend to do a reread of The House on the Strand soon as I remember the drug-induced time travel storyline but not all of the historical details. It will be interesting to revisit this old favorite. I am not familiar with Justine Picardie's novel and will have to do a search. Thanks so much for stopping in for a visit!

Staci said...

I have yet to read one of her books!!!! I must remedy that situation soon!!

Joanne said...

Staci -- Start with Rebecca! Or, if you like time slip, try The House on the Strand. Both are really good!

Eva Moos said...

Thank you for this post! I thought about buying a biographical book about Daphne du Maurier and this seems to be a good decent one with interesting aspects!
Many greetings from Austria

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