Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Daphne

One thing I've noticed that's a bit different about my blog than other book-oriented bloggers is that most others tell you about books after they've read them, but I tend to want to blog most at the beginning or mid-way through.

Today's post is no different.

Last night I started Daphne, by Justine Picardie. I'm only about a third of the way into it and it's fantastic.



Daphne, at this point anyway, is a modern Rebecca story in which the timid, self-conscious heroine, when she's not obsessing about her much older husband's first wife, explores Daphne du Maurier's own obsession with Branwell Bronte and whether he actually penned or at least had more influence on Wuthering Heights and/or Jane Eyre than scholars give him credit for. Picardie, in alternating chapters, lets the unnamed heroine, Daphne du Maurier, and a Bronte scholar named Symington tell their stories while they explore Branwell's life. Symington's and du Maurier's stories are set in 1957, and the unnamed heroine's is contemporary, which adds a delicious layer of complexity to the whole novel.

I love literary mysteries, and this particular topic is near to my heart. Like the unnamed heroine, I loved du Maurier as a teenager and read most of her books and stories. I love the Brontes, and am fascinated by Branwell after reading du Maurier's bio of him, The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte, which was recently reissued with Picardie providing the introduction. And I'm interested in du Maurier herself, not just her life and work as a popular writer, but her family. Her grandfather, George du Maurier, did illustrations for some of Elizabeth Gaskell's works--I'm still trying to find a good source of them--and I've wanted to read his immensely popular novel, Trilby, for years now.

In addition to the planets aligning for me with regards to subject matter, Picardie is an excellent writer. The change in pov between characters is perfect--each has his/her own voice--and their stories are well-balanced with enough interconnecting threads for there to be a fully integrated whole.

Finally, the dust jacket art is superb. I love the photo of Menabilly (Daphne's home and model for Manderley of Rebecca), and of course, the bottom photo shows a woman holding a red umbrella, which is the recurring scary image in du Maurier's story, "Don't Look Now." Very nicely done!

Can't wait to get back to this excellent book.

9 comments:

  1. I liked this book quite a lot too--and it inspired me to seek out more Du Maurier to read. (I'd only ever read Rebecca.)

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  2. Thanks for stopping by, Teresa. I haven't read a du Maurier novel for years, though I read "Don't Look Now" fairly recently. This book is whetting my appetite to go back and do some rereading!

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  3. I can't wait to read this! I'm putting it on reserve at the library immediately. Thanks for you interesting review--I, too, love literary(and historical)mysteries!

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  4. Pam - glad you stopped by. Hope you enjoy Daphne as much as I am.

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  5. I found your blog through the Pemberley site and I am so glad that I did. I read Daphne back in November and I was so blown away by it. I put it on my Christmas wish list. Picardie is an excellent writer (I also read My mothers wedding dress : the life and afterlife of clothes). I will read everything she writes in the future.

    The scene when the contemporary woman goes to Menabilly and just hangs around outside. Incredible. I would love to do that. I also love the Brontes and the way she ties them all together was so well done.

    Do watch the movie Daphne. The woman who plays her - Geraldine Somerville - IS Daphne. And the clothes are to die for.

    So glad I found your blog. I will be visiting it extensively.

    A diffferent Pam from the previous post

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  6. Hi PamB--thanks for stopping by. Daphne is on my Netflix queue, and the Forster bio is on my Amazon list.

    I agree about the scene when Jane (the contemporary character) goes to Menabilly--I also loved the scene where Daphne is writing in her hut and looks out and sees a young girl, which she imagines/says is her as a young girl trespassing on the estate. Just wonderful imagery.

    I'm also looking forward to reading My Mother's Wedding Dress.

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  7. Thank you so much, everyone! It's a joy to read the comments of readers who have understood what I was trying to do in this novel. It was the hardest book to write -- I mean, I loved writing it, but like Jane, I was haunted by its writing. I went to Menabilly, and actually stayed in the cottage in the woods. But that's another story. I think I'd better blog about it one day...

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  8. Justine - I confess, I have put off really exploring your site until I had the chance to read Margaret Forster's bio of Daphne. I'm about halfway through it, and have a stack of her novels to start on when I'm done.
    >I went to Menabilly, and actually stayed in the cottage in the woods.
    I would love to hear about this on your blog! My daughter and I are planning a trip to England in June, and I'm debating whether to head down to Fowey or up to Haworth as we won't have time to do both.

    Thanks so much for dropping in--you have a wonderful blog, and I repeat...I loved your Daphne. It is superb.

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  9. I really want to read this book! Thanks for your review!

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