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.