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Daphne Hardcover – 3 Mar 2008
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'A tantalising literary mystery... Effortlessly overlaying today's London, Yorkshire and Cornwall with their 1950s incarnations, this novel draws you in to its fraught but passionate world as thoroughly as one of Daphne's own.' -- The Financial Times
'Blurring fact and fiction, this is brave and compelling storytelling.' -- Woman and Home
'Daphne is a compulsively readable novel. It merges fact and fiction, the present and the past, in a near-flawless construct that weaves together Brontë and du Maurier fiction and family history -- colliding in Daphne's writing of her biography of Branwell Brontë.'
-- The Spectator
'Justine Picardie has written an absorbing book, a hybrid work of truth, conjecture, fact and fiction, and a story of insight and intelligence.' -- Times Literary Supplement
'Last night I dreamed of Branwell B again...' Daphne du Maurier's passionate interest in the life of the Bronte brother is at the heart of Justine Picardie's gripping novel, Daphne.' -- Sunday Telegraph
'Picardie's clever and original novel presents...an argument for a reassessment of du Maurier's literary quality.' -- Evening Standard
'Skillfully weaving her recreation of du Maurier's life with a beguiling present-day tale, Picardie's novel has as many twists as one of her heroine's own.' -- Red
'Switching between past and present, the novel explores the lives of Daphne du Maurier, author of Rebecca, and the young woman writing a thesis about her in present-day London. A woman who just happens to be married to an older man who is obsessed with his first wife...' -- Eve
'This glorious novel... is a divine treat for lovers of literary mysteries.'
-- The Times
`This literary mystery is a dizzying mixture of fiction and fact ... A compelling character study of Daphne du Maurier' -- Daily Telegraph
About the Author
Justine Picardie is the author of If the Spirit Moves You: Life and Love After Death, the novel Wish I May and, most recently, My Mother's Wedding Dress. She is also the co-writer or editor of several other books. She was formerly the features editor of British Vogue and is now a columnist for Harper's Bazaar and the Sunday Telegraph Magazine. She lives in London with her husband and two sons.
Top customer reviews
The book is very well and intelligently written and has been a real pleasure to read it in this cold and snowy winter that has transformed my Italian Piedmont in a sort of Lapland.
I DO invite to read it!
The book is really three intertwining stories based on fact and centred round Daphne du Maurier's fascination with the Brontë family, in particular Branwell at a particularly miserable time in her marriage to Sir Thomas Browning. Daphne's quest to unearth original documents that might prove Branwell to have been as great a literary force as his sisters is mirrored by the story of a young research student, whose own life seems consumed by her fascination with Daphne du Maurier. Her marriage to an older man with a beautiful former wife is so obviously based on the storyline of du Maurier's Rebecca that it hardly needs spelling out. Then there is Daphne's correspondence with Symington, the disgraced former custodian of the Brontë library at Haworth and the Brotherton Collection (although she was seemingly unaware of the circumstances of his leaving these positions).
It's not all bad. I enjoyed parts of the book, but found some others dull and tedious because they were so repetitive - the continuous requests by Daphne du Maurier for more information from Alex Symington, for instance, and his evasive and sometimes reluctant replies. I also formed the impression that the author was trying desperately to create a sense of mystery where none existed. The result was a feeling of being let down.
Perhaps my expectations wouldn't have been so high if I hadn't so loved Rebecca, which I first read years ago along with Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, two more of my favourites. I was at an impressionable age, but have read all three many times since and still could read them again and again. Like a previous reviewer, I'm sitting on the fence with this one. Perhaps I'd have recommended it more heartily if it were cut by a few thousand words to remove some of the repetition. As it is, I'm not so sure.
Justine Picardie weaves her story so well, the basic idea is very simple but it is all the little details and sub-stories she explores that make this book so fantastic. The character of Daphne Du Maurier is perfect, I felt like she had captured this woman so well. Justine Picardie explores Daphne's childhood and relationship with her father Gerald plus the difficult relationship she has with her husband, the great Boy Browning. I also found the connection between Daphne and the Llewelyn Davies brothers (the children that J.M. Barrie adopted and based Peter Pan on) truly fascinating.
I felt that perception of one's self was a key theme of the book. Daphne at many points feels she has to act in a certain way as a best-selling author and wife of a war hero rather than truly being herself. Menabilly, the inspiration for Daphne's book Rebecca and her true home in Cornwall is integral to the story. It is at Menabilly that she feels safe and able to relax more. Alex Symington has many secrets to hide and it is through his letters to Daphne that he is able to portray the man he would like to be and who he thinks he should be. Peter Llewelyn Davies features heavily in the book obviously as a family member but more importantly as a confidant of Daphne's; the reader sees his struggle with the legacy that J.M. Barrie placed on Peter and the pressure that he feels from the public who see him as the boy who never grew up. This theme of self-perception continues with the un-named narrator in the present day; she has entered into an unhappy marriage and initially tries to change who she is to please her new husband. It is a chance meeting with the ex-wife that brings these perceptions and beliefs crashing down and ties the whole story together.
The book also offers insight into Daphne's inspiration for many of her books but especially Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel. We almost see Daphne being haunted by the character of Rebecca who she greatly identifies with, especially due to the relationship she has with her husband.
I can only apologise for this rambling review! What I am trying to show is that Justine Picardie explores so many different avenues in such a short book, the way in which she weaves all these strands together is extremely clever and insightful. I think that Daphne is a book that I could read again many times and still take something new from it. Reading this has definitely made me reach for my books on Daphne Du Maurier and the Brontes and I shall certainly be doing some new reading on J.M. Barrie and the Llewelyn Davies boys. I believe that Justine Picardie has done Daphne Du Maurier proud with this excellent book.
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