It might be a little dramatic to declare that ‘I love’ Daphne du Maurier, and I suppose I really should say that I love her writing. After all I never knew her (though I wish I had) but somehow, it is difficult for me to separate the woman and her work. I’m not an expert, or even a student of du Maurier (like the earnest young woman in Justine Picardie’s wonderful Daphne) but when I read her books I feel as if she is in the room with me, telling her stories.
When I picked up my first Daphne du Maurier book – Jamaica Inn – it was with little expectation. Actually I was attracted to the slightly naff cover and remembered someone saying that it was their favourite novel. I expected it to be romantic I suppose. Du Maurier has historically been so often dismissed as simply a ‘romantic novelist’ which anyway, I believe is nothing to be sniffed at, but is still a rather two-dimensional perspective. Perhaps it is the way that she has been promoted (you only have to look at a sample of her covers), and now reading The Loving Spirit (review coming tomorrow, 2nd Oct)I would have to admit that there is a strong element of romance in her early writing.
But, wow is she so much more than a romance writer! Her novels have such dark themes – I was positively horrified by the concept of ‘wrecking’ and the gruesome images of human greed that du Maurier conjures in Jamaica Inn. In each book that I read of du Maurier’s she explores something different. The Parasites for example is an intimate, insular and claustrophobic story of familial ties and near-incestuous relationships. Mary Anne (review coming Sun 9th) is both a historical novel and a homage to du Maurier’s wild-at-heart great-great grandmother. It’s rare that I read a whole book of short stories that I like, but du Maurier’s hit the nail on the head nearly every time, and in the case of Don’t Look Now (Sun 23rd) leave a chill running down my spine. When I pick up a du Maurier novel I know I’m going to be swept away with vivid descriptions and characters who seem really and truly alive in the moment that I am reading the book.
I can’t wait to tread that path to Manderlay again…
Are you a fan (if so what’s your favourite novel?), are a Daphne du Maurier novice or are you a skeptic?
If you need any more convincing of that you should join in this Discovering Daphne month, pop over to find out why Savidge Reads loves Daphne du Maurier.