Hi everyone and Happy International Women’s Day!
Today’s post is going to be another instalment of my “Spotlight On:…” series. This month I’m going to focus on Daphne du Maurier.
As always, the post will be divided up into 6 different parts:
1. A little bit about their life
2. Their works I have read
3. Their works I am yet to read
4. Great film/TV adaptations based on their works
6. An author biography recommendation
So without further ado…
A Little Bit About Their Life
Daphne du Maurier was born on 13th May 1907 in London to Muriel du Maurier (an actress) and Sir Gerald Hubert Edward Busson du Maurier (an actor-manager). Daphne du Maurier grew up in a very creative and artistic family. Besides her father and mother being involved in acting, her uncle was a magazine editor and her grandfather was a writer.
Daphne was primarily home-educated by governesses along with her two sisters who she was very close to. Du Maurier often thought that she was a boy born in the wrong body and some people have suggested that this is the reason why her fictional females don’t fare too well. Though her family tried to dissuade her from writing, Daphne still enjoyed their family holidays together. They often visited the du Maurier country-home in Fowey, Cornwall. It was here that she developed a huge love for Cornwall and a love that provided the back-drop for many of her stories. It was also here that, at the age of eighteen, she was alleged to have had her first same-sex affair.
Daphne continued her love of writing and her first novel, The Loving Spirit (1931) was published to critical acclaim. She married Major Frederick Arthur Montague Browning in 1932 and had her first daughter, Tessa, in 1933. It was after reading her book that Major Frederick sailed all the way to London in order to meet the author of this book. in 1934, Daphne wrote and published an honest biography of her father, Gerald: A Portrait, which shocked many people. But it was in 1936 when Jamaica Inn was published that she was propelled to the top of the best-seller lists.
Daphne and her husband spent a period of time in Egypt due to his commitments in the army. Although Daphne experienced a very unhappy time here, she also wrote Rebecca (1938) which became her most well-known novels. This book was made into a film by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940. Her books Frenchman’s Creek (1941) and Hungry Hill (1943) were also made into films. In 1937, she gave birth to her second daughter, Flavia, as well as a son, Christian, in 1940. Daphne moved back to Cornwall whilst her husband was away at war. It was during this time that their marriage became strained. Daphne believed that her success as an author had caused strain in their relationship. Writing to close friend Ellen Doubleday (who is said to have spurned du Maurier’s advances), the author wrote: “It’s people like me who have careers who really have bitched up the old relationship between men and women. Women ought to be soft and gentle and dependent. Disembodied spirits like myself are all wrong.”
The death of her husband in 1965 affected her massively. She also felt that her talent and imagination was waning. She wrote her last book The House on the Strand in 1969, the same year that she was made a DBE (Dame Commander). She then entered into a period of creative and personal decline, culminating in a nervous breakdown in 1981. Daphne du Maurier died at home in Cornwall in 1989 at the age of 81. It is thought that Daphne du Maurier’s confused surrounding her sexuality and gender would have lead to her nervous breakdown; she did not think her desire for women made her a lesbian and detested the word.
Their Works I Have Read/Am Yet to Read
I have only read I’ll Never Be Young Again which I did really enjoy. I have Rebecca, Jamaica Inn and The House on the Strand in my collection and am looking forward to reading them. I currently have every other Daphne du Maurier book and short story collection on my wish list as I really do love her writing style.
Great Film/TV Adaptations of Their Work
Of course the obvious answer here is any Alfred Hitchock adaptation. I have seen The Birds and really loved it and I’m looking forward to watching his adaptation of Rebecca. I’m not quite sure how I feel about the 2020 Netflix adaptation of Rebecca but if you’ve seen it, let me know your thoughts!
“The point is, life has to be endured, and lived. But how to live it is the problem.”
“…the routine of life goes on, whatever happens, we do the same things, go through the little performance of eating, sleeping, washing. No crisis can break through the crust of habit.”
“Every moment was a precious thing, having in it the essence of finality.”
“I believe there is a theory that men and women emerge finer and stronger after suffering, and that to advance in this or any world we must endure ordeal by fire.”
“Men are simpler than you imagine my sweet child. But what goes on in the twisted, tortuous minds of women would baffle anyone.”
“I suppose sooner or later in the life of everyone comes a moment of trial. We all of us have our particular devil who rides us and torments us, and we must give battle in the end.”
“I wondered how many people there were in the world who suffered, and continued to suffer, because they could not break out from their own web of shyness and reserve, and in their blindness and folly built up a great distorted wall in front of them that hid the truth.”
“Happiness is not a possession to be prized, it is a quality of thought, a state of mind.”
“But luxury has never appealed to me, I like simple things, books, being alone, or with somebody who understands.”
An Author Biography Recommendation
If you want to read more about Daphne du Maurier and her life, I would recommend reading Manderley Forever: The Life of Daphne du Maurier by Tatiana de Rosnay. I would also recommend reading the biography du Maurier wrote about her father to get a better idea of her upbringing. It is Gerald: A Portrait by Daphne du Mauirer.
Have you read any books by Daphne du Maurier? Which is your favourite?
Thanks for reading!
Love, Zoë x