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The Daphne Du Maurier Blogathon: My Favourite Author

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Gabriela from Pale Writer is hosting this blogathon honouring the author Daphne Du Maurier. Be sure to visit Gabriela’s site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

When I saw the announcement for this blogathon, I just knew that I had to take part. Daphne Du Maurier is my favourite author. I am so happy that both she and her work are being honoured with this blogathon.

Dpahne Du Maurier
The star of our Blogathon. Daphne Du Maurier. Image source Wikimedia Commons.

I have been a fan of Daphne Du Maurier since my early teens.I have always been an avid reader. Most weekends would find me going into my local library and borrowing a big pile of books.

Whilst browsing the library shelves one day, I came across their Daphne Du Maurier section, and I decided that I would pick a couple of her novels to try.

I knew the name Daphne Du Maurier at this point because I had already seen Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of Rebecca, but I’m ashamed to say that I wasn’t familiar with Daphne or her work beyond that.

After reading and thoroughly enjoying both Rebecca and Jamaica Inn I became hooked. I knew that I wanted to immerse myself in more of Daphne’s books.

What drew me most to her work was her strong female characters, and also her focus on the more complex side of life and humanity. Her novels also often deal with some very unusual subject matter. Many of her novels are set in her beloved Cornwall and I love how she writes about this place that she knew so well.

I also loved and appreciated how complicated and different her characters were to those found in so many of the other novels I’d been reading up until I discovered her work. I made sure that I got my hands on as many of her books as I could from that point on. I have been a fan ever since. 

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My treasured Daphne Du Maurier collection.

When I read Daphne’s novels, I’m always struck most by how her words and descriptions manage to paint such vivid images for me. This is the main reason that she has become my favourite author.  

The characters, situations, landscapes, furnishings, clothes etc all spring so clearly into my mind when I read her descriptions of them. No other author conjures up such clear images for me when I read their work. Daphne had that rare gift to be able to drag you into the times, places and situations that she was writing about, and she could make them all come alive so vividly for her readers. I also love how well developed and real her characters are. 

I especially love her strong heroines; ladies like Mary Yellan in Jamaica Inn; Lady Dona in Frenchman’s Creek; the nameless second Mrs. DeWinter and the dead Rebecca in Rebecca. Mary and Dona in particular are very interesting female characters because they don’t conform to the gender norms of their respective time periods.

Mary Yellan isn’t meek, and nor is she content to just sit quietly in the corner sewing. Mary is brave and fearless, and she also puts up with unhappiness and violence to stay with her timid and bullied Aunt Patience. Mary endures much, but she doesn’t allow herself to be broken by cruelty and darkness. She also has no illusions that love and relationships are always all sweetness and light either. Mary takes the rough with the smooth and isn’t cowed by anyone or anything.

Photo1752Lady Dona is a headstrong and passionate woman who is trapped in a loveless marriage. Dona longs for adventure and she finds that in the form of a dashing pirate. Dona leaves her life as a wife, mother and secondary citizen of her own country, to take charge of her own life. She becomes liberated to do the things that she wants to do, not the things that society and her husband think she should be doing and enjoying. 

The second Mrs. DeWinter starts off as shy and fragile, and as someone who is at first completely eclipsed by the memory of the dead Rebecca. She gradually comes out of her shell and becomes a strong woman, one who takes control of her home, embraces her power as mistress of that home, and ultimately becomes much more confident and worldly. 

Then there is the dead Rebecca, a woman whose past deeds, sexuality, much admired beauty and indomitable spirit, continue to impact the lives of the living long after she herself has departed the earth. Rebecca was controlled and dominated by nobody. She was also a strong and determined woman. Rebecca may have been cruel and done things that we don’t agree with, but it’s hard not to admire her for doing her own thing and being so strong in the time period that the novel is set in. It’s hard to forget the women in Daphne’s novels because they are so strong and full of life. I love how Daphne gave us female characters who could not only be strong like men, but who could also have just as much adventure and excitement as any man. 

Daphne’s work has often been adapted for the big and small screen several times over the years, but no director apart from Alfred Hitchcock has ever been able to truly capture the atmosphere and power of her novels in my opinion. I find that other screen adaptations of her either omit or alter far too much of Daphne’s source material.

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Jamaica Inn(1939). Image source IMDb.
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Video cover for Frenchman’s Creek(1998). Image source IMDb.

 I have enjoyed the various screen adaptations on their own merits, but I think that none of them, apart from Hitchcock’s adaptation of Rebecca, have been as good as the novels upon which they are based. Hungry Hill is a perfect example of this. The film is certainly an enjoyable enough period drama, but it is also an appalling adaptation of Daphne’s novel because it rushes and truncates a 500 plus page novel which is set over several generations. The film version of Hungry Hill has lost so much of the detail from the novel, that I for one never feel as if I’ve connected with these characters, or endured their struggles and tragedies with them the way that I do when reading the novel. 

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Poster for Hungry Hill(1948). Image source IMDb.
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Rebecca(1940). Image source IMDb.

 Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of Rebecca, while slightly altering the circumstances in which Rebecca met her death, is a near perfect adaptation of Daphne’s novel. Hitchcock captured the atmosphere and power of the novel so well. It’s therefore baffling to me that Hitchcock could give us that masterpiece, and yet he also gave us the terrible screen adaptation of Jamaica Inn, a film which shifts the focus off of our heroine Mary Yellan and instead makes Charles Laughton’s Sir Humphrey the primary character and focus. This is one of Daphne’s most exciting and detailed novels, but I feel that the film sadly lacks the grittiness, the adventure and the mystery which are all so strongly present in the novel.

Hitchcock also adapted Daphne’s short story The Birds, and while that film also bears little resemblance to her book, at least The Birds is a very good and scary film. Jamaica Inn on the other hand just leaves me shaking my head wondering what the heck went wrong there. 😒It seems to me that Daphne’s novels are so detailed that they prove difficult for screenwriters and directors to adapt properly for the screen. Indeed many of her stories have never been adapted at all.

I for one would love to see screen adaptations of The House On The Strand, Julius or The Loving Spirit, but I think they would present many challenges for whoever took on that task due to the length and depth of the novels.  I can well appreciate how difficult it is to adapt novels for film and television. The trouble is that by cutting or rushing the source material for the transition to the screen, the story and overall film/series suffers because too much of what made the source novel so powerful and affecting to begin with is lost in the process. 

Some screen adaptations of her work that I do think are pretty good are Rebecca (1940), Rebecca (1979, British miniseries starring Joanna David and Jeremy Brett), Jamaica Inn (2014, although even this miniseries pales in comparison to the novel for me). 

I’d like to mention three of Daphne’s novels that I think everybody should read. If you have read any of these before, then I would love to know what you think of them. 

Photo1749Daphne’s third novel, Julius, which was published in 1933, is her most ambitious and absorbing novel in my opinion. The novel focuses on one of the most complex, cold, cruel and fascinating characters ever written.

The main character is Julius Levy, a man who puts business and his own self interest before emotion, family and the people caught up in his life.

The only person he cares about his daughter, Gabriel, and their relationship with one another is very strange having an almost incestuous overtone to it.

Julius adores his daughter and his obsessed with her, I would say that he is clearly in love with her and desires her. The irony is that she has inherited his emotional distance, and his despicable attitude to other people, so that no matter how me may love her,he in return means nothing to her. The way that this relationship ends is shocking and tragic. I love how Daphne makes us become equally fascinated and appalled by Julius and his actions. We may loath him and be frustrated by him, but this book is impossible to put down because it is such a gripping and enthralling tale which sucks you in. 

Photo1751Hungry Hill is one of my most favourite Du Maurier novels. It is an interesting and tragic tale focusing on several generations of the same family. ‘Copper’ John Broderick is the builder of a mine in 1820’s Ireland. The mine is inherited by his son and passed down to future generations.

A curse is placed on that mine on the hill by John’s sworn enemy, Morty Donovan. The mine is beset by many difficulties and future generations of John’s male heirs suffer early deaths, tragedy and despair. Is it the curse or just a bizarre twist of fate?

I find the novel interesting because it makes us bear witness to an entire families life, desires, tragedies, loves, secrets and legacy across the generations. We are made to understand and sympathise with why certain characters have become who they are. I also like how the Broderick home of Clonmere becomes a key character itself. I also like how Daphne shows us that it can be difficult for the next generation to live up to reputation and deeds of their ancestors, especially when they are expected to take up their mantle. Interestingly, Daphne claimed that the Brodericks were based upon ancestors of her friend Christopher Puxley. 

Photo1750Rebecca was Daphne’s fifth novel, and it is the one which has become the most popular and famous of her work, and it has earned that honour for very good reason.

This atmospheric novel is a beautiful love story, something much akin to Jane Eyre, and like that earlier classic, it is one which manages to mix romance and joy with mystery, secrets, psychological thrills and a sense of darkness and doom. 

A nameless young woman falls in love with the middle aged Maxim De Winter. Maxim is a man seemingly haunted by the death of his beautiful and vibrant wife, Rebecca. His new wife brings Maxim the peace and joy he has long searched for, and he provides his new wife with the love and kindness she has so longed for. The memory of the former Mrs. De Winter sadly begins to overpower their relationship, and very soon dark secrets become uncovered and everything changes.  

This is the novel that made me a fan of Daphne’s. I think this is her most vivid novel and it is the one which I can read again and again and never get tired of. There is so much going on in this novel, far more than may at first be realised by reading a very brief plot description.  I especially love how dominant Rebecca is. This character who we never meet becomes key to this whole story, and we are made to feel as though we do know her and we can picture her in our minds(I always picture her as a blend of Vivien Leigh and Margaret Lockwood). Rebecca is a force of nature and it isn’t difficult to see why her memory casts such a shadow on those who knew her. This novel is a classic for a reason. Give it a go, you won’t be disappointed!

I consider The Parasites and Mary Anne(a fictionalised novel of the life of Daphne’s  great-grandmother, Mary Anne Clarke)to be her most underrated novels. My favourite Daphne Du Maurier novels are Hungry Hill, Jamaica Inn, Rebecca,  The House On The Strand, Frenchman’s Creek. I still need to read The Glass Blowers and Rule Britannia. 

Thanks to Gabriela for presenting me with an opportunity to write about the work of my favourite author. I’d love to hear from all of you. What are your favourite Daphne Du Maurier novels? 

12 thoughts on “The Daphne Du Maurier Blogathon: My Favourite Author”

  1. This is such a wonderful article, Maddy. I love how personally connected to Daphne du Maurier’s novels you are and I also became a fan of hers as a teenager. I think that her passionate writing and female characters, as you said, really resonate with you as a young adult and as you get older. My favourite novel of hers is indeed, Rebecca, but I absolutely love everything she has written. Her biography of her father is wonderfully detailed. Thank you so much for your in-depth look at her novels and how you feel about them. Thank you also for participating in my Blogathon!

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  2. I really enjoyed this tribute. Frenchman’s Creek and Jamaica Inn were my favorites, for many of the reasons you mention, but I share your enjoyment of Mary Anne, and likewise can’t understand why there aren’t a number of adaptations of The House on the Strand, which is fascinating (though the narrator himself is–in non-Du Maurier fashion–rather dull, that’s part of what’s interesting about the story).

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  3. This blogathon – and you – have got me jonesing to read more Daphne du Maurier this summer. I’m a bit embarrassed to say I’ve read only one of her novels and none of her short stories, but I know I’ll have some terrific reading ahead of me, starting with Hungry Hill.

    Have you read a bio of Daphne du M.? If so, would you recommend?

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  4. Rebecca was the first book fully written in English that I read – I inherited the copy from my mom! This is my most important connection to Daphne du Maurier, but I’m certainly learning a lot about her through the blogathon and wanting to read more of her books. Your post really makes us feel your admiration for Daphne.
    Kisses!

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  5. Daphne du Maurier had a deft touch verging on the magical. I particularly like: The Parasites, for its often scathing wit, and its trenchant insights into the characters, and: I’ll Never Be Young Again, which moved me to a degree I should not have thought possible. A superb and intelligent writer Daphne du Maurier. I do though have one reservation. To wit, as you say, her women are generally strong (or become strong) – but her men seem for the most part, to be weak and neurotic (the obverse side of the coin).

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  6. Maddy, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your love for du Maurier. Your post makes me want to jump into another one of her novels! I too fell under her spell with Rebecca.

    I read a book that I think you would absolutely love! It’s called Enchanted Cornwall: Her Pictorial Memoir, written by du Maurier herself. There’s photos galore, autobiographical info, and excepts from her novels woven in as she tells (and the pictures show) how Cornwall inspired her as an author. It really is like taking a walk through her imagination and into her stories. My favorite part was learning about the inspiration for Manderley.

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