I recently finished reading Justine Picardie’s novel Daphne. I hesitated before ordering it with the gigantic Barnes and Noble gift certificate I get for Christmas from my work buddies each year ($500!!!!) because I hate it when I order a book that disappoints. That’s why I usually save my certificate for purchasing sure things like hard backs of books I have already read and want to add to my permanent library. How stupid is that?
Anyway – I took the plunge, entered my gift cert number and hit the button … I then foolishly began perusing Amazon reviews and started to doubt myself. So, when the book actually arrived, I didn’t dive in, I glanced at it out of the corner of my eye as it sat next to my bed for two weeks. Then, I moved it around with me wherever I went, leaving it on my mother’s writing desk where I read in the mornings for two days and the coffee table which is piled with books for another week.
I decided to read two warm up books, The Seance (good) and The Ghost Writer (creepy good) both by John Harwood. During all if this, I was still working away on biographies of Emily Dickinson, Emma Hamilton and Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire. I am almost finished with Emily, 3/4’s finished with Emma and 1/4 with Georgiana.
So, I finally started Daphne on a dark and rainy evening. I LOVED IT. I read it while stirring sauce, running bath water, letting the dog out. It was completely gift certificate worthy. It is basically a a fictionalized account based during the time Daphne DuMaurier was writing her biography about Branwell Bronte in the late 1950’s. The story shifts back and forth from Daphne, her correspondence with a disgraced former Bronte curator, Alex Symington and a fictional character who is contemporary.Therefore it qualifies as my favorite kind of book: a back-n-forth book. For informational purposes and clarity, both DuMaurier and Symington were actual people. The plot concerning the fictional modern character cleverly mimics Daphne’s greatest novel, Rebecca. This young woman is researching Daphne for a Phd thesis and comes across the correspondence between Daphne and Mr. Symington. She is slightly obsessed with Daphne, but you don’t feel as if she is round the bend. It really is atmospheric and well written and if you like a good literary mystery, while the mystery part is fairly low key, this is a good read. I read it during a rainy week, so that was even better.
Some caveats: I may have loved this so much because I knew a lot about Daphne. But don’t let that stop you. You can do some fun research. I understood the back story which is kind of alluded to in the novel but not really clarified to for purposes of brevity, I am sure. I have read almost all Daphne Du Maurier’s novels ( not the Branwell Bio – which I plan to add to my stack) and I have read the definitive Biography about her by Margaret Forster. This biography, if you like biographies, is excellent. Also, another very helpful thing to know is the gist of the story surrounding J.M.Barrie (Peter Pan)and the children who were his models for The Lost Boys. Actually, it is one of the saddest tales of family tragedy. As it happens, Peter Pan was Daphne DuMaurier’s first cousin. Being someone who has close cousinly relationships, I was very sympathetic to Daphne’s relationship with Peter. I was propelled into research about J.M. Barrie after watching Finding Never-land. This excellent website will give you heaps of background information and if you don’t feel incredibly sad after looking at all of the pictures, you aren’t well and I would suggest you stop taking your anti-depressants.
Anyway – WONDERFUL BOOK. Have a go…