One of the things I love best about reading blogs is the ability to click links. It is like going on an intellectual treasure hunt. Usually, the links to news stories send you to something which has recently appeared in a periodical or website. The power of Google, however, gives us news stories going back into the 19th century! What fun!
One of my dreams is to finally visit the Bronte Parsonage at Haworth someday. Naturally, I fantasize about wandering around by myself, like the characters in the Justine Picardie novel “Daphne,” I realize this is a fantastic delusion, I know the reality will be that my visit, when it occurs, will take place in a group of fellow pilgrims, looking at the hallowed dining room table in a carefully controlled tourist environment.
So, imagine my delight when I found this story written for the Telegraph of London by Justine Picardie about a seance of sort which was conducted at the Parsonage in 2006! OOOO! This is a delicious article about the souls of the Bronte’s lingering in their beloved home. Two psychics were invited to wander the parsonage and see if they could pick up any vibes. One, the article relates, was Henrietta Llewelyn Davies, the granddaughter of one of the Llewelyn Davies brothers – one of, “the Lost Boys upon whom JM Barrie based Peter Pan.” Like the Emily Dickinson properties the possibility of a ghostly presence sends shivers up the spine.
I can’t dismiss the the cosmic link between the Brontes and the Lost Boys, as the name Llewelyn Davies continues to pop up in my readings….it is lovely to be shivery.
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.