Daphne du Maurier (1907 – 1989)
Key words - English, gothic, suspense, mystery, atmosphere, LGBT
Who? – Daphne du Maurier is an English novelist and playwright who lived in Cornwall with her husband and three children at Menabilly House, which served as the inspiration for Manderley in the novel Rebecca. She felt detached from her family and cared far more about the house and her own imagination. When her father expressed how he longed to have a son (he had three daughters), Du Maurier cut her hair, dressed up as a boy, and created an alter ego called Eric Avon. Since her father was an actor this behaviour was encouraged, but for Du Maurier Eric Avon became more than a childhood fantasy; he was a representation of a repressed side of herself and her attraction to other women. It was Eric who had fallen in love with her school’s headmistress, not her: “[But then] the boy realised he had to grow up and not be a boy any longer, so he turned into a girl, and not an unattractive girl at that, and the boy was locked in a box and put away for ever.” Except at Menabilly, where she “sometimes let the phantom who was neither girl nor boy but disembodied spirit dance in the evening when there was no one to see”.
What? – Du Maurier’s work is atmospheric and supenseful, which explains why Alfred Hitchcock chose to adapt two of her novels (Rebecca, Jamaica Inn) and one short story (The Birds) into films. Even though relationships are often part of her plots, she avoids easy romances and happy endings. One thing that stands out about her writing is Du Maurier’s sense of place; her descriptions of locations are incredibly vivid and appeal to the senses.
Where do I start? – Rebecca (1938)
Best known work? – Rebecca (1938)
You might also enjoy - Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, Wilkie Collins, Donna Tartt, Katherine Mansfield