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Du Maurier December: Interviews

For Boxing Day, I have compiled together four most interesting interviews about Daphne du Maurier and her work.  In The Paris Review, Sadie Stein talks of Rebecca, and the Telegraph muses upon how du Maurier came to write her most famous novel.  Kits Browning takes this further in this fascinating blog post, in which he talks of his mother’s autobiographical inspiration for Rebecca.  Finally, here is an interview with du Maurier herself on the Cornwall Guide’s site.

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Du Maurier December: Daphne at the Movies

I very much doubt that the rush and bustle of Christmas Eve affords any of us the time to read long book reviews, so for today, I thought I would compile a list of Daphne du Maurier’s film adaptations.  Any of these films would be perfect to curl up with over this festive season.  I have chosen to order them chronologically.

Jamaica Inn (1939; directed by Alfred Hitchcock; based upon the novel of the same name)
–  Rebecca (1940; directed by Alfred Hitchcock; based upon the novel of the same name)
Frenchman’s Creek (1944; directed by Mitchell Leisen; based upon the novel of the same name)
The Years Between (1946; directed by Compton Bennett; based upon du Maurier’s play of the same name)
Hungry Hill (1947; directed by Brian Desmond Hurst; based upon the novel of the same name)
My Cousin Rachel (1952; directed by Henry Koster; based upon the novel of the same name)
The Scapegoat (1959; directed by Robert Hamer; based upon the novel of the same name)
The Birds (1963; directed by Alfred Hitchcock; based loosely upon du Maurier’s short story ‘The Birds’)
Don’t Look Now (1973; directed by Nicolas Roeg; British-Italian film based upon du Maurier’s short story ‘Don’t Look Now’)

Adaptations from around the world:
Kohraa (1964; directed by Biren Nag; an Indian thriller horror film based upon Rebecca)
Anamika (2008; directed by Anant Mahadevan; a Bollywood film based upon Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of Rebecca)

Which of these have you watched?

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Du Maurier December: ‘The Winding Stair: Francis Bacon, His Rise and Fall’ by Daphne du Maurier ***

The new Virago reprint of Daphne du Maurier’s The Winding Star: Francis Bacon, His Rise and Fall, which was first published in 1976, features an introduction by novelist Francis King.  The book’s title is derived from one of Bacon’s quotes: ‘All rising to great place is by a winding stair’.

King writes that as well as du Maurier’s admiration for Bacon’s essays, she may well have been driven to write The Winding Stair about him by way of the ‘rumours, current even in their lifetimes, that the two Bacon brothers had, as members of the intimate circle of Robert Devereux Earl of Essex, been involved in homosexual intrigues and even activities.  Throughout her life, the subject of homosexuality fascinated du Maurier’.  Whilst King’s introduction is well written and informative, it does seem to end rather abruptly, which is a shame.

In introducing her own work, du Maurier writes: ‘Many accounts of the life of Sir Francis Bacon have been written for scholars, but du Maurier’s aim in this biography was to paint a vivid portrait of this remarkable man for the common reader, and to explore his considerable achievements: as a writer, philosopher, scientist and politician, he was truly a Renaissance man’.  A timeline of Bacon’s life has been included – a useful tool, particularly given the lack of chronological structure within the biography itself.  In true du Maurier style, The Winding Stair does not begin with Bacon’s birth; rather, she has chosen a pivotal moment in his life – the death of his brother, Anthony – as her starting point.

Whilst The Winding Stair is a very informative book, parts of it do tend to feel a little dry and stodgy, particularly in comparison to du Maurier’s other biographical works.  Elements of her scholarly research are strong, however; the political and social situation throughout Bacon’s life has been well realised, and the historical detail which has been woven in – from King James I’s coronation to the oubreak of the plague in the city of London – does help to set the scene well.  Quotes have been included, both from Bacon’s own work and from other sources.

Du Maurier has focused upon the bigger issues in Bacon’s life – becoming Solicitor-General under King James I when he was forty five, for example – as well as those which are certainly more trivial, such as the history of his handwriting, and how it altered over time: ‘From the hurried Saxon hand full of large sweeping curves and with letters imperfectly formed and connected, which he wrote in Elizabeth’s time, to a small, neat, light and compact one, formed more upon the Italian model which was then coming into fashion’.

My personal interest in The Winding Stair was piqued the most in those sections which mentioned Shakespeare.  As a figure, I feel that he came to life far more than Bacon did throughout the biography.  Whilst I found the beginning of the book rather too stale, it did become more readable as it went on.  Considered in its entirety and in comparison to du Maurier’s other biographies, however, this is on a par with Gerald: A Portrait; in no way does it reach the compelling heights as her work on Branwell Bronte.

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Du Maurier December: ‘The Doll: Short Stories’ by Daphne du Maurier ****

I have wanted to read The Doll: Short Stories ever since its publication in 2011.  Most of the stories within this book were, says Polly Samson’s introduction, ‘written early in Daphne du Maurier’s career, yet they display her mastery of atmosphere, tension and intrigue and reveal a cynicism far beyond her years’.

The Doll is made up of thirteen stories in all.  The title story was written when du Maurier was twenty: ‘It was the first thing she wrote in Fowey,’ Samson tells us, ‘having fled the distractions of a family life steeped in tittle-tattle and the Theatre.  It’s a story of obsession, and the submerged anxieties of the young writer’s mind run through the pages like wine through water’.  She believes that ‘all the themes in her later great novels can be seen here in embryonic form’.  Samson’s introduction is nicely rounded, and it does not give too much away in terms of plots and characters.

The Doll is an incredibly dark collection of stories; possibly the darkest in du Maurier’s entire oeuvre.  From the very first tale, du Maurier sets each scene marvellously; they are vivid, sometimes horribly so.  Describing the ‘barren, rugged’ island of St Hilda’s, for example, she writes: ‘The island rises out of the sea a queer, misshapen crag, splendid in its desolation, with a grey face lifted to the four winds.  It might have been thrown up from the depths of the Atlantic in a moment of great unrest, and set there, a small defiant piece of land, to withstand forever the anger of the sea’.  She builds each story beautifully, to the extent that the reader is soon quite absorbed in each subsequent tale.

Many themes worm their way into du Maurier’s stories here, most of them manifested around love and all it brings with it – adultery, sexuality, crimes of passion, jealousy, sadism and obsession, for example.  The stories tend to become quite gruesome in places.  Du Maurier demonstrates the way in which outsiders can hld such power and influence, particularly in secluded communities.  With regard to characters, those found within the pages of The Doll are often unusual and unpredictable, and they leap into life almost immediately.  Of the main protagonist in ‘The Doll’, for example, the male narrator says the following: ‘Rebecca, when I think of you with your pale earnest face, your great wide fanatical eyes like a saint, the narrow mouth that hid your teeth, sharp and white as ivory, and your halo of savage hair, electric, dark, uncontrolled – there has never been anyone more beautiful’.  Du Maurier’s narrative voices are so well controlled, whether she is writing from the first or third person, and as a male or female.

Each of the stories in The Doll are quite different, and all are unsettling in their own ways.  The title story, for example, occurs when a notebook – its pages ‘so damaged by exposure [to the sea] as to render them completely illegible’ – is washed ashore and found by a doctor.  Of the dark prose contained within the notebook, he says the following: ‘Whether the wild improbabilities of the story are true, or whether the whole is but the hysterical product of a diseased mind, we shall never know’.  Throughout, atmosphere is built to the point at which it stifles.  Of the doll, Julio, in ‘The Doll’, for instance, Du Maurier says: ‘His face was the most evil thing I have ever seen.  It was ashen pale in colour, and the mouth was a crimson gash, sensual and depraved.  The nose was thin, with curved nostrils, and the eyes were cruel, gleaming and narrow, and curiously still’.

The Doll: Short Stories is well paced and incredibly creepy at times.  Interestingly, the stories feel very modern on the whole; one would not think that the majority had been penned during the 1920s and early 1930s.  Masks and veils are used throughout, and we are lulled into a false sense of security.  Elements are then revealed which are not at all expected, rendering this collection an incredibly memorable one.

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Du Maurier December: ‘The Flight of the Falcon’ by Daphne du Maurier **

The Flight of the Falcon was the penultimate book which I chose to read for my du Maurier December project.  First published in 1965, the novel is set in the fictional city of Ruffano in Italy, which was inspired by a real city, but contains a plot and characters of du Maurier’s own creation.

The Flight of the Falcon begins in the twentieth century, in an Italian city with an incredibly violent history.  The face of Ruffano is being modernised, around the focal point of its university.  In present-day Ruffano, ‘Austerity was banished.  The young, with all their fine contempt for dusty ways, had taken over’. The town has rather a sinister edge to it; there are those who follow students around at night, and a secretive society within the wider university organisation.  A student named Caterina tells our narrator the following: ‘But I’m sure of one thing.  I would never walk about Ruffano by night without at least half-a-dozen others.  It’s all right round here, and in the piazza della Vita.  Not up the hill, not by the palace’.  Parallels are drawn ‘through murder, humiliation and outrage’ from the very beginning between the present day and the story of Duke Claudio, the Falcon, who lived five hundred years before.

The narrator of the piece, Armino Fabbio – known as Beo – currently works for Sunshine Tours, and describes himself as a courier; a ‘guide, manager, mediator and shepherd of souls…  A courier can make or break a tour.  Like the conductor of a choir he must, by force of personality, induce his team to sing in harmony; subdue the raucous, encourage the timid, conspire with the young, flatter the old’.  The novel’s first main plot point comes when the body of a woman is discovered with a stab wound.  Those on the tour with Beo had seen her the previous evening, passed out drunk on a bench.  It turns out that she and Beo share a past connection, and Beo then has to deal with the fragmented memories of his childhood which become interspersed with his present: ‘I stood watching my grip, a wanderer between two worlds.  The one the via dei Sogni of my past, with all its memories, but no longer mine; and this other, active, noisy, equally indifferent.  The dead should not return.  Lazarus was right to feel foreboding.  Caught, as he must have been, betwixt past and present, he evaded both in horror, seeking the anonymity of the tomb – but in vain’.

The most interesting element of the plot comes when Beo, who returns to Ruffano and is employed as a temporary librarian, stumbles across a book which details the past of the city’s infamous Falcon, Claudio Malebranche: ‘A youth of outstanding promise, he became intoxicated by good fortune, and casting off his early discipline he surrounded himself by a small band of dissolute disciples, and dismayed the good citizens of Ruffano by licentious outrages and revolting cruelties.  No one could walk by night for fear of the Falcon’s sudden descent into the city, when, aided by his followers, he would seize and ravage…’.  The present and past stories converge through the guise of the town’s annual festival, entitled ‘The Flight of the Falcon’.

The elements of crime novel within The Flight of the Falcon tend to become glossed over after a while, and are not quite built up enough to keep the reader guessing.  Beo’s first person male narrative voice is believable, but it does not feel as compelling or as well built as those in books such as My Cousin Rachel and The House on the Strand.  I could have quite happily put The Flight of the Falcon down at any point and not picked it up again; I did not feel as though I particularly had – or even wanted – to know what was going to happen within its pages.  I did not feel an ounce of compassion on behalf of the narrator, even when he was descriving some of the sadder things which had happened to him, and there was a relatively detached air to the whole.

At first, The Flight of the Falcon is a relatively easy novel to get into, but the pace is rather slow and it does tend to become bogged down in details from time to time.  The dialogue is sodden with mundane and superfluous details.  It did not feel as though du Maurier was perhaps as comfortable with her setting as she is with those books which take place in the United Kingdom and in France.  I had the feeling throughout that something pivotal was missing from the novel.

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Du Maurier December: ‘Daphne du Maurier: A Daughter’s Memoir’ by Flavia Leng ****

I have wanted to read Flavia Leng’s memoir of her mother for such a long time, and thought that my du Maurier December project afforded a very good reason indeed to do so.  Leng’s ‘moving and revealing’ memoir was first published in 1994, and presents many of her childhood memories alongside the facts of du Maurier’s life.

The introduction of Daphne du Maurier: A Daughter’s Memoir is vivid from its very first sentence: ‘I dream often that my mother is still alive… In my dreams I see her as she was, a long time ago, before the start of the illness and depression that were to mar the last years of her life’.  She goes on to set out the ancestry of her family, focusing particularly – as one might expect – upon her parents.

Leng demonstrates how du Maurier’s beloved Menabilly in Cornwall was the perfect place for the du Maurier-Browning family to make their home: ‘She gave Tessa, Kits and me a magical environment in which to grow up.  It was a lovely haven for my father on his return from the stresses of the Second World War’.  She also talks of the great divide which the idyllic setting sometimes held against her mother’s character, and the way in which the latter’s writing built a barrier between herself and her children: ‘There were times when my mother was busy with her writing that I felt we were intruding on her life…  She would be in a world of her own where we were not welcome.  Her need for space, for freedom, was greater than her need for us’.  Leng goes on to say, ‘We would wait, biding our time until that magic moment when suddenly she was with us once more.  Her faraway look gone, her lovely face alive with joy and laughter, and we would all frget in a trice that feeling of abandonment and rejection’.

Leng writes beautifully, and often with such fondness: ‘We would shiver with delight as she [du Maurier] recalled

L-R: Christian, Daphne, Frederick ‘Tommy/Boy’ Browning, Tessa and Flavia

for us the sound of the owls hooting in the depth of the woods as dusk fell upon the darkening house’.  Whilst her childhood appears idyllic on the surface, Leng portrays an often lonely childhood: ‘We knew no other families, Bing [du Maurier] thinking it quite unnecessary to encourage tiresome folk from beyond the park gates’.  She is also rather candid when her memories warrant her to be: ‘Rebecca and I were conceived about the same time in 1936, but whereas the novel was very much planned and thought-out, I was unquestionably a mistake’.

She lets the disappointment which her parents felt of having another daughter, when both so clearly longed for a son – one they had already named – be known.  When her younger brother, Christian, arrives, she tells of the lavish affection bestowed upon him, which was starkly missing from her and her older sister Tessa’s upbringings: ‘We would watch him lying gurling in her arms, her face buried in his tiny neck, and we would slip from the room, uncomfortable, knowing we were not welcome there’.  The lack of relationship forged with her largely absent military father is described – ‘I did not miss him because I did not know him, but I missed the presence of “a daddy” – as is the way in which du Maurier hated fame and would ‘shun it as much as she could’.

Throughout Daphne du Maurier: A Daughter’s Memoir, we meet both famous characters – the ‘great Cornish writer’ Arthur Quiller-Couch and Noel Coward, for example – and those who made an impact upon young Flavia’s life.  Leng herself comes across marvellously, and one can only feel such sympathy for the ways in which she was teased, both by her elder sister and some of the adults who encountered her.  She is one of those marvellous people who sees the joy in just about everything.  She rejoices, for example, at the moments she recalls in which du Maurier – or ‘Bing’, as her children affectionately called her – would spend time with them, even if it led to troubles: ‘Bing often made fun of people behind their backs.  She would mock them, making us giggle, say things about them, give them strange make-believe lives – which at times made it very difficult for us children to have respect for our elders’.

Daphne du Maurier: A Daughter’s Memoir is often sad, but overall, Leng has crafted a charming biography, which provides rather a fascinating glimpse into du Maurier’s behaviour and relationships with her husband, staff and children.  Leng’s memoir is a marvellous read for anyone interested in the woman behind the books.

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Du Maurier December: ‘The Glass-Blowers’ by Daphne du Maurier ***

First published in 1963, The Glass-Blowers is described as a ‘warm, human saga of a family of craftsmen in eighteenth-century France – with the violence and terror of the Revolution as clamouring background to its tragic climax’.  As with du Maurier’s Mary Anne, the novel is semi-autobiographical; du Maurier’s glass-blowing ancestors the Bussons, who lived between 1747 and 1845, have been focused upon.

Comparisons with Mary Anne are easy to draw from the very beginning of The Glass-Blowers; the prologue begins, for example, in the following way: ‘One day in the June of 1844 Madame Sophie Duval, nee Busson, eighty years of age and mother of the mayor of Vibraye, a small commune in the departement of Sarthe, rose from her chair in the salon of her property at le Gue de Launay, chose her favourite walking-stick from a stand in the hall, and calling to her dog made her way, as was her custom at this hour of the afternoon every Tuesday, down the short approach drive to the entrance gate’.  Our protagonist, Sophie, is reliving her life from its earliest beginnings.

Du Maurier sets the scene of historic France in a sweeping yet full manner; one really gets a feel for the social disruption and political climate which surrounded the Bussons: ‘What a moment to bring a child into the world, that summer of ’93, the first year of the Republic; with the Vendee in revolt, the country at war, the traitorous Girondins endeavouring to bring down the Convention, the patriot Marat to be assassinated by an hysterical girl, and the unhappy ex-Queen Marie Antoinette confined to the Temple and later guillotined for all the misery she had brought upon France’.

As ever, I was struck by the ways in which du Maurier describes her protagonists: ‘She [Sophie] walked briskly, with the quick step of one who did not suffer or perhaps refused to suffer, any of the inconveniences of old age; and her bright blue eyes – the noticeable feature of her otherwise unremarkable face – looked keenly to right and left, pin-pointing signs of negligence on the part of the gardener’.  Du Maurier goes on to inform us that the highlight of Sophie’s existence is receiving her weekly letter from her daughter, Zoe – ‘her third child, and the first to survive infancy’ – who lives in Paris.  It is in one of these letters that Sophie is introduced to the past of her forebears, through a chance encounter with a man which her daughter had at a dinner party: ‘I asked if he [Robert] had relatives.  He said he believed not.  They had all been guillotined during the Terror, and the chateau Maurier and the glass-foundries destroyed.  He had made no inquiries.  It was better not.  What was past was past’.  Sophie and Zoe consequently meet up with the surprised Robert in Paris, and the history of the Bussons then ensues.

What follows this prologue is an historical novel supposed to have been penned by Sophie Duval, who spends four months ‘covering sheet after sheet of writing-paper in her formal, upright hand’.  The main body of the novel begins in 1747.  Sophie’s first person perspective is well-realised, and nicely matches the story; as The Glass-Blowers is essentially another of du Maurier’s family sagas, it feels fitting that a member of the Busson clan should act as narrator.  Du Maurier busies herself with demonstrating how the family’s fortune improved due to the glass-blowing business, and how it also caused a wealth of problems.  One of the main themes of the novel is as follows: ‘A glass-blower, remember, breathes life into a vessel, giving it shape and form and sometimes beauty; but he can with that same breath, shatter and destroy it’.

Whilst The Glass-Blowers has been nicely crafted and is relatively interesting, it feels a little lacklustre in comparison to a lot of du Maurier’s other novels.  There is no real spark within it, emotional or otherwise, which made me feel compelled to continue with it.  Its characters are largely two-dimensional, and their conversations are flat.  It is also not as well plotted as it could have been.  Things do happen throughout, but they are not built enough to be believable, and are often unnecessarily baldly stated.  It is rather bogged down in details at times, and the plot becomes a little saturated with the exact amount of livres which almost everything the Bussons come across cost.  The novel is largely involved with family affairs – marriages, births, deaths, and not much else.

Whilst it is well researched, and the parts about the Revolution are interesting, there is a real lack of emotion in The Glass-Blowers, an element which I personally think is of importance in any novel, historical or otherwise.  How else are we as readers supposed to either empathise or identify with the protagonists?  I would go as far to say that the novel was even a little dull in places.  Whilst The Glass-Blowers is a perfectly good three star read, there is nothing about it which is overly memorable, or which sets it apart from a lot of du Maurier’s other – and, frankly, better – historical fiction.

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Du Maurier December: ‘Hungry Hill’ by Daphne du Maurier **

Whilst preparing for my Du Maurier December posts, I decided that I would read her 1943 novel, Hungry Hill, rather early on.  It was the book which I can safely say I was least looking forward to.  I generally find du Maurier’s historical fiction rather mesmerising, but on the face of it, nothing about Hungry Hill really appealed to me at all.

I love visiting Ireland, the country in which the story of Hungry Hill takes place, but I do not tend to enjoy books which are set there.  Largely, those which I have encountered thus far follow the same kind of pattern; they are generally familial sagas in which none of the generations are particularly likeable, they often share similar themes, and they tend to become a little predictable and quite unexciting in consequence. The storyline of this novel, too – ‘It is a passionate story of five generations of an Irish family and the copper mine on Hungry Hill [previously a beloved picnic spot of the children] with which their fortunes and fate were so closely bound’ – held very little appeal for me.  Despite this, I thought that as du Maurier is one of my favourite authors, I would purchase the novel anyway, mainly to see how she rendered her material, and to discover whether she could make the story an interesting one for me.

The novel is split into five separate parts, every one of which follows a member of each consequent generation of the Brodrick family, who live at Clonmere Castle.  The first part begins in 1820 with patriarch ‘Copper John’, the second in 1828 with his son ‘Greyhound John’, the third in 1837 with his brother’s son, known as ‘Wild Johnnie’, the fourth in 1858 with Henry, and the fifth in 1874 with his son, Hal.  The novel’s epilogue is set in 1920, and deals with John-Henry, the sixth generation of the family.

Almost the entirety of the first generation whom we are introduced to are not very likeable; they largely exude a sense of pompousness and self-importance from the very beginning, thinking themselves above everyone else merely because of their father’s projected wealth.  The local community feels animosity toward the mine – and, in turn, the Brodricks – as, when it was established, rather than calling upon the local workforce to man it, John Brodrick shipped over miners from Cornwall. Hostility between the two reigns from the very beginning, and, somewhat predictably, the ore soon begins to be stolen.

Du Maurier demonstrates the odd and, in some ways, very fitting of-the-time family relationship which exists within the Brodrick clan.  Despite this, some elements of the family dynamic are a little peculiar; John Brodrick’s ‘natural brother’ Ned acts as his agent, but is ‘careful never to presume upon his relationship in any way, so that John Brodrick was always “Mr Brodrick” and his nieces “the young ladies”‘.  As one might expect in a novel which begins in 1820, sexism within the family is rife.  In the first generation – as is traditional, of course – the boys are sent to Eton and Oxford University, but the girls receive no education whatsoever.  No Brodrick child is more treasured than the eldest son, Henry.  Whilst slightly different things do happen to each generation’s protagonist within Hungry Hill, details and many aspects of personality are repeated.  It felt rather predictable, particularly as it went on.

Whilst Hungry Hill is well written, there are very few characters with whom one is able to sympathise.  The descriptions are well rendered, but are certainly quite dreary on the whole, and set the tone well in consequence.  In a few instances throughout, the dialogue which du Maurier has crafted feels a touch too modern for the period in question; an odd and quite jarring mistake, since she normally excels at such things.  Whilst some of the scenes are quite vivid, this has not been sustained throughout, and parts of the novel which should be dramatic are rendered rather flat and insipid.  Many of the facts and technicalities which du Maurier weaves in tend to feel quite dull and repetitive; it feels as though one is reading a piece of non-fiction at times.

It perhaps goes without saying that Hungry Hill is my least favourite du Maurier to date, and if she had not penned it, I would never have picked it up.  In some ways, it presents an interesting portrayal of days gone by, but I personally believe it to be the weakest of her historical novels.  Whilst part of this is certainly due to the fact that the book does not appeal to me, it does not feel as though its atmosphere and storyline have been captured as well as books such as The House on the Strand and Rebecca.  The characters within Hungry Hill are also not overly memorable.  Hungry Hill feels something of an anamoly in du Maurier’s otherwise sparkling literary career.

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Du Maurier December: Flash Reviews

All of these reviews have previously been published on The Literary Sisters, but I thought I would group them all together for my Du Maurier December project so that they are more easily accessible.  The books which are briefly discussed in this post are as follows: Don’t Look Now and Other Stories, The King’s General, The Progress of Julius and The Blue Lenses and Other Stories.


Don’t Look Now and Other Stories
by Daphne du Maurier ****
1. I love du Maurier’s writing, and was so excited about reading another of her short story collections.  This is a relatively thick tome, which is comprised of just five stories, many of which are almost novella length.
2. Julie Myerson’s introduction is fabulous, and suits the book perfectly.  I loved reading about her experiences with du Maurier’s work.
3. Each tale here is dark and grotesque, and they are very memorable in their entirety.  The collection is both enjoyable and thought-provoking.

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The King’s General by Daphne du Maurier ****
Storyline: “Honor Harris is only 18 when she first meets Richard Grenvile, proud, reckless – and utterly captivating. But following a riding accident, Honor must reconcile herself to a life alone. As Richard rises through the ranks of the army, marries and makes enemies, Honor remains true to him, and finally discovers the secret of Menabilly.”

‘The King’s General’ by Daphne du Maurier (Virago)

1. I love du Maurier’s work, as she never fails to sweep me away into other places and periods. The King’s General is no different, and its vivid scenes and settings are so very memorable.
2. The historical setting which she has chosen here lends itself so well to her plot.  I love the way in which she has based her characters within The King’s General upon real beings.
3. The characters are all so well fleshed out, and du Maurier’s writing and choice of viewpoint is engaging on so many levels.

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The Progress of Julius by Daphne du Maurier *** (1933)
Storyline: Our protagonist is Julius Levy, a Jewish boy living in France, who turns into ‘a quick-witted urchin caught up in the Franco-Prussian war’.  The novel spans his lifetime, from his birth in 1860, to 1932.

1. Du Maurier never fails to strike me with the evocation of scenes which feel so real, it is though I am there.  The sense of history here is stunning.
2. Julius’ behaviour is rather peculiar at times.  He is cruel, and the actions which he performs often feal surprising.  He is odd and rather creepy, and I took an almost immediate dislike to him.
3. The Progress of Julius feels a lot darker than much of du Maurier’s other work.  I was not overly enamoured with its plot.

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The Blue Lenses and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier ****
I love Daphne du Maurier’s books, and her short stories are especially powerful.  This collection, also published as The Breaking Point and Other Stories, promises ‘eight stories which explore the half-forgotten world of childhood fantasies and subtle dreams’.  This quote, coupled with the tales in The Birds and Other Stories, the first of du Maurier’s story collections which I read, made me hope for rather a dark and memorable collection, and that, I am pleased to say, is exactly what I was met with.  Each plotline throughout was surprising, and the twists and turns made me unable to guess what was about to happen.  The tales were startling and full of power, and I very much enjoyed them all for different reasons.

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