Monday, January 11, 2010

Daphne Du Maurier Delights

by Julia Buckley
Every year I celebrate Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca by showing the Hitchcock film to my composition class and then encouraging them to write about the story. No matter how many times I hear (or read) "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again," I am willing to go, too.

We happen to be watching the movie today, and I was thinking about it all weekend, so naturally life kept putting Daphne Du Maurier's name in front of me, haunting me the way Rebecca haunted the new Mrs. de Winter.

First I saw an ad for a new mystery series featuring a young Daphne Du Maurier as its sleuth. Joanna Challis, it told me, has written a fictional tale called The Cliffside Murders in which a young Daphne Du Maurier, already dreaming of becoming a writer, becomes embroiled in a mystery which will eventually inspire the writing of Rebecca.

The cover alone makes this one look worth reading--nothing like a moody sky to get me to pick up a mystery.

Then, while investigating The Cliffside Murders, I found this gem: Editor Patrick McGrath has compiled a selection of Du Maurier's creepiest stories for the reader's pleasure.

Du Maurier won me over way back in the seventh grade, when our teacher read us bits of Jamaica Inn every day after recess. We read the whole book that way, and I was allowed to appreciate Du Maurier's distinctive and moody style, to squirm beneath her suspense while I sat in my little wooden desk.

My fascination with both her stories and with her make me curious about this book:
According to Bas Bleu catalog, Piers Dudgeon, the author of Neverland: J.M. Barrie, The Du Mauriers, and the Dark Side of Peter Pan, once worked with Daphne Du Maurier, and "was intrigued by the fact that Daphne (a granddaughter of George du Maurier) put a moratorium on the publication of her youthful diaries until fifty years after her death. He wondered what she wanted to keep hidden, and as he got deeper and deeper into his research, his suspicions about J. M. Barrie’s maliciousness grew. Though they are often wildly unprovable, Dudgeon’s theories—involving inner demons, twisted psyches, and hypnotism—are irresistibly fascinating! Warning: Your view of Peter Pan may be forever altered."

Ah, yes, all the world loves Daphne, and her mystique continues to sell books, even if they aren't books penned by her.

What's your favorite Du Maurier story?


Ann Elle Altman said...

My father lent me his book with 'The Nine Mile Walk' and the collection of short stories has the novella by De Maurier entitled 'Don't Look Now.' I will read it today. Great blog! Rebecca is my second favorite book behind Persuasion and I try to read it every year. I love the 1940s version of the movie.


Julia Buckley said...

I do, too, Ann! The students always assume they won't like it because it's black and white and everyone talks incredibly fast.

But by the end of the film, the teenagers are ramrod straight in their seats, regularly yelling "No way!" every time there is a revelation. :)

Julia Buckley said...

And PS, Ann--A nine mile walk is no joke, especially in the rain. :)

Sandra Parshall said...

Rebecca is one of the greatest suspense novels ever written -- a perfect book, and proof that you don't need high-speed chases and gory violence to create a sense of dread and fear.

Julia Buckley said...

So true. Your first book, Sandra, provided that sort of suspense. Were you at all inspired by Du Maurier?

Susan D said...

The movie is great, but but but.... I find the ending a cop-out as regards Maxim's motivation for keeping his secrets. Do you discuss the different between the movie and the book? And refer them to the 1970s miniseries with Joanna David and Jeremy Brett? Superb.

And I LOVE the book. All that imaginative introspection.

Julia Buckley said...

Yes! One of the essay questions has them contrasting one of Maxim's speeches in the book as opposed to the same (watered down) speech in the movie.

I didn't mention the 1970s miniseries, but I did refer them to the 1997 PBS miniseries with Emilia Fox, Charles Dance, and the wonderful Diana Rigg!

kathy d. said...

A miniseries with Diana Rigg! Somehow I've never seen this and I missed out. Maybe the public library has it.

I somehow confused this with "Laura," with Gene Tierney, which I have always liked.

Sounds like time for me to read the book by Du Maurier.

Julia Buckley said...

They'll definitely have it! It's the most recent version of Rebecca, and seems like it was rather a big-budget production. Diana Rigg won an Emmy for her Mrs. Danvers.