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Manderley Forever/Tatiana de Rosnay

My immediate reaction upon reading Tatiana de Rosnay’s biography of Daphne du Maurier is do we need another one?

Margaret Forster has written the definitive biography.

Justine Picardie’s Daphne covers a critical period in her life when the latter was under time pressure to produce a biography of Bramwell Brontë at a point at which her husband Boy Browning was in the throes of depression and alcoholism.

Daphne du Maurier herself has written her own memoirs – which does not include extracts from her journals which, under the terms of her will, cannot be published until 2038.

The latter will probably reveal her affaires with both men and women.

For Daphne du Maurier fans like me another account is always welcome.

I was less interested in the biographical detail, more in the impression of this novelist.

She was wilful, hypocritical and engaging rather than likeable.

She probably needed to be wilful to be a successful published authoress by the age of 22 – as she was – and also to escape from the shadow of her beloved father actor manager Gerald du Maurier.

She may have inherited her sexual hypocrisy from him.

She could be jealous of her husband without reason whilst, for example, having an affair with Gerald Pugley, with whose family she stayed in Fowey whilst her own husband was a soldier at war.

Gerald du Maurier was close to his family, wife actress Muriel and his three daughters – Angela, Daphne and Jeanne but his days seemed to be made up of lunch at the Garrick, bedding some aspiring young actress and acting at the Wyndham’s.

Daphne adored him and there seems to be substance to an incestuous relationship between them.

The writer Tatiana du Rosnay adopts a sentimental tone and the narrator on ‘audible’ – Charlotte Wright – is over-effusive.

Irritatingly her pronunciation is often askew.

Fowey becomes “Fuey” (rhyming with suey) and interminable “inter-min-able”.

One wonders how the writer could possibly have known Daphne’s final thoughts on her deathbed.

She does bring out the unhappiness of her final years.

Though a successful authoress, she was never acclaimed, and she was mis-categorised as a ‘Women’s writer” when in reality she was as dark and forbidding as the woods of her beloved Menabilly.

She felt guilt as the wife of Boy Browning and much angered by his representation as portrayed by Dirk Bogarde in the Richard Attenborough film A Bridge Too Far.

She was generous to her two sisters and her favourite child Kit but did not appear to manage her financial affairs that well.

Though not mentioned in this autobiography she became dotty – taking pot shots with an air rifle at tourists moving along the pathway of the Menabilly Estate.

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About Melanie Gay

A former literary agent with three published novels of her own, Melanie retains her life-long love of the written word and recently mastered the Kindle. She is currently writing a historical novel set in 17th Century Britain and Holland. More Posts