Monday, June 1, 2009
Daphne by Justine Picardie
Published August 2008
From the dust jacket: It is 1957. The author, Daphne du Maurier, despairs as her marriage falls apart. Restlessly roaming through Menabilly, her remote mansion by the sea, she is haunted by regret and by her own creations. Seeking distraction , Daphne becomes passionately interested in Branwell, the reprobate brother of the Bronte sisters, and begins a correspondence with the enigmatic scholar Alex Symington. But behind Symington's respectable surface is a slippery character with much to hide. In present day London, a young woman, newly married to a man considerably older than her, struggles with her PhD thesis on du Maurier and the Brontes. Her husband, still seemingly in thrall to his brilliant first wife, is frequently distant and mysterious. Retreating into the comfort of her library, she becomes absorbed in a fifty-year-old literary mystery...
This is really three stories intertwined into one. As a lover of du Maurier and the Brontes, I really enjoyed the insights this book offered. The story of the young woman was not terribly original, borrowing from the plot line of du Maurier's "Rebecca," but I did enjoy the outcome of that story. The story of du Maurier's own torments could become repetitive and overlong, but hers was a fascinating life and it would be hard to make it something reader's wouldn't be interested in. Symington's story was totally new to me and I enjoyed the interaction between Daphne and Alex as their feelings about each other changed throughout the novel. On top of all this, toss in the fact that Daphne's cousins were the young men for whom J. M. Barrie wrote Peter Pan, and the fact that her father was the first person to perform the roles of both Captain Hook and Mr. Darling, and the book is an even more compelling read. Very well researched and well written, this book pulls the reader along throughout.