Daphne A Portrait of Daphne du Maurier

Daphne: Portrait of Daphne Du Maurier

Daphne: Portrait of Daphne Du Maurier by Judith Cook

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Quite simply, one of the best biographies I’ve ever read!

Not without flaws and I’ll get those out of the way first.

📚 The biggest for me (And Cook isn’t the only literary biographer who does this) was the spoiler filled summaries of D du M’s books. Fortunately I realised very quickly that Cook was going to do this with every…single…book and skipped over them. While I am keen to read The Loving Spirit, the following two novels sound dire and I’m highly unlikely to attempt them, so I’m not to worried about having read their synopsis.

📚 The book is unbalanced, in the sense that there was was a lot about D du M’s (fascinating) ancestors, family & early life, but not so much about her life from when she became famous. This is because D du M herself wrote biographies, about members of her family & she reluctantly wrote an autobiography (the wonderfully titled Growing Pains) but she was always clear that she wanted her private life from when she married “Tommy” Browning to remain private.

📚 The bibliography is very short. & some of the books (like the works about the Oliviers) are only marginally important. There are omissions in the indexing ( I was frustrated to find Cousin Geoffrey missing) & a minor mistake in the bibliography of D du M’s own works.

But Cook is helped by having a brief acquaintance with the Brownings in the 60s. Cook visited D du M’s beloved Menabilly & she did a dramatisation of The King’s GeneralSo she knew their personalities, but doesn’t try to make the relationship closer than it was. & she doesn’t state as fact some details that the Scottish legal system would regard as “not proven.” The main example of this is Daphne’s famed father, the actor Gerald du Maurier’s obsessive love for his middle daughter? Even what Cook recounts (& a photograph she includes of Gerald looking adoringly at his adult daughter & holding her hand ) she leaves the reader to draw their own conclusions. With Daphne’s second cousin, actor Geoffrey du Maurier, Cook is more explicit. I wish I could find a picture of Geoffrey online – so I could print it out & throw darts at it! At 26 & married he was flirting with 15 year old Daphne, which later progressed to kissing. He was undoubtedly grooming this young girl & I know, different time & country but I can’t understand why the visibly jealous Gerald didn’t ban him from the home.

Daphne’s life was undoubtedly privileged -her father financially supported her and let her live separately from the family while she followed her dream. Her famous name opened doors for her. But those doors would have closed again if it wasn’t for Jamaica Inn and then the phenomenal success of Rebecca(still one of my all time favourite books, although My Cousin Rachel runs it very close)

It is clear that Menabilly (the near ruined manor she leased & lovingly restored) was the love of D du M’s life. Losing both Menabilly & her husband Tommy very close together sent D du M into a deep depression. Her frugality & eccentricity became more pronounced & this book has me wondering if D du M was suffering from dementia.

More than worth your time if you are looking for a Daphne biography that isn’t sensationalist.


View all my reviews

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: