Daphne du Maurier and her Sisters: The Hidden Lives of Piffy, Bird and Bing

Daphne du Maurier and her Sisters: The Hidden Lives of Piffy, Bird and Bing

Daphne du Maurier and her Sisters: The Hidden Lives of Piffy, Bird and Bing by Jane Dunn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In spite of some ragged writing at the start I very much enjoyed this biography.

In her biography of Daphne, Judith Cook goes into exhaustive detail about the girls’ early life and their famous family. I’m glad Dunn focused on the sisters as adults. She details Gerald’s possessive love for his middle daughter, but doesn’t speculate on it.

Jane Dunn doesn’t go into as much detail about Daphne du Maurier’s books, (which is a plus as far as I am concerned – I just hate having to watch for spoilers in literary biographies) – & they were easy to skip. Dunn covers far more about Angela’s literary works which are less well known. I wasn’t so concerned about this as I am unlikely to read Angela’s works.

I would like to get my hands on

It's Only The Sister by Angela du Maurier

though. Dunn has drawn pretty freely from it. It must have been painful at times for Angela to be so overshadowed by her brilliant younger sister, but they remained affectionate & close for all of their lives.

A weakness that Dunn is unable to help. There isn’t much about Jeanne – Muriel du Maurier’s favourite daughter. Jeanne’s partner Noel Welch refused to cooperate with this biography. Welch was intending to write one of her own.


I wonder if Welch was protecting Jeanne’s memory. Jeanne got stuck with the bulk of Muriel’s care when Muriel’s health & mental well being started to decline, then later on Jeanne decided, “It’s my time!”and refused to help. I do get that. Jeanne worked really hard as a farm labourer as her war work and she wanted to paint. Dunn allows herself a slight sneer at Jeanne’s paintings, but I really liked the retro charm of the ones I have seen.

Hopefully Jeanne’s papers haven’t been destroyed and one day the public will be able to read them.

I loved Angela’s clumsy charm and enthusiasms – the way she tried so many different things in her life. For the most part she never quite succeeded – but they were different times. At 30 Angela having to lie to her mother & sneak out to meet. her lesbian friends! Different times.

Dunn had the cooperation of Daphne’s children and Dunn is appreciative that they remained helpful even though they didn’t like the results. Dunn was (I believe) given the POV that it was a loveless marriage, with both parents having affairs. Dunn is also far harsher on the hard bargain the owner of Menabilly was able to drive, due to Daphne’s obsession with a cold and uncomfortable near ruin of a house.

I don’t think I would have liked Daphne but I admire her independent spirit.her sad and confused end was tragic.

This picture shows how I like to think of Daphne.

Independent, fierce, free.

View all my reviews

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