THE REBECCA NOTEBOOK AND OTHER MEMORIES
Daphne du Maurier
An agreeable miscellany of minor du Maurier: 15 early stories (previously collected only in paperback), ten bits of family history and personal memoir, three poems, and a few pages of working notes for the novel Rebecca. As for this "Rebecca Notebook," du Maurier's chatty introduction says it best: "Perhaps the reader may care to compare it, and the original epilogue, with the published novel. If not, never mind. Skip through it, then turn to my early stories!" These are mostly mini-melodramas, many of them reflecting the era's pervasive Maugham influence: a matinee idol is shaken by a visit from an old flame who looks her age; an employee recognizes his boss' fiancÃ‰e as a shady lady; a thief-prostitute tells her life story; a star actress manipulates a puritanical producer, sabotaging a threateningly good actor; a clergyman, envious of a young colleague's charisma, takes hypocritical revenge; an aging writer, infatuated with a girl and jealous of her lover, transcends this situation through his art; a gigolo-ish lover two-times his clinging mistress. . . . Heavy ironies, one or two maudlin embarrassments, some wretched prose ("Subconsciously, in the depth of her being. . .")--but the storytelling knack is there, especially in a charmer about the "dullest man" in town and his wild transformation. Rather less diverting are bland biographical sketches of novelist-grandpa George du Maurier and actor-father Gerald. And only a few flickers of wit enliven musings on fame ("anticlimax"), romantic love ("an illusion"), religion, telepathy ("neglect of this sixth sense has contributed to our problems throughout the ages"), widowhood, moving, and loneliness. Part pure fluff, part inspirational--a friendly, unpretentious du Maurier grab-bag.