DAPHNE DU MAURIER by Margaret Forster

DAPHNE DU MAURIER

The Secret Life of the Renowned Storyteller
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 One of those rare biographies of popular icons--in this case, the author of Rebecca--that puts truth-telling ahead of mudslinging or whitewashing. Authorized to write this life by the Du Maurier family, and drawing on hitherto unpublished letters--including a cache of previously unknown love letters between Du Maurier and actress Gertrude Lawrence--British novelist/biographer Forster (Lady's Maid, 1991; Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1989, etc.) reveals a woman who, despite an appearance of happiness, was tortured by fears and disturbing ideas. Born into an illustrious family--her father was a noted actor-manager, her grandfather a celebrated artist and novelist--Du Maurier grew up in a lively London household where friends like J.M. Barrie and Edgar Wallace visited frequently. She was a moody, difficult child: Her mother was cold and aloof, and her father, whose closeness and attention she'd enjoyed as a child, became morbidly possessive as she grew older. Stunningly beautiful yet ill-at-ease in conventional company, Du Maurier was troubled by her awareness ``that there was no escape from being a girl [and that] she had forced herself to lock up in a box the boy she had at heart thought herself to be.'' Sexually attracted to women, she was also distinctly homophobic, a contradiction that would plague her throughout her life. Forster perceptively describes Du Maurier's affair with a lesbian French teacher; her marriage to ``Boy'' Browning, a famous general and subsequent member of the royal household; her relations with her three children; her great love for Gertrude Lawrence; and her writing, particularly Rebecca. Writing, it seems, not only allowed Du Maurier to be the family bread-winner but, more importantly, offered her release from her great ``fear of reality.'' She ``lived to write.'' Biography of the most exemplary kind, and, in its own way, as haunting an evocation of a troubled woman as Rebecca itself. (Thirty-three b&w photographs)

Pub Date: Oct. 7th, 1993
ISBN: 0-385-42068-4
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1993




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