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Daphne: A Novel Paperback – August 4, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; Reprint edition (August 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596913401
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596913400
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,203,834 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Former BritishVogue editor Picardie (My Mother's Wedding Dress) gives us a fictional life of Rebecca novelist Daphne du Maurier (1907–1989) that founders in obsession. In the late 1950s, du Maurier, determined to establish herself as a serious writer, researched and wrote a biography of Branwell Brontë, the often-overlooked real-life brother of sisters Emily and Charlotte. Flash forward to the present, in which a nameless graduate student seeks out lost secrets about the relationship between du Maurier and John Alexander Symington, the Brontë expert and curator to whom du Maurier dedicated her eventual Brontë book. Picardie's novel quickly becomes a tangle of redundancies, as the student, in one plot line, grows increasingly obsessed with du Maurier and loses touch with reality. Meanwhile, in another thread, du Maurier and Symington both flirt with madness in their separate Branwell quests. Du Maurier's fictional characters, especially Rebecca, haunt the story unproductively, as do the Brontës, Brontë protagonists, and Barrie's Peter Pan and the Lost Boys (who were inspired by du Maurier's cousins). Picardie does best with Symington, whose career ended in scandal: she portrays his dissolution coldly, letting observations rip in a way she never quite manages with the fictive Daphne. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Literary allusions, references, and mysteries pile up in this book-lover’s dream of a novel inside a biography, inside a novel, inside a biography. Three, or maybe more, stories intersect and inform each other. The first is a biography of writer Daphne du Maurier in the 1950s as she struggles with family ghosts and writing a biography of Branwell Brontë, the long-neglected brother of the Bronte sisters. Years later, a nameless, orphaned graduate student, clearly meant to echo the narrator of du Maurier’s Rebecca, follows du Maurier’s work, to the distaste of the student’s older husband and the fascination of his beautiful ex-wife. Also in the middle of this is the du Maurier family’s relationship with J. M. Barrie and the Lleweyn Davies family of Peter Pan fame, as well as a possible literary forgery involving the Brontës. Exposition of all the relevant novel plots and literary relations slows down the beginning of the book. However, like a du Maurier novel, mystery and gothic plotting make the remainder of the novel a page-turner. A novel for anyone who loves novels. --Marta Segal Block --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Linda Pagliuco VINE VOICE on August 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Justine Picardie's Daphne is a fictionalized/biographical/literary mystery centering, ostensibly, upon one question: what became of Emily Bronte's notebook of poems that disappeared from the Bronte Society's collections in the mid 20th century? After a few chapters, the reader can guess what happened to the priceless manuscript. What is more difficult to tease out is the novel's underlying meaning or purpose.

The narrative is presented from three perspectives and two time periods. One, of course, is that of Daphne DuMaurier as she struggles over the writing of her biography of Branwell Bronte. The second is that of Alex Symington, a retired, less than honest Bronte scholar who cannot come to terms with his professional mistakes. The third is an unnamed, newly married grad student, working on a dissertation involving Daphne's work 40 years later. Sound confusing? It can be. But it is intriguing as well, because the plot and the setting also draw upon the shades of the characters from Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel. Throw some Peter Pan into the mix (the duMaurier family was close to JM Barrie and his adopted "lost boys"), and the plot thickens.

I finished this book last night and am still not sure what to make of it. But I did enjoy it and found it reminiscent of the duMaurier novels I've read and loved. Interesting....
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jane Greensmith on January 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this book--how could I not? It's jam packed with Brontes, du Mauriers, Haworth, Manderley, Hamstead Heath, Peter Pan, Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel, Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre.

It's a novel about Daphne du Maurier during the time when she is writing "The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte," and investigating whether Branwell was actually a more prolific and accomplished author than he has been given credit for. She uncovers evidence that poems and stories attributed to Emily and Charlotte were actually written by Branwell.

It's a literary mystery. It combines Bronte family history as well as the themes and characters from their major works with du Maurier family history and themes and characters from Daphne's major works, which happens to intersect with the J.M. Barrie and his Peter Pan novel and play.

And that's not all, Picardie also brings in a contemporary story that parallels and intersects the lot, and it's all beautifully written, compelling, and a thumping good read.

If you're interested, I've been blogging about it at [...]
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Nature Girl on January 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I began this book with skepticism, thinking Picardie's descriptions of Daphne du Maurier being haunted by Rebecca, the fictional character of her renowned novel of the same name, a bit contrived, but as I read I also researched on-line, and found much of her story (the Rebecca haunting aside perhaps), to be based in truth. It is obvious Picardie did an incredible amount of research for this novel. She appears to have discovered enough new material for a thesis, yet presents this information in a much more interesting fictional form with many parallels in both du Maurier's books and the Bronte books as well. Did anyone else notice the "un-named" narrator, while appearing much like the un-named narrator of "Rebecca", also has many similarities to Jane, in "Jane Eyre", which was, of course, written by Charlotte Bronte, and upon research, with Picardie herself in the way she discovered the letters between du Maurer and Symington, a Bronte scholar? I found the mysteries in this book very intriguing, with the same gothic feel of "Rebecca" and "Jane Eyre". The more familiar you are with du Maurier's and the Bronte's novels, the more you will notice how deftly woven these stories are in "Daphne", and if you enjoyed those books, you will enjoy "Daphne".
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By E. K. Johnson VINE VOICE on August 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
I purchased this book at a lovely little independent bookstore right outside the train station at Kew Gardens. I agree with many of the reviewers here that the story was often unevenly told. But what I found fascinating was the excellent evocation of a moody darkness created by the author-very much so reminiscent of the Bronte novels.

The author captures deftly the desire many writers have (here, all three protagonists) to bring to life a forgotten or misunderstood literary figure. As we read about Du Maurier's desire to resurrect an interest in the ignored Bronte sibling, the author, too, sheds light on the complexity of Du Maurier's novels themselves, also often dismissed as second-rate fiction.

This novel is quite unique and I highly recommend it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By C. Anderson VINE VOICE on September 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In this interesting fact-based novel the author tells the story of how Daphne du Maurier came to write her biography of Branwell Bronte in the early 1960s, The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte.

When the novel opens Daphne du Maurier is in her early fifties and is dealing with a host of personal problems. Her husband Tommy has had a breakdown and is temporarily hospitalized. Their relationship is rocky in any case because of Daphne has found out that he had a recent affair. She is portrayed as being rather unstable, she frequently hears the voice of her most famous character, Rebecca, and she can hardly ever bring herself to leave her isolated house, Menabilly.

As Daphne becomes enthralled with the Brontes and writing a biography on Branwell, she begins to write letters to J. Alexander Symington who had edited a Collected Works of the Brontes and been the librarian of a large collection. It becomes clear that he has a large collection of original Bronte manuscripts (questionably acquired!) and he offers to sell some of them to her. But since he has planned to write a book himself for many years he only sells her a few unimportant pages, keeping the best back for himself.

The story is told from alternating points of view: Daphne du Maurier, Mr. Symington and a young female narrator who is not named. She is a young student who is working on Daphne du Maurier's obsession with the Brontes for her PHD. She discovers the letters between Daphne and Mr. Symington by accident but they end up having quite an impact on her personal life.

This novel is packed with facts that make it a fascinating read for any lover of English Literature, Daphne du Maurier or the Brontes. For example, J.M.
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More About the Author

Justine Picardie is the author of four books, including her critically acclaimed memoir If the Spirit Moves You and her most recent novel, Daphne. The former features director of British Vogue and editor of the Observer magazine, she is currently a fashion columnist for the Sunday Telegraph, and also writes for several other newspapers and magazines, including Harper's Bazaar and the Times of London. She lives in London with her two sons.