Daphne du Maurier and the Gothic
I first read Daphne du Maurier when I found old hardback copies of her books with their beautiful wrap around covers on my mother’s bookshelf and these books were the start of my obsession with all things Gothic. Having an interest in Australian Gothic it’s on my ‘to be read’ list to read more of our 19th century Australian writers who wrote in the Gothic genre.
I wrote a post on 29 th October, 2016 called ‘Gothic Literature’ in which I spoke about Australian Gothic Literature and listed some of my favourite books in the Gothic genre.
Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989) used traditional Gothic motifs. Her motifs are: dark romances, a fascination with the past, the supernatural, and the magical intermingled with the realistic. And contain psychological insight through characterisation and representation of fear and the sinister and macabre .
Her short stories, such as ‘The Birds’, ‘Don’t Look Now’ and ‘The Apple Tree’, take Gothic themes and add new twists. ‘The Apple Tree’can be read as the story of a woman haunting her husband from beyond the grave but it can also be viewed as a chilling meditation upon mental disintegration.
Daphne du Maurier was foremost a storyteller and that’s what I love about her novels and short stories. They draw you in and you can’t let go of the characters, ever!
Rebecca herself is dead when the novel starts and is the perfect example of a character and not a ghost, who makes not a single living appearance, but haunts the imaginations of the living protagonists. Favourite characters all.
I read all Daphne du Maurier’s novels and short stories, often found preloved in second hand bookshops, before I left school, The mystery and magic of her story telling and the haunting darkness and complexity of her work makes me return to them often.
Other favourite characters are Phillip and Rachel in My Cousin Rachel and Mary Yellan in Jamaica Inn.
In the same way as Thomas Hardy is forever associated with Wessex, and Charles Dickens with London, so Daphne du Maurier is forever associated with Cornwall. Cornwall gave du Maurier the freedom to write free from the distractions of London life. I have several books about Cornwell on my bookshelf including Vanishing Cornwell by Daphne du Maurier.
Daphne and her two sisters
Have a wonderful week and include storytelling, writing and reading.
Thanks to Greg Buzwell, Curator for Printed Literary Sources, 1801 – 1914 at the British Library. His research focuses primarily on the Gothic literature of the Victorian fin de siècle. He is also editing a collection of Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s ghost stories, The Face in the Glass and Other Gothic Tales, for publication. The text in Greg’s article is available under the Creative Commons License.