Which Daphne du Maurier should I read?
I missed the movie, My Cousin Rachel. How bewildering! It couldn’t have been here long.
But, honestly, the only du Maurier novel I’ve loved is Rebecca. I thought My Cousin Rachel very mediocre when I read it years ago. In fact, I didn’t find anything by du Maurier in the same class as Rebecca.
Lately there has been much hubub about du Maurier, due to the release of the new film. Both The New York Times and The Guardian have recently published excellent essays about her work. In “In Praise of Daphne du Maurier” at The New York Times, Parul Sehgal writes,
I’ve never known a writer to make otherwise sensible, not especially bookish women chase down first editions “as investments”; to cling to, as my sister does, a childhood copy of “Frenchman’s Creek” in unspeakable condition. And then there’s my mother, whose indifference to convention, especially where child-rearing was concerned, reminds me very much of du Maurier. She taught me to read with her own battered copies of “Rebecca” and “My Cousin Rachel,” a book that begins with a corpse swinging from a gibbet and features, in short order, sexual obsession, attempted strangling and possible laudanum poisoning. It inspired my most exciting nightmares.
And at The Guardian, Julie Myerson is fascinating on “My Cousin Rachel: Daphne du Maurier’s take on the sinister power of sex.”
And though My Cousin Rachel – written in 1951 when Du Maurier was, arguably, at the height of her confidence and powers – might appear to be a simple did-she-didn’t-she thriller about Cornish estates and poisonings, it is absolutely and inescapably a novel about sex. Most specifically female sexuality: its ambiguity, its mystery and its potentially fatal – as perceived by men – power.
When Virago reissued du Maurier’s books, about a decade ago, many bloggers loved them. As for me, I didn’t get beyond Jamaica Inn.
Occasionally feminist readers push both women’s classics and pop lit. I do like good pop lit, but I find du Maurier overrated. Is it time for me to try The Glass Blowers again? I didn’t get very far in that!
Or Hungry Hill?
Oh, I did like her biography of her father, Gerald: A Portrait, so maybe I like her nonfiction!
But please recommend. I’m ready for the du Maurier reading experience.