Novelist Tatiana de Rosnay pays homage to Daphne du Maurier, a writer who has influenced her deeply, in this immersive new biography. A portrait of one writer by another, Manderley Forever recounts a life as mysterious and dramatic as the work it produced, and highlights du Maurier's consuming passion for Cornwall.
De Rosnay recreates Daphne's childhood, rebellious teens and early years as a writer before exploring the complexities of her marriage and, finally, her cantankerous old age. A thrilling, intimate and beautifully written journey into the life of a writers who, despite being hugely loved by her public, remains mainly critically ignored.
Tatiana de Rosnay is a French journalist and author. English, French and Russian of descent, she was born in Paris, living in Boston USA, then Norwich England, before returning to Paris in 1984. She has published twelve novels in French, and three in English, with her most successful, "Sarah's Key" published in 2006, and later made into a film starring the superb Kristin Scott Thomas.
A lifelong fan of Daphne du Maurier, Tatiana de Rosnay clearly did huge amounts of research to write "Manderley Forever", and visited relatives of du Maurier's, as well as her beloved hometown of Fowey. As a result, she's written a biography that is both immediate and intimate and provides the readers with a warm, affectionate and personal recreation of a life that was immensely fascinating.
Daphne du Maurier was born in London in 1907. The daughter of actor-manager Sir Gerald du Maurier, she grew up in a rather fascinating world - spending time with her cousins the Llewelyn Davies boys (the inspirations for Peter Pan) and her Uncle Jim - better known to us as J.M. Barrie. Growing up she attended finishing school in France, where she may well have entered into an affair with one of her female teachers - but soon returned to England where she began to write.
Over the years her works ranged from short stories to novels to plays to biographies, all changing in terms of style and setting. Never one to be scared of experimenting or alienating her audiences, du Maurier allowed her passion and imagination to run wild when it came to writing - which resulted in many of her books being beloved by her readers, but not so much by the critics.
Visiting Cornwall as a young adult, she swiftly fell in love with the place and, apart from short spells abroad due to her husband's military career, Cornwall was where du Maurier remained until her death. An author who rarely gave interviews, she was often perceived by the public to be a cold, isolated hermit - which is a far cry from the fascinating, social and often rather fun life that she's is depicted as having here.
Such a lively life would, I imagine, be rather dulled by a biography that relies on figures, dates and footnotes - so the author chooses to forgo these, instead writing this biography far more like a novel. It's a style that works well - and whilst some readers may initially be a little uncomfortable with it, the effect it has is hugely transporting - and du Maurier such an interesting, intelligent figure, that it's rather impossible not to be swept along. Some moments do feel a little strange - the author perhaps inhabits du Maurier's mind a little too much at times, and conveys thoughts and feelings that she has no way of knowing - but it adds to the "novel" effect and certainly kept me hooked. Additionally, it's a style that du Maurier herself employed in several of her novels - so it's absolutely fitting for de Rosnay to engage the reader with it here.
A beautiful depiction of a woman whose life was endlessly fascinating, "Manderley Forever" breathes new life into an author who was rarely critically acclaimed in life, but remains beloved by her readers - and should pick up a legion of new fans should they choose to read Ms de Rosnay's fantastic work.
Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.