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Evan C

Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989)

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I've been a huge fan of Daphne du Maurier's writing for many years now, and I was curious if there were any other fans of her here. My favorite aspect of her writing is the compelling atmospheres she creates in all of her stories (sort of like Jane Austen crossed with Edgar Allan Poe - that's the best description I can think of) as her often flawed yet always believable and compelling characters try to navigate a world in which something is not right.

 

Her best known novel is easily Rebecca (basis for the Hitchcock film), and deservedly so. If you've never read any of her writing, I'd probably start there. The film is a pretty faithful adaptation, barring a couple changes to the third act to get around the production code, although the omniscient perspective of the film makes it slightly less effective than the book. Rebecca has also been compared to Gone Girl, which is not illogical, but I think the linked review could make a more convincing comparison than it does.

 

My favorite du Maurier novel is easily My Cousin Rachel, which has a fantastic build to its climax, all the time making the reader as unsure as the narrator as to what is happening, as it simultaneously makes the reader question whether the narrator is trustworthy in his account.

 

The King's General is a fantastic piece of historical fiction. Flight of the Falcon is a great mystery, especially if you want something a little less dark.

 

She also wrote many short stories, including The Birds and Don't Look Now, both of which were the basis for the Hitchcock and Roeg film adaptations.

 

I might cite the film of Don't Look Now as one of the rare examples of a movie improving on excellent source material. As much as I like Hitchcock's The Birds, du Maurier's story surpasses it terms of creating a sensation of dread and helplessness, and with its efficient streamlined storytelling, it packs an even bigger wallop of creepiness than the film.

 

 

So, has anyone here read any of her writing?

Edited by Evan C

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I've read "The Birds" and "Don't Look Now," but that's about it. I'm not much of a mystery reader, but she seems to have a firm command of atmosphere. I reread "The Birds" recently and yes, it's impressively dread filled, although I remember thinking the prose style a bit spare for my liking. 

 

How does she compare to Agatha Christie, in your opinion? 

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The Birds has a much greater economy of prose than any of her other works. (I thought that added to its atmosphere). She can be fairly lavish when writing about the Cornish countryside.

 

I wouldn't compare her to Agatha Christie, because I've only read one Christie novel (And Then There Were None, over ten years ago, which I liked a lot), but more so because very few of du Maurier's works are mysteries and to my knowledge she didn't write any detective stories. Flight of the Falcon is a mystery in the sense that the protagonist becomes increasingly concerned about his brother's odd behavior, and much of the novel consists of him trying to figure out why. Jamaica Inn only becomes a quasi-mystery in the second half, and it's pretty easy to guess the answer, due to a paucity of characters.

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Ah, got it. What I like about du Maurier (from what little I've read) is that she has a touch of the weird in her writing. The kind of imagination that can dream up the death-in-Venice convolutions of "Don't Look Now" is alright by me.

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A touch of the weird (and sometimes more than a touch) is present in nearly all of du Maurier's writing.

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