Thursday, June 28, 2018

Manderley Forever: A Biography of Daphne du Maurier ~ Tatiana de Rosnay review [@tatianaderosnay @StMartinsPress]

Manderley Forever: A Biography of Daphne du Maurier
Sam Taylor, translator
St Martin's Press
April 18, 2017
340 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

The nonfiction debut from beloved international sensation and #1 New York Times bestselling author Tatiana de Rosnay: her bestselling biography of novelist Daphne du Maurier.

“It's impressive how Tatiana was able to recreate the personality of my mother, including her sense of humor. It is very well written and very moving. I’m sure my mother would have loved this book.” ― Tessa Montgomery d’Alamein, daughter of Daphné du Maurier, as told to Pauline Sommelet in Point de Vue

As a bilingual bestselling novelist with a mixed Franco-British bloodline and a host of eminent forebears, Tatiana de Rosnay is the perfect candidate to write a biography of Daphne du Maurier. As an eleven-year-old de Rosnay read and reread Rebecca, becoming a lifelong devotee of Du Maurier’s fiction. Now de Rosnay pays homage to the writer who influenced her so deeply, following Du Maurier from a shy seven-year-old, a rebellious sixteen-year-old, a twenty-something newlywed, and finally a cantankerous old lady. With a rhythm and intimacy to its prose characteristic of all de Rosnay’s works, Manderley Forever is a vividly compelling portrait and celebration of an intriguing, hugely popular and (at the time) critically underrated writer.

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."So beings Daphne du Maurier's novel Rebecca. It is probably one of the best known first lines of a book ever but I did ot know very much, at all, about the author. Written by Tatiana de Rosnay, the author of Sarah's Key and other novels, Manderley Forever is the first (at least according to the text) French biography of du Maurier.

This biography tells Daphne du Maurier's life story using the houses she lived in and loved. A fitting method considering Manderley has to be one of the best known hones, fictional or otherwise.

I loved finding out about Dapne's famous grandfather, her famous actor father, their family's relationship with J.M. Barrie and the Llewelyn Davies. It's always interesting to be able to fit pieces - and people - of history that you knew of separately, together. From her childhood relationships with her parents and sisters their governess and friends/society Daphne is expected to behave a certain way around, we learn a lot about the little girl, her love of storytelling, and distaste for conventional gender roles. It is especially interesting and thought provoking when we see how those same relationships transform (or sometimes, don't) as du Maurier ages.

Possibly in part because this book was originally published in French, likely just because its fact, there is a lot of focus on the du Maruier's connections and visits to France. Whether it's because of where the book was first published or not, I really appreciated those parts of the story, what it said about Daphne, her family's past and then their present/future.

It works surprisingly well that de Rosnay does not try to provide a modern context or interpretation to many occurrences, statements, writings, etc that readers are shown in the novel. Things are written in such a way that they speak for themselves and readers are able to draw their own inferences, have their own interpretations.

There is quite a bit of description of the plot of du Maurier's (and her grandfather's, as well) writings so if you are someone who has not read them (and wishes to) you may want to skim those passages.

Manderley Forever gives readers a very real, truly human look at the life of Daphne du Maurier, from her childhood playing Peter Pan with her sisters, to her walks along the beach in Cornwall with her dogs, from her marriage and children to her publishing successes and failures. Tatiana de Rosnay has written a biography that is both compelling and complete.

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