Daphne Du Maurier


I’ve been hearing Daphne Du Maurier’s name everywhere lately. The new movie based on My Cousin Rachel will be out soon & nearly every BookTuber I follow seems to be reading Du Maurier or coveting the lovely new Virago Modern Classics editions. Lauren from Lauren and the Books is a particular fan. She’s recently read the short story collection The Birds and other stories & filmed a review of it. She also mentioned Rebecca (both book & film) several times in the latest Books and Blankets podcast with Mercedes from Mercy’s Bookish Musings. Simon from Savidge Reads never lets an opportunity go by to mention Rebecca which is his favourite book.

Apart from all the Du Mauriers from my shelves that you can see above, I also have an omnibus on my eReader that includes one of the short story collections, The Breaking Point. I’ve been dipping into short stories lately so thought I’d read one of Daphne’s. I chose the first story in the collection, The Alibi, the story of a man who is bored with his life &, on an impulse, decides to murder someone. He chooses a random house in a random street, knocks on the door & ends up renting a room from the lonely woman who lives there with her young son. He tells the woman that he’s an artist & becomes so obsessed by the story he’s told that he puts it into practice. His fantasy gradually takes over his life & comes to a shocking conclusion.

I read another story today (Ganymede – a classics scholar goes to Venice instead of Devon for his holiday & becomes entangled in the life of a beautiful young man) Both stories have such a sense of foreboding or maybe I just expect that from a Du Maurier story. Her short stories are often more macabre than her novels. Just think of The Birds, The Blue Lenses or Don’t Look Now. The descriptions of Venice in Ganymede are so seductive yet with a hint of menace as well. Du Maurier was certainly a writer with an incredible range & I’m looking forward to finishing this collection of stories.


Only after reading Ganymede did I realise (while looking DDM up on Fantastic Fiction), that today, May 13th, is the 110th anniversary of her birth. Happy Birthday Daphne! My browsing led me to the Introduction by Justine Picardie to the Virago edition of The King’s General, one of my favourite Du Maurier novels. Picardie’s experience, reading the novel for the first time as a teenager, was so close to my own that I was transported back over 30 years to my local library which had a shelf full of the old yellow Gollancz hardbacks of Du Maurier’s novels. A while ago, I added the audio book of The King’s General to my Audible library. It’s read by Juliet Stevenson, one of my favourite narrators & I’ve downloaded it, all ready to go. This is one of Du Maurier’s historical novels, set in the 16th century during the Civil War at Menabilly, the Cornish house she loved so much. It’s the story of Honor Harris & her love for Sir Richard Grenvile.

I still have several unread Du Mauriers on the tbr shelves & I’m tempted to complete my collection with some of the new VMCs. I may not be able to resist.

The Quiet Gentleman – Georgette Heyer



Gervase Frant, sixth Earl of St Erth, returns to Stanyon, his family home in Lincolnshire, a year after the death of his father & after several years as a soldier on the Continent. The unregarded son of his father’s first, unhappy, marriage, his return is disconcerting for his stepmother, the Dowager Countess, & especially for her son, Martin. Martin has been the spoiled darling of both his parents, treated almost as the heir, & the reappearance of his half-brother is a source of jealousy. The estate has been stewarded by a cousin, Theo Frant, a steady hand who has kept in touch with Gervase. Miss Drusilla Morville, the daughter of a local gentry family, is visiting Stanyon as the guest of the Dowager while her parents are on their travels.

Gervase’s quiet good manners soon recommend him to the Dowager & the rest of the household. All except Martin, whose resentment is plain. When Gervase rescues the beautiful young heiress, Marianne Bolderwood, after she is thrown from her horse, Martin’s jealousy is aroused. Marianne’s easy, flirtatious manners have led Martin to believe that she returns his love although she is too innocent to realise it. When Gervase’s friend Lord Ulverston arrives, the attraction between him & Marianne is obvious to everyone but Martin. He tries to force his attentions on Marianne at a ball at Stanyon by proposing to her & then tries to force Ulverston to fight a duel.

More seriously, Gervase is the victim of several “accidents” which could be something more sinister. Martin forgets to warn his brother of a rickety bridge & a rope pulled deliberately across the road trips his horse. When Gervase is shot while out driving, & Martin disappears, everything seems to be pointing in the direction of a jealous young man with murderous intent. But is this really the answer? Gervase is determined to avoid scandal but can he believe that Martin was not involved?

I love Georgette Heyer. Of course, there’s also romance as well as intrigue in this sparkling story. Drusilla Morville is a quiet, elegant young woman from an intellectual family who has an easy, companionable friendship with the whole family. She’s on the spot when Gervase is thrown from his horse & takes on the burden of nursing him after he’s shot. Her impeccable manners & competence impress Gervase but Drusilla will not allow herself to think of anything but friendship with a rich nobleman, her parents’ landlord to boot, who will surely marry an heiress. Gervase’s initial impression of Drusilla on his first evening at home,

” And who, pray, is that little squab of a female? Was she invited for my entertainment?Don’t tell me she is an heiress! I could not – no, I really could not be expected to pay my addresses to anyone with so little countenance or conversation!”

‘Drusilla! No, no, nothing of that sort!” smiled Theo. “I fancy my aunt thinks she would make a very suitable wife for me!”

“My poor Theo!”

soon changes as they become acquainted & he realises that she has plenty of humour & conversation as well as quiet good sense. She even discusses Mary Wollstonecraft’s life & work with Gervase quite matter of factly which I loved. Drusilla is one of Heyer’s older heroines & much more interesting to me than flighty Marianne Bolderwood with her beauty & her train of suitors. I also adored the Dowager Countess with her Lady Catherine-like pronouncements & her complete self-absorption. The mystery of the attacks on Gervase is absorbing, I loved the descriptions of the estate, the house & the countryside & altogether, this is now one of my favourite Heyer novels. My enjoyment was enhanced by listening to the audio book read by Cornelius Garrett, one of my favourite narrators. I like to listen to an audio book for 15 mins or so before I go to sleep but some nights I was desperately trying to stay awake for just a few minutes more to find out what would happen. I’ve listened to several Heyers on audio & enjoyed them all. I still have Frederica, read by Clifford Norgate in my Audible library but the next one I want to read is Venetia as I want to listen to the Backlisted podcast which you can listen to here or wherever you get your podcasts.

It was a real treat to read The Quiet Gentleman for the 1951 Club. Thanks Simon & Karen for the opportunity to read a book that had been in the tbl (to be listened) list for too long.