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.

Dickens in December


For me, December means Dickens. This year I have a treat, a new Naxos recording of Dickens’ Christmas stories.These are the stories Dickens published in the 1840s. The first of them was the perennially popular A Christmas Carol.


I’ll be listening to Miriam Margolyes reading the Carol as I have for the last few years. This new recording is of the other four stories – The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life & The Haunted Man. Even better, they’re read by David Timson, one of my favourite narrators. I listened to his recording of Dombey & Son last year & it was wonderful. He’s also recorded the complete Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire by Gibbon which I’m nearly halfway through. I haven’t read these later Christmas Stories as often as A Christmas Carol – I can recite whole passages from the Carol – but these later stories have never been as popular. The Carol was a hard act to follow. However, I’m finding a lot to admire & enjoy in them. I think listening is the perfect way to experience them.


I’ve also been catching up on back issues of The Dickensian, watching Ronald Colman (photo from here) in the 1935 movie of A Tale of Two Cities (which made me want to reread the book immediately) & reading this terrific interview with Jenny Hartley where she chooses her top 5 books on Dickens.


Apart from Dickens, I’m also reading this anthology of Christmas stories. A mixture of old favourites & new discoveries. So far I’ve enjoyed rereading The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Necklace of Pearls by Dorothy L Sayers & discovering a very Golden Age story by Val McDermid called A Traditional Christmas. There are also stories by Ian Rankin, Ellis Peters, Ngaio Marsh & Margery Allingham. I bought the Kindle edition for only about $3 but it’s also available in paperback.


I’ve also been tempted by bloggers to buy a couple of Christmassy books, the first books I’ve bought for nearly two months. Elaine’s review of Jeanette Winterson’s Christmas Days was so enticing that I ordered it straightaway.


I was also intrigued by Heavenali’s mention of this anthology of Christmas Stories published by Everyman. I love these chunky little hardback anthologies of short stories. There are several more here that I’m tempted by.

I’ll just finish this ramble with a link to a blog I’ve just discovered. Emily Rhodes works at Daunt Books, organises their very popular Walking Book Club & is a freelance reviewer. She also blogs at EmilyBooks. I’ve been enjoying reading her archive as she is a fan of Persephone Books, Slightly Foxed, Ann Bridge, Penelope Fitzgerald & Elizabeth Von Arnim.

I was going to finish this ramble but Lynne at dovegreyreader has written about the centenary of Penelope Fitzgerald’s birth here & I like her idea of a Persephone January. There, that really is the end.