Daphne by Justine Picardie is a little hard to describe. It's about a college grad researching Daphne duMaurier while she was researching Branwell Bronte. Are you following me? The narrator (who remains nameless until the end of her story), let's call her Nar, is married to a
At the same time, Daphne's own story runs parallel to the narrator's. Daphne's husband, Tommy, has just had a nervous breakdown and her own mental health is questionable. To distract herself she throws herself into writing a biography of the short life of Branwell Bronte. She starts a correspondence with a disgraced currator, a gollum-like hoarder ("my precious") of Bronte documents, J.A. Symington. He's an odd character with delusions of grandeur mixed with periods of extreme self-doubt.
Not a lot happens during the book, no car chases or running from museum to museum a la Dan Brown. The story is told through the letters of Daphne and Symington as well as their own thoughts. The letters hide more than they tell. Daphne's crumbling marriage and her paranoid thoughts aren't revealed to Symington. Symington wants Daphne to feel he's superior to her a mere novelist, when he's actually a thief. I found Daphne so fascinating. She had a family connection to J.M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan. Her family also had a history of depression and mental illness. At times, I wondered how much of what Daphne perceived was real or a figment of her imagination. Echoes of her books and stories are sprinkled throughout the book; some subtle, some obvious. I found myself thinking, "Oh, that's where she got Don't Look Now."
There were echoes of Daphne's stories in the narrator's tale as well. She's almost like the second Mrs DeWinter only with more balls. Her husband's ex is named Rachel. She's much like Rebecca only without the evil. She's a charismatic woman. She was very well written by Picardie. Daphne and 'Nar's ' story isn't exactly circular. It's more like Picardie shoved them and the Brontes in a blender and poured them onto the page. And it works.
Even though, I was left with some questions, I really enjoyed this quiet novel that's not quite a biography. I'm definitely going to read more of DuMaurier's work including The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte.
Big thanks to Cristina and the Bronte Blog for giving me this book. Recommended.
Order from Amazon: Daphne