April 24, 2008

Daphne: Review

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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 douche a professor much older than herself. Oh, he thinks he's right smart, he does. Nar loves all things Daphne and is working on a paper about her obsession with the Brontes. Paul, the professor, poo-poos the idea. Daphne is, afterall, just a writer of bestsellers, a romance writer. Paul and Nar grow colder towards one another and Nar suspects Paul's attitude has more to do with his mysterious ex-wife Rachel than anything else.

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

6 comments :

  1. Great review. I might have to add this one to my TBR list.

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  2. I really like the sound of this book. I've only read Rebecca by Du Maurier so I'm curious if I might not "get" all hints but I'd still read it. And, isn't that a nice cover?

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  3. This sounds incredibly cool.

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  4. I actually just started reading Du Maurier's The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë, to hold me over until Daphne is available in the States. I also just bought Du Maurier's The House on the Strand at the local hospital auxiliary book sale. I think you may have recommended that to me.

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  5. What a great review Chris! Luckly, I don't need things to blow up to enjoy a book, LOL!

    I added it to my TBR, But I may read more Du Maurier first.

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  6. Aka- I think you should ;)

    Iliana- I know, it's one of the best covers I've seen in awhile.

    Bybee- I think so!

    Rob- You'll have to tell me if you like both of them.

    Teddy- I'm planning on reading more of her as well.

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