September 9, 2010

The Rebecca Notebook and Other Memories by Daphne duMaurier: Review

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I've been scouring the library for Daphne du Maurier related material and recently found The Rebecca Notebook and Other Stories. What's so interesting about it is that Daphne compiled this collection of her work in 1980; she gives her own thoughts as she looks back on her career.

The Rebecca Notebook itself is the journal used in the defense of her publisher, Doubleday, from a plagiarism suit after Rebecca hit the big time. I didn't pay much attention to the notebook but in her introduction she discusses writing Rebecca. This is a revealing quote:
"...why did I never give the heroine a Christian name? The answer to the last question is simple: I could not think of one, and it became a challenge in technique, the easier because I was writing in the first person."

The Early Stories

When Daphne was a young writer, she published a number of short stories. You may not have read any of these. I certainly hadn't heard of any of them. While I liked a few of them, I can't say I loved them all. Many of them focused on relationships between men and women, not so much the psychological thrills I used to from her. These stories feel cynical to me- I wonder what was going on in her life at the time she wrote them?

However, there was one particular story I enjoyed, Adieu Sagesse. An old man gives his wife and people of his town a big "Screw you" and then sails off into adventure. And they all deserved it. How many times have you wanted to tell someone off and not care about the consequences?

The Non-fiction

These made the book for me. It was a look into the mind of Daphne and to learn about her experiences. A favorite was A Winter's Afternoon, Kilmarth. She gives an account of her day: a walk with her dog that ends with her reading in bed. She encounters minor annoyances, sudden hail, a smoky fire, a leaky roof, but handles it with good humour and imagination. It charmed me. I was reading it on the couch in a quiet house and had a nice little nap after reading it. It was such a relaxing story.

But by far the best was The House of Secrets. In it Daphne tells the story of how she found Menabilly, the house that was the inspiration for Manderlay. When they were kids, she and her sister found out about the abandoned estate while on vacation. They tried to reach it in the evening but the road to the house was so overgrown they had to turn around. A year later, Daphne sneaks away and finds a way to the house on her own. The first thing she sees are those infamous rhododendrons. She spends much of the summer exploring the estate and peeking in windows. As an adult, she would finally live in that house.

I felt like a kindred spirit to young Daphne. I spent a lot of my childhood exploring the wilderness around my house. I never found an abandoned building (an abandoned truck, yes) but I would have loved to!

I recommend The Rebecca Notebook for anyone wanting to learn more about Daphne du Maurier from the woman herself.

Speaking of Menabilly, here's a clip from a documentary about Daphne. She talks about a piece of film of herself as a young woman walking around Menabilly with her kids. It's amazing to see and hear her.

6 comments :

  1. I do really like Daphne du Maurier, so this sounds really interesting. Thanks for the review!

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  2. You wrote: "I wonder what was going on in her life at the time she wrote them? ... However, there was one particular story I enjoyed, Adieu Sagesse. An old man gives his wife and people of his town a big 'screw you' and then sails off into adventure. And they all deserved it. How many times have you wanted to tell someone off and not care about the consequences?"

    There you go! THAT is what was going on in her life -- and writing about it was her way of getting "screw you" out of her system.

    I enjoyed the video clip you found. I have just put this book on hold at my library. Thanks for the review.

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  3. This definitely sounds interesting. I love the explanation as to the nameless protagonist in Rebecca.

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  4. This sounds fascinating. I am going to add it to my TBR list to read after I have read a few more of her books.

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  5. Just added it to my TBR. I want it!!

    I loved the clip from her documentary. She sounded a bit like Catherine Hepburn to me. I would love to see the doc in it's entirety!

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  6. Swapna- Hope you like it!

    Bonnie- I suspect you are right about that.

    Marg- Yes, I'd read a few of her books to get a feel for her work first.

    Teddy- Yes, she did! And that suit too.

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