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Telling the stories through different voices, she has an amazing sense of suspense and a great capacity to carry you along and surprise you.”Daphne’s short stories are notable for their inventiveness and Taylor explains: “Her short stories in particular take the genre of horror into new realms.People have completely the wrong idea about her because she was dismissed as writing novelettes – typically works that are light and romantic or sentimental in character.“She is never sentimental about relationships or love or family, and she is always giving you a very dark and uncomfortable version of human life and that is not how she has been represented in popular discourse.“She is somebody who works with genres like the Gothic and romance and historical novels and she tweaks them in an unusual and original take.And in return I gave them something of myself, a few of my novels passing into the folklore of this ancient place.”Her love of place is one of the reasons du Maurier’s books make such wonderful films, says Taylor: “She had a fantastic way of capturing a sense of place which appeals to film makers because they can imagine these places in their minds and recreate them on the screen.”Director Alfred Hitchcock liked their strong atmosphere and tense plots and his first du Maurier adaptation was Jamaica Inn, in 1939.“She wasn’t friends with Alfred and she didn’t like the film of Jamaica Inn but she loved Rebecca,” says Taylor.
Has he heroically resisted and survived one of the women his godfather warns him about, those who “impel disaster”?
Or has his own suspicious misogyny made him not a hero, not a victim, but a villain himself?
She is always startling you with her choice of characters – she has extremely disturbed and disturbing characters and situations, and heroes turn into villains at the drop of the hat.”Born in London in 1907, du Maurier was brought up and educated surrounded by creative brilliance.
Her father was the actor-manager Sir Gerald du Maurier, who had wished she had been a boy, and she was the granddaughter of artist and writer George du Maurier, the Punch cartoonist.
To date her novels, stories and plays have been turned into 12 film adaptations (including a 1952 adaptation of My Cousin Rachel starring Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton), and 40-plus TV dramas.
With most of her stories set in the Cornish countryside where she lived, the wild landscape is as much a character in her books as the people themselves. Professor Helen Taylor, of the University of Exeter, is an expert on du Maurier and author of The Daphne du Maurier Companion.“She is an extremely good storyteller,” says Taylor. She has weak narrators, unreliable narrators, narrators of whom you are not sure about their sanity, stability or reliability.“My Cousin Rachel is a good example of that but so is Rebecca.
Her legacy continues this Friday with the release of a new film adaptation of My Cousin Rachel, starring Rachel Weisz as an enigmatic woman suspected of being behind the mysterious death of her husband.
Du Maurier’s dark romances have proved timeless and their perfect blend of moral complexity and Gothic drama made them ideal for the big screen.
She undermines any cosy idea people might have about love affairs and relationship and marriage and that follows in their tradition.”Daphne was a recluse and kept her private life secret, never giving interviews.
She was married, in 1932, to Frederick Browning, a Grenadier Guards officer.