Tag Archives: Discovering Daphne

The Loving Spirit – Daphne Du Maurier; Discovering Daphne Readalong #1

So we start at the very beginning of Daphne’s career as we set about discussing ‘The Loving Spirit’. Saying that, as such a fan of Daphne’s I openly admit that I wasn’t sure that this would be my cup of tea. You see there are some Daphne novels which simply don’t sound very me, for example any book with lots of boats or boating in it normally turns me right off. The fact the cover of this book has a boat on it, hmmm, wasn’t the surest sign that I would love it, but I read on, and hit a second concern. Dialect.

Virago, paperback, 1931, fiction, 404 pages, borrowed from the library (can't seem to get in shops or second hand)

Dialect in a novel is a tricky beast, it adds the perfect authenticity but does take some getting used to (not that I mind some hard work as I read, I think any book is a mutual dedication between author and reader) if done wrong it can ultimately grate on the reader. When I started to spot the accents in ‘The Loving Spirit’ my heart dropped a little, this was the first book Polly and I were jointly wanting you to read-a-long with us on. Oh no! Well, shame on me, I shouldn’t have worried should I because Daphne of course makes this all work. Wait, there is more, I had a third concern when I spotted that ‘The Loving Spirit’ was also going to be a ‘generational saga’.

Generational saga’s (is this a genre) are books that I always like the sound of reading because I am a nosey so and so and you can almost guarantee there will be drama’s here there and everywhere along the way. Invariably I then see they are normally absolutely massive and so while I intend to read them, because I know I will like them, I often find they languish on the shelf in favour of shorter/middle length books. Hey, I know what I like and some authors can write an epic in under 400 pages. In this instance I think I can include Daphne as one such author.

‘The Loving Spirit’ tells of four generations of the Coombe family. In fact the book is split into four parts and the narratives pass from Janet Coombe, to her son Joseph, to his son Christopher and ending with his daughter Jennifer. Now there is so much that happens with each one I wouldn’t want to spoil the plot but this book takes us from Plyn in Cornwall to London and back again from the years 1831 through to 1930, that’s quite a stretch and with a huge amount of historical moments to cover along with all the twists and turns of family drama’s. Hence you see how difficult it is to encompass every strand of the book and why I won’t try.

I will say that when I closed the final page I actually couldn’t believe Daphne had written this all at the age of 24, or that it was a debut novel. No it is not perfect, and in some parts the book is too rushed (the very beginning where we see Janet go from a rather wild young girl to boring ‘worrying for future generations’ housewife and obsessive mother in about ten pages, and at the end – which I won’t give away) there are also some really slow points. If I am honest I think maybe 20 pages of Joseph and Christopher’s accounts, the latter in particular who I felt Daphne didn’t even like herself, could have been cut. There were also some wonderful characters (mad old ladies) that didn’t get enough time and yet were utter scene stealers.

The writing though is marvellous throughout. The scenes and atmospheres of Cornwall, life on the sea’s and London are vivid and evoking. There is also that slight unease and dark undertone throughout the whole book. Not only when tragic or dark things happen to people but also in the thoughts of the characters. Janet loves her husband, but is aware there is something out there she might love more, what though is it? The gossips in Plyn and their shocking hints about sexual relations. I also thought there was a slight incestuous nature between Janet and her son Joseph, maybe that’s just me. I am only using Janet as an example as not to give away spoilers. She even sets unease in the most beautiful paragraphs, in fact the opening section of the book shows this marvellously.

‘Janet Coombe stood on the hill above Plyn, looking down upon the harbour. Although the sun was already high in the heavens, the little town was still wrapped in an early morning mist. It clung to Plyn like a thin pale blanket, lending to the place a faint whisper of unreality as if the whole had been blessed by ghostly fingers.’

I liked ‘The Loving Spirit’ a lot and think it’s a stunning debut, that could be because I have read Daphne’s other works and know what is yet to come, or it could just be that I am bowled over that a 24 year old could write such a worldly-wise book filled with so much at such an age. That sounds like I am making excuses to make it sound all the more spectacular and I don’t think that’s so and if it was the first Daphne Du Maurier I read I would be impressed but not desperate to rush out and grab another. Yet it has something about it that I admire. It is not the best book I have ever read, but its one I am certainly glad to have spent time curled up lost in the world of the Coombe’s and watched generations go by in several blissful hours.

You can see Polly of Novel Insights thoughts here. What did you think?

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Why I Love Daphne Du Maurier… She Made Me Read Again

Yes, really, this cover made me want to read this book!

I like to say that Daphne Du Maurier saved me as a reader. That sounds rather grand, yet in fact, credit where credit is due, it is true. So I shouldn’t say ‘I like to say it’ for it is a fact. If it hadn’t been for a battered second hand copy of Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ (and, I should mention, Agatha Christie’s ‘The Body in the Library’, to be 100% fair) that I saw in a charity shop and bought because I liked the slightly camp cover, so at 50p thought ‘oh why not’, then I might not be the bookaholic I am today. This was in the days when I had a 45 minute commute on the tube from Colliers Wood to Goodge Street and back each day. I was thoroughly bored of reading ‘The Metro’ everyday I can tell you, and ‘Rebecca’ was a revelation for me. Suddenly at the opening of this magical book those 45 minutes which had previously painfully dragged simply weren’t long enough, I might not have dreamt of Manderlay but I certainly couldn’t wait to return at any spare moment.

I was a big reader as a child, until it came to GCSE English (when my teacher took any joy out of it, this continued at A Level) I literally couldn’t get enough of them. I always liked books that were a little creepy, something with a darkness that crept in from the edge of each page, a twist here and there. I also liked anything set in a big spooky house. In ‘Rebecca’ I found all these elements, only taken to another level, a darker side of humanity that I hadn’t seen before, a spooky house with a true malevolent presence, only in the form of a woman no longer there. This was the book that made me want to read again, and more specifically read ‘it’ again – so much so I read it once then quickly started it once more.

Researching all about Daphne after that (bless you google), in order to see just how many titles I had to get my hands on as quickly as possible, I became aware of a women who was as mysterious as her books (the minx) and yet who had been written off as merely a ‘romantic novelist’, someone who just wrote tales of love with a boat or two in them. Yet as I read on, and I think I have read three collections of short stories and five or six of her novels now, I couldn’t believe how wrong that assumption was and just how underrated people had made her. It still outrages me to think of it now.

Yes, there are love stories in most of her works  such as ‘Rebecca’ and ‘Jamaica Inn’, which are probably her best known(though you’d be hard pressed to find one in the short stories like ‘The Birds’ or ‘The Blue Lenses’). There is so much more built around them though; you have the good in people yet you also have the darkness that lingers in everyone, even the nicest soul as well as the truly wicked. There are twists and turns galore. As you read on I bet you will find yourself looking over your shoulder, not just with occasional unease, but because when you get lost in a novel by Daphne Du Maurier its hard not to feel like she is whispering the story in your ear, with a wry smile when something you weren’t expecting happens.

Had ‘Rebecca’ been my only love affair with an author I would always remember it none the less, yet as I have read on with Daphne (or as I like to call her, and I hope she wouldn’t mind, Daphers) she has unquestionably become one of my favourite writers. She’s eclectic, yet there’s that comfortable familiarity when you open the first few pages that no matter where she takes you its going to be something special, something unexpected. I don’t think you could ask for more of an author that that, which is maybe why every book I ever read will probably, in some way regardless of its story, genre or theme, have to live up to ‘Rebecca’ – which is kind of ironic if you have read the book. ‘Rebecca‘ it seems haunts me too. If you haven’t read ‘Rebecca’, you must, I already know re-reading it in a few weeks will be the highlight of my reading year, it might just be yours. I owe Daphne a big thank you, in fact without her this blog would most probably not be here. Do try her.

If you won’t take my word for it you can see Polly of Novel Insights thoughts on her here.

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Welcome To Discovering Daphne, A Month of Delight…

Can you believe that it is October already? This year seems to have suddenly gone so quick. Normally the arrival of October means one thing only in the UK; darker nights earlier and a certain chill in the air. So Savidge Reads and Novel Insights decided that to bring joy, and the perfect companions to curl up on the sofa with, we would bring you a month dedicated to the wonderful Daphne Du Maurier. We didn’t plan on their being a heat wave/Indian Summer in the first week of October but really you can read Daphne in any climate and you will have pages of delight ahead of you.

So what’s the plan? Well when we say the whole of October we actually mean the first week from today, the 1st, until 9th of October 2011 where we will have a week of Daphne based delights, some special guests, some give aways and much more.

This week will also include the first of five optional (though we hope you join in with them all) Daphne read-a-longs, as we start tomorrow at the very beginning of Daphne’s career with her first novel ‘The Loving Spirit’. The week then ends on the 9th with her novel which is actually a fictionalized biography of her great-great grandmother ‘Mary Anne’ a tale so wonderful it’s hard to believe it’s actually true. Then we move onto the final three read-a-longs…

  • Sunday 16th October: ‘The House on the Strand’ – speculative time-travelling Daphne showing how versatile she is.
  • Sunday 23rd October: ‘Don’t Look Now & Other Stories’ – a collection of Daphne’s short stories which are always wonderful and rather dark.
  • Sunday 30th October: ‘Rebecca’ – if you have read it before or if you haven’t, we will be discussing possibly the most famous of Daphne’s novels which should prove a perfect way to end the season and become one of the highlights of everyone’s reading year, if not their reading life.

We really hope you will join in through the comments and send us your reviews or thoughts on Daphne and spread the word of a truly wonderful author. Who knows you might randomly win some of her books along the way… So which books will you be reading, which ones have you read already, why do you love Daphne – or dare we ask why you don’t, or haven’t tried her before?

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Discovering Daphne… A Reminder

Back in the month of June, which seems oddly much longer ago than it really was, the lovely Polly of Novel Insights and myself announced that we were going to be hosting ‘Discovering Daphne’ a whole month of Daphne Du Maurier delight, we won’t only be reading Daphne books all month though. Well it all starts in just two days, so I thought that I had best remind you all. I bang on and on about how brilliant Daphne is and so hoping lots of you will be joining in to celebrate her or try her out for the first time. Here will be treats and giveaways and post prizes along the way, all that to be announced on Saturday when we kick off.

So here is the schedule…

  • Saturday 1st of October to Saturday 8th of October 2010 – A special ‘Discovering Daphne’ week, with lots of guest posts, Daphne inspired reads, some interviews and some treats to giveaway. Sunday the 2nd of October will see the first of the Daphne-read-along’s that we would like you to join in with her first novel ‘The Loving Spirit’. Then…
  • Sunday 16th October: ‘The House on the Strand’ – speculative time-travelling Daphne showing how versatile she is.
  • Sunday 23rd October: ‘Don’t Look Now & Other Stories’ – a collection of Daphne’s short stories which are always wonderful and rather dark.
  • Sunday 30th October: ‘Rebecca’ – if you have read it before or if you haven’t already, we will be discussing possibly the most famous of Daphne’s novels which should prove a perfect way to end the season.

Polly and I are very excited, and we do hope you will be joining in? You can find out more here by the way. Do let us know if you are and do spread teh word as Daphne deserves to be discovered by everyone. Right I am back off to curl up with the joy that is Daphne…

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How Many Book Groups Make Too Many?

I love books. I know that sounds like a rather obvious thing to say with a book blog, but sometimes my love of books gets me into trouble. For example at the moment I am in the midst of reading the Green Carnation Prize submissions, of which we have easily had double or maybe treble what we did last year and there are more to come. I also have a big pile of books on the bedside table which I keep ‘meaning to read next’, some advance reading to do for ‘Discovering Daphne’ and another project for the blog which starts in August. Phew! So you might think considering I am part of two book groups the very thought of joining another would seem idiotic… and yet I think I have.

It’s not the fault of the other two book groups that have made my eyes wander. It’s definitely me.

You see with the book group I first joined (that in my own head I call ‘the lovely ladies of Levenshulme book group’ because it is lots of lovely women and me and Paul Magrs) I love the banter and I love the people but until this month a lot of the choices have been re-reads for me. This is of course my fault for reading too much frankly and not theirs at all. However this month, though I have no idea what day it’s happening, we are reading ‘The Lost Daughter’ by Diane Chamberlain which is a book I have never read and would go as far as to say from the cover looks like a book I would possibly avoid. It looks a bit Jodi Piccoult. However this is the very point of a book group isn’t it?

Sadly at the moment the book seems to be avoiding me. I ordered it from the library, they went and loaned it after I ordered it. I have tried book shops and no avail. I could go online, but I feel all funny about online sales after the latest Book Depository news. So if I get it and if I find out when the meeting is I shall of course be going.

The next book group I joined in part because it was organised by one of my lovely new friends up in the north and secondly because I hadn’t read the book, which was ‘Purple Hibiscus’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, one I had wanted to read for ages and ages but not quite got around to. The only issue is that I have read the next book that’s been chosen (again my fault not theirs) but I really don’t want to read it again. What is it? ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy. This seems odd, especially as you can see from a review of it back in 2008, when I had read it for a book group too, I came away confused but overall liking it. So wouldn’t this be just the sort of book that could do with a re-read? After all this was a few years ago. The answer screaming at me is no. I don’t want to be confused by it again, and one thing I missed in that review was how long that book took to read. I have it by the bed in case but I will see, I did love the people who went so much – a really lovely mixture. Can I not go without having to re-read it and see if I can remember it fully? I admit I remember one horrid scene in a cinema all too well.

Fate seemed to extend a hand when I found a new book group in Manchester through twitter completely randomly. I think Waterstones Deansgate retweeted them, they are the @NQbookclub. This group are a little specific with what books they choose, which is what attracts me so much – as well as meeting new book lovers that is, as they only read post war classics it seems… Classics such as ‘Revolutionary Road’ by Richard Yates, ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe and next up to read is ‘Rabbit, Run’ by John Updike. Many of you will of course have read these, but I haven’t and yet they have always been books I have fancied (I did read Updike’s ‘Couples’ for a book group and was impressed with the read and the discussion was great) so should I add another book group to my reading schedule?

I am torn, especially as with ‘Bookmarked’ starting soon (exciting announcement about that soon) and the reading I will need to do for that… maybe it is too much? Do I need to give up one? I don’t really want to. How many book groups are too many? Has anyone else found that they go to a book group and each month it’s a book they have read? Does it matter if you pick and choose which meetings you attend, what are your thoughts on etiquette?

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A Daphne Du Maurier Discovery

Though this might not be as earth shatteringly amazing as the woman who found some of Daphne Du Maurier’s lost short stories which became ‘The Doll’, I did have my own amazing Daphne Du Maurier moment the other day, well I think it’s amazing. It was all again when I was raking through the over flow of books which had been sent for an art installation. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted some taller books one of which was ‘Vanishing Cornwall’ by Daphne Du Maurier, which would have been a fabulous find in itself, this book itself was hiding some secrets…

I would have picked up ‘Vanishing Cornwell’ regardless because its Daphne nothing else needs to be said than that really. You all know I love her work. The fact this book is no longer in print and not so easy to get hold of was an added bonus. If you are like me you will love finding things in books, things previous owners used as book marks. Be they old postcards (possibly my favourite find, especially if they have a note), cinema tickets, shopping lists, etc I find it all fascinating. Well, whoever had this book before I ended up in a warehouse and then with me must have loved Daphne as much as I do as the book was filled with press cuttings about her…

Most of them are obituaries from all the broadsheet press dated April 20th 1989, the day after she died. There are also articles such as ‘Secret jealousy of the real Rebecca’ from the Observer on Sunday the 23rd of April 1989, ‘Estuary is a model for saving species’ from The Guardian June 8th 1996 which is all about ‘Frenchman’s Creek’, ‘Cornwall: A Tip of a Landscape’ which is a colour supplement from 1985 celebrating ‘Vanishing Cornwall’ as a book itself two decades on. My very favourite find though was ‘A Storyteller in a Vanishing Land’ from Living which is a huge piece on Du Maurier’s home Menabilly from 24th of May 1981… the article itself is older than me. Don’t you find that fascinating?  What more of a sign could I have that doing ‘Discovering Daphne’ was meant to be?

I do want to say here that all these books would have been pulped if they hadn’t be bought and used in the installation. So if you aren’t a fan of it let’s simply say worse things could have happened. Also bear in mind I do kind of know my books, though less my classics I admit, and I did take the very best stuff. Sorry, I just felt the need to mention that, back to things you find in books…

Sometimes I really do think you are meant to be in a certain place at a certain time and in this case I was meant to find this book and all it had in it. We can gloss over the other articles the reader had kept about the sale of a Victorian taxidermy museum can’t we? So I wondered have you ever found a book that you have been searching for ages, or didn’t even know you were searching for, and its suddenly there in front of you when you least expect it? What joyful things have you found in a book? What do you think of my find, is it fate?

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Discovering Daphne…

Finally after a good few weeks of plotting and organising things behind the scenes I can announce with joy, on what would have been her 104th Birthday, that myself and the lovely Polly of Novel Insights will be hosting the ‘Discovering Daphne’ season throughout the whole of October this year. Polly and I are both huge fans of Daphne and we are hoping that be you a Du Maurier novice or a full on fan you will be join us to discover/further discover a marvellous author who deserves much more attention and acclaim.

Why did we decide on October? Well it’s the perfect Daphne reading time of year. As you may spot from my review of ‘The Doll’ (a newly published collection of some of her earlier work which had be thought lost) there is something about Daphne Du Maurier’s writing that makes you want to curl up in a big comfy chair by the fire and be ever so slightly chilled and thrilled all at once, and October is a month that has that feeling doesn’t it? We also wanted to give you plenty of notice so you could join in (big thanks to Thomas of My Porch for creating some wonderful buttons for us by the way) with it all…

  

So what’s the plan? Well when we say the whole of October we actually mean the first week from the 1st – 9th of October 2011 and will kick of with the first of five optional (though we hope you join in with them all) Daphne read-a-longs, and where better to start than the very beginning of her career with her first novel ‘The Loving Spirit’ and on the 9th a fictionalised biography of her great-great grandmother ‘Mary Anne’ a tale so wonderful its hard to believe its actually true. Around these titles will be  a full week of various posts on other Du Maurier novels, reviews of books that have been inspired by her, and constant updates of what other people (aka YOU) have been reading and thinking, plus giveaways and competitions before the final three read-a-longs…

  • Sunday 16th October: ‘The House on the Strand’ – speculative time-travelling Daphne showing how versatile she is.
  • Sunday 23rd October: Don’t Look Now & Other Stories’ – a collection of Daphne’s short stories which are always wonderful and rather dark.
  • Sunday 30th October: ‘Rebecca’ – if you have read it before or if you haven’t already, we will be discussing possibly the most famous of Daphne’s novels which should prove a perfect way to end the season.

Blimey, that should make for plenty of fun and fabulous reading and discussions for one month don’t you think? I have created a Discovering Daphne’ page on the site for you to return to should you wish.

We really hope you are going to be joining in all over the world… So much so that to start off the whole event (and make Friday the 13th lucky for two of you) with the help of Daphne’s publishers Virago in the UK, we have a set of all the read-a-long novels to giveaway each. So if you want to be off to a wonderful head start with ‘The Loving Spirit’, ‘Mary Anne’, ‘The House on the Strand’ and ‘Rebecca’ then all you need to do is tell us which Daphne Du Maurier you haven’t read yet you would most like to and why? Hopefully you will be reading an extra Daphne book during the season too. You have until the 20th, and if you want to double your chances of winning pop to Novel Insights and do the same there. These parcels can go global so do enter wherever in the world you are. Good luck, ooh I am excited, and let us know what you think of the Discovering Daphne season and do feel free to spread the word.

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