As readers of this blog will know, I've been having an unplanned Daphne du Maurier revival of my own but I've recently found out that others in the book blogosphere had the same idea. Cornflower is hosting a book read of My Cousin Rachel on May 22nd, so I'm saving my review of that book till then. Also Chris at book-a-rama is hosting a Daphne Du Maurier Challenge running from April 2010 to May 2011 so do check out her blog for more details.
Daphne du Maurier is certainly one case where the author's life is just as fascinating as her books. On the surface, Daphne can be said to have led a charmed life. She was born in 1907 into a lively and artistic family. Her father was the actor/manager Sir Gerald du Maurier who also wrote the classic novel, Trilby. Her mother, Muriel Beaumont, was an actress. Daphne grew up in a large and happy London household where friends such as J.M.Barrie and Edgar Wallace visited often. She was only a teenager when her uncle, a magazine editor, published one of her stories and got her a literary agent. In 1932 Daphne married Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Browning II, who was knighted for his service in World War II. They were married for thirty-three years and had three children. They lived in a fabulous house in Cornwall called Menabilly which was the inspiration for the Manderley house in Rebecca. Daphne du Maurier was made a dame in 1969 for her literary distinction. She died in 1989.
Though it does seem like she led a charmed life there is evidence that Daphne had an unhappy marriage where both parties were unfaithful. In 1947 Daphne fell in love with Ellen Doubleday, the wife of her American publisher, who remained her lifelong friend, She also had an affair with the actress Gertrude Lawrence. Her bisexuality was only disclosed after her death and is portrayed in the BBC film, Daphne. Interestingly enough, it was also recently revealed that she has a moratorium on her adolescent diaries. They can only be opened fifty years after her death. There's speculation that the diaries expose a young adolescent affair with a married man or maybe not. Kits, Daphne's son, believes that it's just filled with mundane stuff. "I think it's a tease," he said. "She loved mystery." You can read more about this at a Times Online article here.
For those interested, I also found a interesting article about how she wrote Rebecca (link here) at the Telegraph website. Below are some pictures of Daphne du Maurier.
Daphne at the staircase at her beloved home, Menabilly which was the basis for the Manderley house in Rebecca