Manderley Forever –
The Life of Daphne Du Maurier
By Tatania de Rosnay
Allen & Unwin – £9.99
The child destined to be a writer is vulnerable to every wind that blows.
Daphne Du Maurier
Like most biographies, the writing will normally, if not invariably, take the reader on some sort of journey; thus enticing the reader unto the very world of the subject at hand. Quite often, regardless of the protagonists’s behaviour and numerous nooks and cranky crannies of their personality. Although I do have to say, Manderley Forever – The Life of Daphne Du Maurier, could well be the exception.
There’s absolutely no denying the fact that Du Maurier could write, but what a spoilt and horribly pompous cow she was (and appears to have remained for the duration of her life).
Now I’m sure it wasn’t the authoresses intention to makes this abundantly clear throughout these 306 pages (excluding Preface, Quotes Upon the death of Daphne Du Maurier, Acknowledgements, Glossary, Notes, Sources and Index), although I’m more than pleased that Tatania de Rosnay hasn’t held back: ”What’s that, Daphne doesn’t have a sailboat? But she absolutely must, now she lives in Fowey. This is now all Daphne can think about. The Cora Ann is a motorboat, fine for the river or for a calm sea, but really, there’s no comparison. She talks about it with Adams and convinces her parents by showing so much enthusiasm that they can’t help but be charmed. She has won: she will have her boat, But in the meantime, she must return to London, to the damp February cold” (Part III: Cornwall, 1926).
”But she absolutely must!” What the fucking fuck?
It’s almost impossible to believe that some people might think, let alone actually speak in such semi-vexed, ungracious terms. But wait, there’s more:
”I don’t know how I’m going to exist back in London”
”The return to Hampstead in mid-December is, as always, painful.”
”Twenty years old, and so impatient. She is dying of boredom in this damned city, London, when she could catch a train and escape to Fowey! How futile it all seems, accompanying her mother to Selfridges, carrying parcels, standing on a crowded Tube, rushing everywhere.
Hmm, get some kind of plausible, humanistic grip love!
Divided into four parts, it’s rather telling that perhaps the best line throughout the whole book arrives care of de Rosnay herself when she writes: ”[…]as if these stories were shields to keep madness at a distance, confining them to the safety of pages in a book. Writing as the ultimate protection, a guardrail.”
One cannot help but think that such thinking would undoubtedly apply to troubled writers. Writers of unspeakable suffering for instance; such as those who wrote of the Holocaust. Absolutely NOT the annoying and atrociously ungrateful likes of Daphne Du Maurier.
Ungrateful, because when her father, who, lest we forget, has financed all said ludicrous pomp and ceremony, succumbs to an alcohol fuelled depression, we are enlightened of the following: ”What has happened to her father? As soon as he gets up in the morning, his breath reeks of alcohol. He hangs around the house, whining self-pityingly. At a birthday dinner for Gladys Cooper, their actress friend, he gets drunk, and Daphne has to take him back in the car, alone, while he blubbers on her shoulder. She entrusts him to the servants, unable to bear his shamefaced expression when she leaves the room. Why has her mother burdened her with such a responsibility? It isn’t up to her – his daughter – to look after him. Gerald is fifty-four, his hair is thinning, his long face is gaunt, the numberless cigarettes have wizened his skin, yellowed his teeth, and yet he still thinks he’s Peter Pan. He is a child. He is pitiful, even if the love she feels for him is unaltered. Her father, so vain, so self-centred, and at the same time so endearing and fragile. This complex personality simultaneously fascinates and repulses her.”
These words appear on page ninety-one of Manderley Forever, while the opening quote at the outset of this review appears on page ninety-three.
Tatania de Rosnay has herein written a book that is inadvertently honest to the point of wanting to puke at the sheer amount of pomp and resolute bollocks.