Few authors can write across genres with equal skill and success - But Daphne du Maurier is one such writer.
Born on 13 May 1907 into a distinguished London theatrical family, she turned to writing early and was prolific in her output. Her career spanned from the beginning of the 1930s to her death, at the age of 81, in 1989, during which time she wrote 16 novels, several short stories, plays, biographies, a memoir, and books about her beloved Cornwall, where she lived for much of her life.
Her historical fiction – books such as The King’s General and The Glassblowers - is so stunningly accurate and thrilling that to read it is to feel that you are there during the Civil War in England, early 19th century Cornwall or provincial France during the French Revolution.
But Du Maurier is probably best known for her chilling gothic books. These include the widely-adored Rebecca, and My Cousin Rachel, along with similar short stories such as her masterpiece, The Birds and Don’t Look Back. Her writing is infused with a creeping menace, and a threat of violence that is so intense that when it finally erupts it’s often an actual relief to the reader!
Equally, Du Maurier penned romances, family sagas and science fiction. In doing so, she defied classification. She wrote fearlessly, communicating a diverse array of female characters who also defy typecasts – the nameless narrator of Rebecca, the possible-murderess in My Cousin Rachel, the repressed housewife in Frenchman’s Creek. They prove instead to be complicated, contradictory and utterly human in their frailties, fears and ferocity.
Du Maurier was deeply influenced by the Brontës, and in taking from their rich legacy, she left one of her own – a legacy that has helped countless female authors of the modern noir and all writers who refuse to be pigeonholed.
Begin your journey with Du Maurier here by reading some of her best-known and loved books.