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Daphne: A Novel
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Daphne: A Novel

3.22 of 5 stars 3.22  ·  rating details  ·  684 ratings  ·  140 reviews
“Deftly drawn. An accomplished retelling…The reader need not be a devotée of Branwell Brontë or Daphne du Maurier or even the Gothic genre to take pleasure in this novel; the butterflies are brightly colored and the display well-lit.”—Washington Post

Folding biographical details of its real-life heroine, Daphne de Maurier, into a page-turning plot, Daphne is a deftly craft...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published August 4th 2009 by Bloomsbury USA (first published January 1st 2007)
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Hannah
A beautifully written book that weaves the thoughts and actions of three distinct characters into one cohesive tale of the search for meaning, acceptance and understanding.

The book follows the life of the writer Daphne duMaurier and the historian/librarian Alex Symington from 1957-1960, as well as the life of an unnamed female student doing research for her doctorate in the present day. Each chapter focuses on one of these characters, and is told through their "voice" or via letters.

In each case...more
Karen
Since Daphne duMaurier is one of my favorite writers, I was very excited to get my hands on this novel about her. The plot tells three connected stories: Daphne's as she researches the life of the alcoholic, doomed Branwell Bronte; A.J. Symington, a Branwell-esque librarian who fell into disgrace after stealing several manuscripts from the Bronte Parsonage and Musueum; and a modern-day scholar whose marriage to an older man is threatened by the lingering presence of his ex-wife, Rachel, as the s...more
Chris
Who doesn't love a juicy literary mystery? What happened to that poem? Who slept with whom? And really, why does she write about incest? Is it a ghost? And what's with him? It's no surprise that many books have been written about any literary mystery.

This book is somewhat like Possession, but not as good. Picardie uses three characters - [author:Daphne du Maurier|2001717. Symington, and a grad student to explore the Brontes and who the Bronte brother was, you know that bloke who died.

Told partly...more
Nancy
Nov 19, 2008 Nancy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Brit Lit nerds
I picked this new book up, because my favorite novel of all time is the famous "Rebecca," known to some Brit Litters as the bastard half-sister of the Bronte girls' "Jane Eyre" and "Wuthering Heights." Actually completing this book tells me I'm either one of two things: A Brit Lit proficient, (considering I even bothered to finish this surprisingly intense book to begin with), or a horrible Brit Lit student who doesn't know 2% of what she actually thought she knew about her favorite novels. My m...more
Farin
Daphne was a bit of a surprise and a bit of a letdown for me. Like most people, I picked it up because I'm a fan of Rebecca and was excited to read a historical fiction piece on its author. It's entirely my fault that I didn't reading the abstract before I checked it out of my library, because if I had I would have known that the story was less about Rebecca and more about Daphne's twilight years as she struggled through a turbulent marriage and an equally turbulent biography of Branwell Bronte....more
Sarah
Similar setup to A.S. Byatt's Possession: modern day scholars obsessed with dead authors, literary mystery of the past to unravel, lots of correspondence, forgotten manuscripts, life imitates fiction. There's an additional layer to this book--there are the present-day characters, then Daphne du Maurier and J.A. Symington in the middle ground, and finally Branwell Brontë in the most distant past.

I enjoyed much of the back-and-forth between du Maurier and Symington. What sunk the book for me was t...more
Lisa
Okay, I'll admit up front that "Rebecca" by Daphne du Maurier is one of my favorite books as well as most of the books by the Bronte sisters. So a work of fiction that incorporates du Maurier and the Brontes is going to have to screw up pretty badly for me to not like it. This one didn't. It's really three stories in one--du Maurier's story beginning in 1957 as her marriage begins to unravel and she become obsessed with writing a book on Branwell Bronte; the story of Alex Syminton, a former libr...more
Carey
In this interesting fact-based novel the author tells the story of how Daphne du Maurier came to write her biography of Branwell Bronte in the early 1960s, The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte.



When the novel opens Daphne du Maurier is in her early fifties and is dealing with a host of personal problems. Her husband Tommy has had a breakdown and is temporarily hospitalized. Their relationship is rocky in any case because of Daphne has found out that he had a recent affair. She is portrayed as be...more
Barb
Literary references were constant throughout Justine Picardie's 'Daphne'. This book really felt like it was leading me to more books.

Some of the books the author mentions include; 'Rebecca', 'The Birds', 'My Cousin Rachel' all by Daphne du Maurier, 'Trilby' by George du Maurier, 'Wuthering Heights' by Emily Bronte, 'The Infernal Branwell Bronte' by Daphne du Maurier, 'The Woman in White' by Wilkie Collins, 'Peter Pan' by JM Barrie, 'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Bronte and 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hal...more
Maren
I had been on a bit of a Daphne Du Maurier reading binge earlier this year after discovering Rebecca I read The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte and her short stories and so I was dubious about what a modern author might do in a fictionalized account of her life and her writing the biography of Branwell Bronte, the lesser-known brother of the famous literary sisters.

I am happy to say I was pleasantly surprised. Daphne is an intriguing page-turner and is full of fascinating and well-researched...more
Karli
One of my goals this year is to finally read Rebecca and I thought this book may help me with that goal. Daphne is a great book for a book nerd/graduate student in English - the story winds duMaurier's attempt to research and write The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte with the story of a young PhD candidate's attempt to write her dissertation on Daphne du Maurier. The narration goes from Daphne to Symington to Jane from chapter to chapter, with Daphne's story dominating. The writing is fairly g...more
Christina
This is a historical reimagining of a real figure done right--rigorously researched and based on actual events. I don't know what kicked me off on this Daphne du Maurier sort-of-fan-fiction phase, but it's been fun to "learn" (I use that term loosely) about her.

That said, this book wasn't totally successful for me. The narrative is told in three different perspectives: Daphne, Symington (another real historical figure), and Jane, a fictional modern day researcher. The Symington chapters dragged...more
Mimi Johnson
Moody Atmosphere

I purchased this book at a lovely little independent bookstore right outside the train station at Kew Gardens. I agree with many of the reviewers here that the story was often unevenly told. But what I found fascinating was the excellent evocation of a moody darkness created by the author-very much so reminiscent of the Bronte novels.

The author captures deftly the desire many writers have (here, all three protagonists) to bring to life a forgotten or misunderstood literary figur...more
Maggie Donaldson
I wouldn't have chosen ths to read if it hadn't have been for the bookclub I belong to - and I'm glad I did! On paper, it doesn't sound too promising - a weaving of a story about Daphne du Maurier's research into her biography of Branwell Bronte, interwoven with the life of a younf woman fifty years later researching Du Maurier for a PHD. But it was a skillful study of relationships, denial, betrayal, plagiarism and much more, and very atmospheric. I have never read du Maurier but this book has...more
Heather
This is a beautifully crafted novel, flicking between a fictional world set in the present day, back in time to Daphne Du Maurier's life, when she was writing her factual book about Bramwell Bronte. I adored the parts from Daphne's point of view and it's obvious the author has a great love of her work. In fact for me it could have dispensed with the modern-day parts and just had the entire book from Daphne's viewpoint. Well worth a read, even if the ending was rather flat, which was enough for m...more
Leanna
I am slightly underwhelmed by the ending. Not that I didn't enjoy the book; in fact it was great. I just wanted a bit more... the family tree shows Daphne living until 1980 or something, but the book ends in 1960 and what happens next?? What even happens with Rachel/Paul/Modern-day Narrator? I guess I have to read the biography of Daphne Du Maurier? Hmm. But I can say I did get caught up by the end, and probably only have issues with it because I'm not a huge fan of leaving things hanging. Which...more
Ruth
This book features revolves around three characters, these being Daphne Du Maurier during the late 1950s, when she is facing problems in her personal life, and struggling to write a biography of Branwell Bronte (brother of Charlotte, Emily and Anne); Bronte scholar J. Alex Symington, who like Daphne, is fascinated by the life of Branwell Bronte, and who corresponds with her about the Branwell biography; and an unnamed young woman in the present day, who is preoccupied with Daphne Du Maurier, and...more
Kristin
Daphne fluctuates between the perspectives of three people: a fictionalized Daphne DuMaurier, a Mr. Alexander Symington former curator of a couple of different Bronte libraries (I'm actually unsure if he was a real person or not) with whom Ms. DuMaurier is corresponding for research on her book about Branwell Bronte, and a definitely fictional modern young woman writing a dissertation on the link between DuMaurier and the Brontes.

It seemed to me that Ms. Picardie was unsure what she wanted her...more
Elizabeth
I absolutely loved this book!
Jen
Daphne follows three main narratives: 1) Daphne du Maurier, past her prime, is struggling to write a biography about Branwell Bronte; 2) Mr. J. A. Symington, who corresponds with Daphne as he ruminates on his failure to complete his own biography of Branwell; and 3) the narrator who is trying to write her dissertation on the Brontes, while secretly obsessing about Daphne and Symington. Meanwhile, our dear narrator is seemingly living out a du Maurier novel. There are three main elements of the n...more
Rachel Crooks
When I was little, I remember this recurring thing on Sesame Street where a girl would walk down a room with a bunch of doors, and then each time she would open a different door, and there would be a different world of possibilities, all starting with the letter D, or R, (or whatever letter of the day). I felt a little like that girl reading this book, only the door I opened was the Daphne door, and in the Daphne world were all of these literary characters: Daphne herself, Rebecca, Charlotte, E...more
bookczuk
Interesting book -- a novel about one of my favorite authors, who is often blown off as a lightweight, even today. But I love some of her books (and so did Alfred Hitchcock, who made a couple into really fine, and classic, movies.) Basically, this is a telling of two stories: Daphne's tale (and I admit I hadn't realized a great deal of her personal life and family history, which was all interesting for me to read) and the story of A PhD Student researching the Brontes. The question for both stor...more
Pkc181
As my library on this site shows, I am an avid fan of Daphne du Maurier, so it was with great anticipation that I waited for this new take on Daphne’s life to arrive. It’s a work of fiction that manages to weave a lightweight mystery around Daphne du Maurier’s working on a biography of Branwell Bronte as she tries to uncover the secrets behind some missing Bronte manuscripts. The premise sounded fascinating and I dug in. But, it took me quite a while to warm up to the all the secondary character...more
Michelle
This novel is based around a young woman (unnamed, without family, and recently married to an older man) who is trying to come up with a literature Ph.D. thesis. Her husband, also a literary academic is pushing her towards areas that interest him (the Brontes) while she would much rather delve into her favorite author, Daphne du Maurier, the author of Rebecca. Her marriage is becoming estranged and she wonders about her husband's first wife, a famous poet, who has based one of her more famous po...more
Marguerite Kaye
Like most of the people who've reviewed this book, I've been obsessed with Rebecca since I first read it, aged 16. I'm a huge fan of books which interleve past and present stories (AS Byatt's Possession is one of my all-time favourite books),and Daphne did this really well. The sections with Du Maurier at Menabbily were the most haunting and worked best for me, and I loved the complexity of the parallel strands, the stories within stories even within the real Du Maurier's life - the metaphor of...more
Hannah
I loved the few books by Daphne Du Maurier that I've read so far, and the few things I knew about the author's life (from the tv movie "Daphne", which is great by the way) made me want to learn more. So this book should have been just right for me. And it was, from time to time. As I suspected, there were fascinating things to learn about Daphne's life in Menabilly and London, about her husband and her family etcetera. I also liked the storyline about the student, set in our own time. Even the S...more
Adrien
Lovely book that reminds me why I love reading, but still not quite a five star novel, or even a four star. I greatly enjoyed the unnamed narrator sections, and Daphne's sections made me more curious about her. I do have The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte floating around somewhere, and I'm more curious about it now. All in all a good read, though ultimately it felt vaguely....lacking. Still wholly recommended.

Quotes I liked:

"I must say, there's nothing like being lectured on Henry James by o...more
Linda K
Fascinating look into the author DuMaurier of Rebecca fame and her quest to discover the unwritten tale of Branwell Bronte, brother of the more celebrated group of sister writers.

Her research prompts her to take up correspondence with Mr. Symington, former head of the Bronte library and also a lover of Branwell and the unknown. Unfortunately, Mr. Symington is so ardent in his quest for all things Bronte, that he is accused of stealing some of the documents and is dimissed from his position. Daph...more
Leah Beecher
A little disappointed in this one. I am a Daphne Du Maurier fan. This book had a good premise. It's told from the view point of three people, and all of them have an obsessive nature to all things literary. There are a lot of references to Rebecca, both outright and hinted at. (If you did not read and enjoy Rebecca, you would be lost reading this one). There is a literary mystery involving the famous Brontes, and a very interesting connection to James Barrie, the author of Peter Pan. (Du Maurier...more
Tamsin Burford
A real Daphne du Maurier fan, I was keen to read this to learn more about one of my favourite authors. But how much more I learned. With the three interconnecting stories - Daphne, Symington and the young lady in London, Justine Picardie educated me, entertained me and revealed to me some some interesting historical links about which I had no idea.

Positives were the settings - Menabilly, the ragged Cornish coast, the stuffy and decaying interior of Symington's Yorkshire home and the London town...more
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“People are often dismissive of librarians and libraries - as if the words are synonymous with boredom or timidity. But isn't that where the best stories are kept? Hidden away on the library bookshelves, lost and forgotten, waiting, waiting, until someone like me comes along, and wants to borrow them?” 10 likes
“And yes, I confess, when I looked at him, I thought of Heathcliff and Mr Rochester and Maxim de Winter... and how could I not, when I had been waiting for them to step out of the pages of the books I loved; when I knew them so well, read them inside out and into myself?” 1 likes
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