Born: May 13, 1907, London, United Kingdom
Died: April 19, 1989, Fowey, United Kingdom
Mandalay Forever by Tatiana de Rosnay is a delightful, beautifully written, very emphatic biography of the beloved English author of Rebecca, The Jamaica Inn and the short story "The Birds", Daphne du Maurier.
De Rosnay is a highly regarded commercially successful French novelist. In her preface she tells us that she has chosen to tell du Maurier's life story as if she
Writing a novel,rather than a documented and foot noted academic work. She tells the story in the present tense, entering into the consciousness of du Maurier into her consciousness in the style of an omniscient narrator. I admit I was a little put off in the opening section devoted to du Maurier as a young child in which we are told how the author at age four felt about family events. Much of the childhood narrative is taken up with the role of her father Gerald du Maurier in her life. He was considered one of England's best actors and the house was often full of theater people. The family was very affluent from his earnings and from
inheritances. As the girls matured, James Barie, author of Peter Pan, was a frequent visitor. Her father was very much seeable as a Peter Pan figure. He had frequent romances with young actresses, his daughters knew all about them and as they came and sent they were figures of fun between Gerald and the girls.
I do not wish to relay the life history of du Maurier. I will just talk about some of the things that most struck me about her as I read this wonderful biography. Du Maurier's first crush was on her French teacher. Daphne's parents approved her going on trips with the tutor on the idea it would improve her French. I am quite sure it did. It is made clear this was the first of numerous same sex physical and intensely emotional relationships Daphne would have throughout her life. Among them was at least a love for Ellen Doubleday, wife of her American publisher. De Rosnay, as have other biographers, make us see the greatest love of Daphne's life was an old Mansion on the Cornish Coast in which she lived for about twenty five years. Daphne was very into boats and sailing. One day she and her sisters saw in the bay an incredibly handsome man on a small sail boat. Daphne found a way to meet him and fell head over heels. He was from a good family and they married. He eventually became a major general in the British Amry, serving with distinction in India and France. He was close to general Montgomery. I was intrigued to learn that wherever he went he took with him eight prized teddy bears he had cherished since childhood. This gave me something to think about. Their relationship had good and bad periods, they were separated for years and it seems he had other romances.
De Rosnay spends a lot of time on her relationships with her siblings, each with their own literary or artistic endeavors. Daphne became rich through very high book sales, especially for Rebecca. From the movie rights, Hitchcock greatly admired her work, she got what would be millions of pounds today. She was very generous with her family and friends though not a great money manager.
We learn a lot about the business and social side of being a famous novelist. We see how she totally loved Paris, as did Nancy Mitford.
I love this book. Normally I E Read but if I had a hard copy of this book, I would enjoy just looking at and remembering how much I enjoyed ready this wonderful literary biography.