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) and its more expansive descriptions, especially of the landscape.But the opening and closing are particularly shivery and splendid here, and frame the story perfectly: They used to hang men at Four Turnings in the old days.
“She may be innocent,” says Philip’s friend and ally Louise; “she may be guilty.
You can do nothing.” And du Maurier really does a lot of things well, provided you don’t mind a little melodrama along with your foreshadowing.
And in return I gave them something of myself, a few of my novels passing into the folklore of this ancient place.”Her love of place is one of the reasons du Maurier’s books make such wonderful films, says Taylor: “She had a fantastic way of capturing a sense of place which appeals to film makers because they can imagine these places in their minds and recreate them on the screen.”Director Alfred Hitchcock liked their strong atmosphere and tense plots and his first du Maurier adaptation was Jamaica Inn, in 1939.“She wasn’t friends with Alfred and she didn’t like the film of Jamaica Inn but she loved Rebecca,” says Taylor.
One critic described the film of Rebecca as “too tragic and deeply psychological to hit the fancy of wide audience appeal”, yet it won two Academy Awards (it was nominated for 11) and took millions at the box office.
In 1994, with the publication of Margaret Forster’s biography, it was revealed that although du Maurier was married she was bisexual.
Taylor says this was what gave du Maurier’s novels such a modern feel.“What we have realised about her is that, long before her time, she had a sense of gender fluidity both in her own life and also in her understanding of characters,” she says.Telling the stories through different voices, she has an amazing sense of suspense and a great capacity to carry you along and surprise you.”Daphne’s short stories are notable for their inventiveness and Taylor explains: “Her short stories in particular take the genre of horror into new realms.People have completely the wrong idea about her because she was dismissed as writing novelettes – typically works that are light and romantic or sentimental in character.“She is never sentimental about relationships or love or family, and she is always giving you a very dark and uncomfortable version of human life and that is not how she has been represented in popular discourse.“She is somebody who works with genres like the Gothic and romance and historical novels and she tweaks them in an unusual and original take.I did think (if it’s not heresy to say so about a writer as skillful as du Maurier) that the balance was a little off: it seemed to take a very long time for Philip to emerge from his initial infatuation and thus for things to get really interesting.In the end, I still like better, mostly for Mary Yellan but also for its greater plottiness (is that a word?Her elder sister Angela was also a writer, her younger sister Jeanne a painter and her cousins, the Llewelyn Davies boys, inspired JM Barrie’s Lost Boys in Peter Pan.This artistic childhood propelled her into imaginary worlds and, surrounded by her eccentric family, she found her voice for telling “moody and resonant” stories.“Coming from a very theatrical family, her father had very dubious relationships with a stable of young women and he had unhealthy feelings for his daughter,” says Taylor.She is always startling you with her choice of characters – she has extremely disturbed and disturbing characters and situations, and heroes turn into villains at the drop of the hat.”Born in London in 1907, du Maurier was brought up and educated surrounded by creative brilliance.Her father was the actor-manager Sir Gerald du Maurier, who had wished she had been a boy, and she was the granddaughter of artist and writer George du Maurier, the Punch cartoonist.It reflects how underrated du Maurier’s work was, and Taylor adds: “She has had a lot of influence particularly on women writers who have written essays about her work or who have taken up her scenes and characters and made their own versions.”Du Maurier died in Cornwall, in 1989, aged 81.Her ashes were scattered off the cliffs at Fowey...