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2.2 5
by Justine Picardie

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A haunting novel that illuminates the true story of Daphne du Maurier's fascination with the Brontës: a tale of madness, theft, romance, and literary archaeology.
Drawing on Justine Picardie's own extensive research into Daphne du Maurier's obsession with the Brontës and the scandal that has haunted the Brontë estate, Daphne is a


A haunting novel that illuminates the true story of Daphne du Maurier's fascination with the Brontës: a tale of madness, theft, romance, and literary archaeology.
Drawing on Justine Picardie's own extensive research into Daphne du Maurier's obsession with the Brontës and the scandal that has haunted the Brontë estate, Daphne is a marvelous story of literary fascination and possession; of stolen manuscripts and forged signatures; of love lost and love found; of the way into imaginary worlds, and the way out again. Written in three entwined parts, the novel follows Daphne du Maurier herself, the beautiful, tomboyish, passionate author of the enormously popular Gothic novel Rebecca, at fifty and on the verge of madness; John Alexander Symington, eminent editor and curator of the Brontës' manuscripts, who by 1957 had been dismissed from the Brontë Parsonage Museum in disgrace, and who became Daphne's correspondent; and a nameless modern researcher on the trail of Daphne, Rebecca, Alexander Symington, and the Brontës. Haunting and gorgeously written, Daphne is a breathtaking novel that finally tells, in the most imaginative of ways, what Brontë biographer Juliet Barker has called "the last great untold Brontë story—and perhaps the most intriguing."

Editorial Reviews

Nicholas Delbanco
Justine Picardie's Daphne is a complicated tale-within-a-tale about literary detective work, the tangled web we weave when trying to make sense of earlier deception…the reader need not be a devotee of Branwell Bronte 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.
—The Washington Post
Kirkus Reviews
The life of Daphne du Maurier (1907-89), popular author of romantic suspense fiction, including the classic Rebecca, is the inspiration for veteran author Picardie's speculative biographical novel. The action spans the years 1957-60 and evolves from the conflicting ambitions of three major characters. Primus inter pares is du Maurier herself, now 50, internationally famous and more than financially secure (thanks in part to Alfred Hitchcock's tingling film version of Rebecca). She is nevertheless troubled by the infidelity of her oafish husband Tommy, and by stalled work on her definitive biography of the "other" Bronte: the celebrated sisters' unstable brother Branwell, believed by many (including Daphne) to be the real genius of the insular Yorkshire clan. But the Brontes have of course spawned a competitive army of scholars, and Daphne's fears that her original work will be ignored or overshadowed are exacerbated by the machinations of John Alexander Symington, curator of the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth (and also a real person, to whom a scandalous reputation still adheres). The third protagonist is an initially unnamed doctorate student who is researching the carefully sheltered life of-you guessed it, reader-eminent author Daphne du Maurier. Picardie has assembled promising ingredients for a literature-inflected satirical mystery, perhaps along the lines of Angus Wilson's Anglo-Saxon Attitudes, or even Vladimir Nabokov's ineffably mischievous Pale Fire. But Daphne is dull, its inherently dramatic romantic-Gothic materials flattened into tiresome scholarspeak and redundant exchanges of discoveries and theories among rival researchers. One admires Picardie's own evidentlyscrupulous research, but it remains fodder for discussion, inert and unwelcoming on every page. Nor has Picardie escaped the trap of attempting to persuade readers of the "genius" of a might-have-been about whom far too little is known. A century and a half after Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, and those sly Brontes still decline to divulge their secrets.
From the Publisher

“A century after her birth, Daphne du Maurier, who achieved enormous commercial success but no place in the literary canon, is finally getting some critical respect. Feminism can take some of the credit, and there can be little question now that du Maurier was an innovative and strikingly original literary artist. Her distinctive character comes to life in Picardie's fictional portrait, which is a complex novelistic homage to du Maurier and her most famous book, Rebecca.” —Atlantic Monthly

“Engaging...Picardie [is] a clever writer and diligent researcher...In chapters that shuttle smoothly between past and present, Picardie takes us inside the minds of our unhappy modern heroine, of despairing du Maurier, and of the dishonest Symington. Through poems and letters, we even catch glimpses of Branwell. All of which - along with forgery, incest, mental breakdown, suicide, and affairs lesbian and heterosexual - could have been far too much. But Picardie, as she capably manages the intertwined plots, keeps our attention fixed on the two very different women.” —Boston Globe

“Like a du Maurier novel, mystery and gothic plotting make the novel a page turner...A novel for anyone who loves novels.” —Booklist

“Spirited [and] tender.” —Wall Street Journal

“An engrossing and absorbing read...superbly evoked. [Picardie] has lived, breathed, eaten and drunk her heroine, absorbed her, analyzed her, understood her, then managed to invest her portrait with an authenticity that is breathtaking” —Los Angeles Times

“Merging fact and fiction, all three narratives come together brilliantly in the end.” —More magazine

“An absolute gem of a novel. Well-researched...sure to send readers scurrying back to all those books they should have read in college. [Daphne] will be a hit with fans of du Maurier, the Brontës, and British fiction generally as well as the avid bibliophile. An excellent book club selection.” —Library Journal

“A tantalising literary mystery... Effortlessly overlaying today's London, Yorkshire and Cornwall with their 1950s incarnations, this novel draws you in to its fraught but passionate world as thoroughly as one of Daphne's own.” —The Financial Times (UK/US)

“Daphne is a compulsively readable novel. It merges fact and fiction, the present and the past, in a near-flawless construct that weaves together Brontë and du Maurier fiction and family history -- colliding in Daphne's writing of her biography of Branwell Brontë.” —The Spectator (UK)

“This glorious novel... is a divine treat for lovers of literary mysteries.” —The Times of London (UK)

“Clever and original” —The Evening Standard (UK)

“An intelligent, absorbing mystery story, a real tour de force all bookworms will love.” —Daily Mail (UK)

“In a story deserving of the great Daphne herself, Picardie has constructed a fiction based on truth--du Maurier's writing of her biography of Branwell Bronte. Picardie explores literary possession and attribution and sympathetically portrays Daphne's strained marriage and the breakdown of the modern day narrator's relationship. The shadow of Rebecca is still there haunting her creator and Picardie's narrator. Bloomsbury quite rightly sees this as a February lead, but I'd add that it's a huge potential best seller; a hugely satisfying can't-put-it-down read.” —Publishing News (UK)

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.52(w) x 8.36(h) x 1.09(d)

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Meet the Author

Justine Picardie is a journalist, novelist, and editor. She is the author of My Mother's Wedding Dress, If the Spirit Moves You, and Wish I May, and the co-writer or editor of several others. She was formerly the features editor of British Vogue and editor of the Observer magazine. She lives in London.

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Daphne 2.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
RobinTN More than 1 year ago
If you are looking for sex, drugs and rock and roll, look somewhere else. This is a civilized mystery and literary treasure hunt. I enjoyed the story, the characters and the plot. I will readily recommend this novel.
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