Daphne du Maurier (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
As the author of four previous biographical works, Margaret Forster is no stranger to research. When she undertook a biography of Daphne du Maurier, however, she found herself in a unique situation. On one hand, there was no dearth of documents or of recollections about the writer, and her children, who held much of the source material, had expressed their intention of cooperating in every way on what was meant to be the official biography of their mother. On the other hand, as her research proceeded, Forster began to make some discoveries that she realized might well disturb du Maurier’s family, in particular accounts of her lesbian involvements. Fortunately, as the acknowledgments indicate, du Maurier, who herself had written several biographies, had made her opinions on the subject quite clear. While she did not wish to see her own biography published during her lifetime, she felt very strongly that such works were worthless unless they were totally truthful. By allowing Forster to see and to use all the source materials in their possession, du Maurier’s children made it possible for her to turn out a book that meets their mother’s high standards.
When she subtitled her volume The Secret Life of the Renowned Storyteller, the biographer indicated what she sees as the central truth of Daphne du Maurier’s life:
that she habitually concealed her real identity by assuming the personality that others expected or demanded. As a...
(The entire section is 1995 words.)
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Daphne du Maurier (Magill Book Reviews)
DAPHNE DU MAURIER is the first biography of the author of REBECCA (1938) to be based on a full range of source materials. Writing with the cooperation of du Maurier’s family, Margaret Forster tells the story of this famous writer, who managed to conceal her uncertainties about her own identity from all except her closest friends.
Aware that her father would have preferred her to be a son, during her formative years Daphne du Maurier became convinced that she was in fact a boy in a girl’s body. However, after a brief involvement with a lesbian schoolteacher, du Maurier repressed her wayward impulses, married a handsome army major, and became the mother of three children. Meanwhile, she had found in writing an outlet for her fantasies, and with the publication of REBECCA in 1938, du Maurier became financially independent.
Although to outsiders Daphne du Maurier’s life seemed rosy, Forster reveals such evidence of conflict as her coldness toward her daughters, her resentment of her husband’s habit of command, and, after her intimacy with him ended, her involvement with the actress Gertrude Lawrence, whose death left du Maurier shattered. During her later years, du Maurier dealt bravely with adversity, remaining with her ailing husband until his death and continuing to practice her craft despite her awareness that her creative powers had dwindled.
Based on the insights she has derived from her research, Forster finds new...
(The entire section is 328 words.)