Day 119: Daphne Du Maurier: The Secret Life of the Renowned Storyteller

Cover for Daphne Du MaurierI have enjoyed reading Daphne Du Maurier’s books for many years, so I was interested to come across this biography by Margaret Forster. The main revelation of the biography is that Du Maurier struggled with bisexual and homosexual feelings all her life and always thought she was putting on a show of a normal life. She explained to others that she was two people, one with a female side–wife and mother–and the other with a male side–lover–that was the fuel for her creative energy.

The book examines Du Maurier’s life and works in terms of these feelings and how they conflicted with her roles as a wife and a mother. In fact, she seemed at times extremely self-obsessed and stunningly unkind to her children when they were young, as she was cold and immersed in her work. She was also unkind to her husband when he returned from service in World War II. By that time, she was living in the home in Cornwall that she never wanted to leave. Her husband “Tommy” Browning was asked to serve the royal family, which he had to do from London. He was obviously lonely, but she refused to move there or even visit. Instead, he made the trip out there every weekend for years after his strenuous, lonely weeks working for the royals. Until he didn’t. She eventually divorced him and later remarried.

The book also tells about Du Maurier’s long-time affair with the actress Gertrude Lawrence and her attraction to Ellen Doubleday, the wife of her American publisher.

Du Maurier tended to hide herself in her Cornwell home while she was writing. Although she became more sociable as she aged and many people remembered her as a warm and funny hostess, she eventually ended up almost a recluse who was devoted to her own daily routines.

The biography is interesting and well written.