Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Mother country (Russell Taylor) 512

I thought this novel was absolutely stunning, and quite a contrast to Pillion Riders which I read the other week. Whilst I quite enjoyed Pillion Riders, I was truly gripped by this well-paced and exquisitely written novel.

The book opens:
'It is as if my entire early life were distilled in that one summer's afternoon and evening ...I had arrived at the cross-roads feeling oppressed by the heat, but as soon as I turned into the avenue, I felt cold ...'

The main character Antonia has returned home, after an absence of 20 years as her mother is dying. She has come to make her peace, but as soon as her sister Charlotte lets her in, it becomes obvious to us that this will not be easy.

The story, set predominantly in the 1960s, is cleverly told with passages alternating between the present where Antonia tries to come to grips with the current situation and her past, and the past (set in and after the Second World War) where we find out about Antonia's unhappy childhood and the destructiveness of her family relationships. These passages are constructed into chapters relating to her mother, Charlotte, Walter (her secret lover), her resolution of the situation and a "post-mortem" after her mother dies.

I thought that the writing was absolutely beautiful, and this book makes me determined to seek out more of Elisabeth Russell Taylor's work, even though the rest are not published as VMCs. I am sure she is a much overlooked author.

Just the one cover, above, issued in 2004, which I own.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Jan Struther: Mrs Miniver (329), Try anything twice (361)

Many of you will be familiar with Mrs Miniver as being synonmous with the world of the middle-class house wife during the Second World War, immortalised in the classic film starring Greer Garson (definitely one to watch if you haven't seen it). I read the book as part of my degree when I took an option studying the home front of the second world war through contemporary texts; Mrs Miniver wasn't one of the texts but I spent a lot of time sitting in coffee shops that term reading other relevant material. Of course the film is a heavily fictionalised version of the book which is actually a series of articles which were written for The Times in 1939 and then published in book form. The articles therefore deal with the very early part of the war, and show how England was threatened and how many people feared that life as they knew it and the wonderful countryside would be completely lost. There is not so much plot in the book as in the film, but I think it is a wonderful evocation of the period.

Anyway, I decided to write about Jan Struther this week because I just acquired her other book, Try anything twice, which is also a VMC. Having been interested by Mrs Miniver, I wanted to see what this was about. This is a further collection of essays, written for Punch, The Spectator and The New Statesmen, giving more reflections on life from the perspective of an upper-middle class woman. I have enjoyed dipping in and out of this book since it arrived. Topics covered include gardens, sand-dunes, the collection of weather, ornaments... One of my favourite essays was about the Winter Seaside where Struther describes her acquisition of a seaside getaway and realisation that spending time by the sea in winter months is just as good as during the summer. The title essay describes the maxim by which Struther strives to live by, although she concludes (and you'll have to read the essay to find out why!) that perhaps it should be modified to "try anything twice...but consider the digestion" *

I can also recommend the book "The real Mrs Miniver" by Ysenda Graham, which is a life of Jan Struther. It revealed a plethora of fascinating information; for example she had a considerable talent for writing hymns such as Lord of all hopefulness, which I'm sure many of you sang at school!

Three covers for Mrs Miniver below - I don't own a copy and am definitely on the lookout for the original VMC to complement my copy of Try anything twice.

And just the one for Try anything twice:

* you can read it, and the other essays online here, but I would urge you to look out for your own VMC copy.

Monday, 28 September 2009

My career goes bung (Franklin) 52

I've been applying for jobs over the last year or so to make the "next step" in my career, but have had very little success due to the recession, the competition for jobs in the area where I live, and my relative lack of experience compared with older candidates. Recieved another job rejection this week, so decided that My career goes bung was an appropriate book to read (I was in quite a grumpy mood at the time). I really enjoyed reading My brilliant career the other week, and although I normally try to leave a reasonable gap before reading sequels, I was very keen to find out what happened to Sybella after My brilliant career ended.

I loved this quote from the back cover "Sybella is, she clamours for LIFE and refuses to tolerate anything which stands in her way".

According to the introduction, although Franlkin wrote this aged 22, only 3 years after My Brilliant Career was published, it was not published for forty years. However, it was published pretty much as completed in 1902, and not later edited. Apparently the work was considered "too audacious" for publication owing to the satirical and feminist overtones of the work.

As in my Brilliant Career we get a wonderful sense of Sybella (Franklin) through the tenor of the writing; it is enthusiastic, unselfconscious and extremely teenage. At some points - with passages such as this:
"To escape making a short story long, my idol welcomed my attempt with cheers for its ORIGINALITY, and asked, would I trust him with the manuscript? WOULD I!!!!!" - I felt that Franklin could almost be writing early 20th century chick-lit, and would undoubtedly be published in some sort of pink cover if she were writing today. She describes and analyses her relationships with her parents and other family members in the self-exploring way that we are used to in 21st century fiction. In some ways I felt that the Sybella described in this book was a much more honest description than the earlier book, it just felt more real and authentic to me.
It starts with her sitting down to try to write her book, with a ream of 480 sheets of paper and describes her life at home on the farm with her Ma and Pa. The book is published, much to the dismay of Ma and Pa who don't believe that she has anything worth saying and who think it will cost them much money, and to their surprise is an absolute hit, being read by everyone for miles around. Sybella is beset with proposals, and then pursues a number of love affairs. Not all of the critics are congratulatory; it is suggested that she has written a bad advertisement of Australians and gone against the church. She then goes to Sydney and gets involved in SOCIETY; grand dresses, lunches, balls...and finds that not all of this compares favourably with the life she is accustomed too - the cooking isn't as good as her Ma's for example, and she feels beset by her inexperience in such situations and fear of BEING LED ASTRAY. Eventually after lots of adventure, including being offered to write a society column for a newspaper, she returns home and "Bung went my career in Sydney". She is discontented with life at home, she writes odd stories for newspapers but says...
"For what does it matter if a scribe gain the encouragement of CRITICS and become the hope of booksellers and circulating libraries that he will write a second bestseller if the scribe himself does not gain enough profit either to earn the respect of those he lives among or to escape from them". Her book has become a classic, she still has an offer of marriage, but she is still stuck in Possum Gully.

Just the one cover - I really hope Virago will republish this to complement My Brilliant Career.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Latest acquisition...

I've been good this week* and very nearly got away without buying ANY VMCs this week, which is good as I had been acquiring them at a far greater rate than I could read them.

However, I popped into Oxfam Books at lunchtime, and there was a green spine winking at me. it was one that I hadn't heard of, so after a quick perusal of the back, I handed over £1.99 and put it in my handbag.
(I browsed further but there weren't any others, green spines or non green spines)

(*well, if I'm honest, I have bought a few VMCs on ebay and Amazon marketplace, but they haven't turned up yet, so it's not quite like I've acquiredthem expect me to post about a slightly larger pile next week :s)

Thursday, 24 September 2009

A woman of my age (Bawden) 366

I'm often on the look out for green spines as I browse the library shelves, and this was one that leapt out at me. It's been waiting at home for a while and I finally got around to reading it yesterday. I've read and written about a couple of Nina Bawden's books now (she has thirteen titles published as VMCs), and this was one of my favourites.

The story concerns a couple, Elizabeth and Richard, who have been married for 18 years and have come to Morocco on holiday. The story is told from Elizabeth's perspective and brings us not only the tale of their holiday but also describes their lives together, effectively bringing us up to date at the point of this holiday.

Elizabeth is coming to terms with growing older, and trying to come to terms with the fact that her life is not what it might have been. Her tale has elements common to many VMCs - the unexpected pregnancy and struggles to bring up a child under difficult conditions; she feels that her life has been constricted by her marriage and her role as a mother. She is dissuaded from getting a job and pursuing her dream of becoming a local councillor; there is little support for her to be a person in her own right. The story of her past is somewhat depressing.

This is intermingled with the story of their holiday in Morocco. Elizabeth has hoped for a restful vacation, but there are other English holidaymakers around who impinge on their peace. The elderly Mr and Mrs Hobbs are pleasant, but require assistance and the holiday really drives Elizabeth to analyse her life when they encounter a former lover of Richard's - Flora - and her new partner. It seems that the supposed accidental meeting may have been arranged, and suggests that Richard has had a different, far less compromising role in their relationship.

Two Virago covers; my library copy was the earlier top one.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

All of us there (Devlin) 455

The name Polly Devlin seemed familiar, and then I recalled that she has written introductions to a couple of VMCs that I have read (but I'm afraid that I couldn't tell you which ones).

All of us there is a lyrically written memoir of life in Ireland (County Tyrone - on the shores of Lough Neagh) in the 1940s. Devlin was born into a large Catholic family with 7 brothers and sisters, and this book describes some of her experiences whilst growing up. It was a remote and extremely primitive childhood - I did not recognise it as the 1940s, the writing evoked a much earlier age lacking electricity, cars and telephones.

It's a difficult book to write about; much of the prose is very impressionistic and there isn't really a linear "plot" running through the book - in some ways it is more akin to a photograph album of her childhood. However, it gives a wonderful insight into life in those times. Another reviewer for the Guardian has written: "The rural world she describes is almost that of the eighteenth century; the enclosure of the fields, the claustrophobia of the the people, the utter removal from the complexities and tensions of the city or the country beyond - these are really qualities of Wordsworth's world, or John Clare's with a dash of Cobbett"

I was interested to find out more about Polly Devlin, and she has gone on from her childhood to have a glittering career. She launched it by working for Vogue, having won the Vogue Talent competition, and then went on to work as a journalist with columns for The Evening Standard and The New Statesman. She also worked on American Vogue, and then became a critic. She has judged the Booker Prize and written The Vogue Book of Fashion Photography. With her husband she has become interested in conservation, planting many trees on land in Somerset. Quite a person!

Just the one cover, above.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The tortoise and the hare (Jenkins) 100

As my challenge is to read every VMC and write about them, it is a little difficult to know how to deal with VMCs that I read before starting on the challenge, so I think linking to other people's reviews, and then sharing pictures of the different covers may be one way of tackling this...

Rachel at Book Snob has written a wonderful review of this title here today, and as I have read it previously, I am going to cheat a little today, and give you a link to the review here. Thank you Rachel - I hope you don't mind (for those of you who don't read her blog, then I would warmly recommend it as Rachel often writes about VMCs and is an excellent reviewer) I was reminded by Rachel's review how much I enjoyed this book and was quite disappointed to see that she hasn't written any other VMCs.

Here are the covers - it has been issued three times, and I read the most recent edition.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Pillion riders (Taylor) 520

Another Elizabeth Taylor...or rather Elisabeth Russell Taylor. I didn't know that this Virago author existed, although I'm familiar with THE Elizabeth Taylor (which for me is the writer and not the actress), so I was most amused to discover that there was another one.

Pillion riders is the story of Opal, married off at the start of the book by her father to one of his elderly business colleagues, since he despairs of ever getting her married since she is unable to have children. Helmut her new husband provides her with a luxurious life in London and she acts as his companion on weekends and evenings, but immediately one feels that Opal is missing something. Helmut takes her to Paris on a business trip, and immediately Opal falls in love with Jean-Claude, a young French composer. She leaves Helmut and embarks on a bohemian life with Jean-Claude. Unfortunately life is not all "happily ever after"; Jean-Claude likes men as well as women, and is not very successful with his compositions. Eventually Opal decides to leave him and returns to England.

The title Pillion Riders refers to a scene very early on, when Helmut and Opal have been out for dinner with his friends and Jean-Claude in Paris. Rather than returning to the hotel with Helmut, Opal opts to have a tour of Paris on the back of Jean-Claude's motorbike, and she ends up returning to his apartment and his bed.

I reasonably enjoyed this novel, and was intrigued to see what would happen and whether or not Jean-Claude and Opal's relationship would work out, but I'm afraid the original Elizabeth Taylor is still for me THE Elizabeth Taylor. I suppose the purpose of this story is that often in novels one can run away and follow dreams, but actually dreams do not always work out.

Although Elisabeth Russell Taylor has written a number of novels, only this one and one other, Mother Country, which also awaits me, have been published as VMCs. As they are comparatively recent re-publications, i will be interested to see whether Virago bring out any more. So, only the one cover - see above.

Friday, 18 September 2009

This week's acquisitions

"Only" three books this week, and as I've read two of them already it doesn't add too much to the TBRVMC. I pre-ordered Excellent Women a while ago, but I stupidly sent it to my old work address, from whence it had to make its way by internal mail to my current work address, but I wasn't at work until Thursday to collect it. I'm glad to have it to complement my other Virago Pyms. I read The echoing grove a while ago too, but when I spotted it for 20p in the "withdrawn from library stock" I couldn't resist buying it as I'm trying to collect the Lehmanns. Finally I picked up Taking chances by Molly Keane from the charity shop near to work; it was my first lunch hour back so I was delighted to spot this for £1.35. I didn't really enjoy the first Molly Keane that I read, so I will be interested to see whether I like this any better, but I think it is quite low down on my TBR's.

Am determined to keep my VMC buying on a short lead this term, so there may be less weekly acquisition posts this side of Christmas - I need to make some more space on the VMC shelf really before I can buy more, but I've already been tempted by some books that I have read about this week...

My brilliant career (Franklin) 35

My brilliant career by Franklin seemed an appropriate choice of title for reading on my first day back at work. Or something. But it was a good choice of book in terms of being readable and having a sense of fun, as well as giving me an insight into a world with which I am not terribly familiar.

Amazingly, the story was written by Franklin when she was only sixteen, and from what I understand from the introduction it is strongly autobiographical. It fits into the genre of books that I would describe as "headstrong girl is forced to be tamed by circumstances around her", similar in some ways to The getting of wisdom, or perhaps the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Sybella, the main character is a wonderful teenage heroine, and I wish that I had come across this book a decade earlier.

It tells the story of Sybella, who is brought up on an Australian farm in the late 19th century. The family suffers dreadful poverty due to the difficulties of making an income from dairy farming (there is an interesting passage where a school inspector criticises the poor achievements of countryside children compared to town children and it is pointed out how much work these children have to do outside of school and how bad their nutrition is), and also due to the drinking habits of her father. Sybella is quite rebellious and is eventually invited to stay with her grandmother and Aunt Helen who live up country. This is an amazing experience for Sybella - sleeping in a room of her own with comparatively luxurious surroundings - and they attempt to make her more gentile. Surprisingly this is achieved, despite some hilarious lapses. She meets Henry, who falls in love with her,but still feeling tomboyish, she doesn't believe that he could really love her and refuses to marry him. However, her fathers drinking worsens and she is sent away to be a governess in order to repay her debts. She can't cope with it, has a breakdown and returns home. Henry returns to propose once more, but again Sybella sends him away.

Sybella can be a little irritating at times, but I think the book gives an amazing insight into the psyche of a 16 year old, and the descriptions of the surroundings are superb. The brilliant career that the title refers to, is her desire to be a writer. Unfortunately at the end of the book, although we know otherwise, there seems to be no hope of this happening.

I am very much looking forward to the sequel: My Career Goes Bung (I hope there will not be an appropriate moment to read that...)

Published twice by Virago, I rather like the girl with the wild hair depicted on the original green edition, which really sums up how I envisaged Sybella. Unfortunately my copy is the later edition, but I am definitely on the look out for The Green One, especially as I own the sequel in that format.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The gentlewomen (Talbot) 196

I pulled this book off the shelf after Simon T reviewed The life and death of Harriet Frean and talked about books dealing with the theme of the life of the spinster with her mother. This book doesn't quite fit into this category, as the main character Miss Bolby is a governess and no longer lives with her mother, but we see that she is heavily influenced by her mother and her upbringing.

The book is set in wartime England and deals with the character of Miss Bolby, who arrives to be governess to the titled Rushford family. She is acutely conscious of her status, thinking it to be elevated due to her colonial upbringing, and one of the main themes of the book is class consciousness and her inability to get beyond her belief that she might have been in a better position than governess; unlike her sisters she has not married, and on her father's death is forced to seek employment. But her desire to be part of the gentitlity is just not possible given the changes to the class structure wrought by the war.

There is not a huge amount of plot to the book, its interest is in the description of the wartime world and the effects that it is having on class. I found it slightly confusingly structured as Talbot frequently flips back to the past, to describe Miss Bolby's childhood, and past circumstances of other characters.

Laura Talbot seems to have been an interesting character; she was the daughter of Viscount Ingestre, and was married four times. Two of the marriages ended with the death of the husband, and the final marriage only lasted two years, ending when both of the couple were killed in a plane crash. The second husband to die was the writer Patrick Hamilton.

It's only been published once by Virago, in 1985, although the novel was originally published in 1952. I own the green cover above.

Monday, 14 September 2009

The third Miss Symons (Mayor) 36

After reading an excellent review of The third Miss Symons by Rachel the other week, I was keen to get started on my copy which has been sitting on the TBR VMC shelf for about a week. It is a slim volume, which also appealed as I have a lot going on at the moment, and it's nice to have something handbag sized.

In many ways, it reminded me of the Persephone publication, Alas Poor Lady, which is also about a woman (or actually a number of women) who never get married. Back in the early twentieth century, it was difficult to be an unmarried woman - less social status, and often less money. Etta is not really concerned about marriage for love or for companionship, but merely to achieve a better social status.

What is interesting about the book is that in some ways Etta is likeable, and one does feel sorry for her in her plight, but at the same time she grows increasingly disagreeable as the book progresses and she tries to achieve some sort of status in other ways - through money or being voiciferous.

A couple of intriguing covers. I own a copy of the second, more recent one, which is still in print. There has been a bit of chat in the comments on this blog recently about how well covers convey the sense of a book, and these give quite different impressions I think of the character of Miss Symons.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Pinhole to see the peepshow (Tennyson Jesse) 11

There is only one Virago edition of this amazing book, although Penguin seem to also have published it with a green cover. I'm at a bit of a loss to know how to write about this book; the blurb on the back gives nothing away, and if I ever read the reviews on Amazon which explain the real-life story that it is based on then I had forgotten it. This meant that the conclusion of the book came absolutely out of the blue for me, and I could not have predicted it from the first chapters. So, I'm not going to tell you the events that it is based on, but I am going to plead with you to bump this book up your wishlist and avoid looking at Amazon reviews, because it enabled me to get through 2 evenings at Cambridge without feeling homesick at all.

I can briefly outline the story without giving too much away, and explain the meaning of the title. It is about a girl called Julia, who we meet as she is in her final years of school. She then goes on to work in a dress shop, and is swiftly promoted. Unfortunately, her home circumstances change when her father dies and her uncle and his family move in, making things uncomfortable and tense. She marries Herbert to escape, but never falls in love with him; things are bearable at first while he is away at war, but she becomes unhappy on his return. She begins an affair with Leonard, setting in motion the train of events that leads the book to its startling conclusion.

The title comes from an episode in an early part of the book; a young boy at Julia's school has a "peep-show" in a box - you can peer through a hole and see another world for the price of a pin. Throughout the book Julia is aspiring to find another world beyond her own life, but is forced to realise that she can't live in her imagination.

Recent acquisitions

Recent pickings have been a bit slim, but I was on the look out for VMCs whilst in Cambridge, and came across two (I did see some more but not ones that I liked the look of enough to buy).

One new one: Elisabeth Russell Taylor - Mother country,
And one lovely old green one, A compass error by Sybille Bedford, which I absolutely can't wait to read as the plot sounds wonderful!

The VMC shelf is about to I probably shouldn't buy more for a while.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

My friend says its bullet-proof (Mortimer) 319

I read this title in June 2009, and wrote about it on my other blog. Here is the post, slightly edited...

I was really pleased when this book turned up from the library headquarters, as an apparently un-borrowed green Virago with this intriguing cover. The book fulfilled my expectations of the books by Mortimer that I have encountered so far, in that the enjoyment of the book was as much about the writing itself, as about the plot and about the characters. The book follows the story of Muriel, who is on a trip with a group of journalists to Canada. Muriel had a masectomy shortly before the book begins, which had a profound influence on her, and her relationships, and in part the book is about her coming to terms with this. But it is also about her developing new relationships - she is surprised that there are no shortage of men with interest in her - and deciding what it is she wants from life. What I loved most about this book is that Muriel is a prolific writer in her notebook - jottings about herself, observations, and other pieces of writing, and Mortimer weaves all of these into the narrative. I was a little disappointed by how it ended, it seemed inconclusive, but perhaps we were supposed to be left wondering how the trip had changed her, and how her life back at home in London would pan out.

Just the one rather spooky cover...

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Heartburn (Ephron) 422

Originally published in 1983, Heartburn is definitely one of the more modern VMCs. In fact, in many ways I felt that it read like a book of the 1990s. It is the story of Rachel, a cookery writer, living in New York, who discovers that her husband is having an affair when she is 7 months pregnant. The book describes her experiences, and includes recipes and analysis of her life and marriage.

What is interesting about this book is the author, and the strongly, but not entirely autobiographical nature of the book. Ephron is more famous as being the screenwriter of When Harry met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, and in some ways I felt that this could easily make a good film in the rom-com genre. In the introduction, she states that the book, which reads like an autobiography, is actually pretty fictitious - although her husband did leave her, she was never a food writer and most of the characters are fictional. She says:
"Furthermore I left out a lot of what happened, but I never get credit for this, especially from my second husband, who ought to be grateful that I did".

I found this book entertaining and sharp and a nice account of life in New York.

Originally published in green, I picked up the more recent edition when I was in Foyles in August with Paperback Reader. She pointed it out to me, and I'm glad she did because it presented such a contrast to the other VMCs that I've been reading so far.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

On the side of angels (Miller) 197

I read about this book, I think on Cornflower's blog, before I went away, and ordered a copy, and it seemed apt to pick up a VMC set in the time of the Second World War given the current commemorations of the 70th anniversary of its outbreak. It has only been published in the green edition, but I love the image of the Spitfire and the English countryside depicted.

The story concerns two sisters, Honor, and Claudia. Hono is married to Colin, a GP who is currently working for the Royal Airforce Medical Core, and absolutely determined to succeed in his career there, conforming to army conventions and becoming involved in its power games at the expense of his family. Claudia is staying with Honor, and is engaged to Andrew, who is about to be invalided out of the army. The book describes these women and their relationships with Colin and Andrew and looks at how their lives have been affected by the war, and how all of them are required to reassess their peacetime roles.

If you liked One Fine Day, by Mollie Panter Downes, then I would highly recommend this one to you. I found it to be entertaining, enjoyable and gripping, as well as a wonderful evocation of the period.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Barbara Pym 531, 536, 541, 543

I'm glad that you all seemed to enjoy reading my Daphne Du Maurier posts while I was on holiday; I was so impressed by her output when I saw it in the series of blog posts. What an amazing writer!

I re-discovered Pym earlier this year, having read some of her books when I was younger, and was instantly re-captivated by her wit and amazing social commentary abilities. She generally describes middle England and its characters but in a way that I would defy anyone to find amusing.

The only VMC I read while I was away was a Barbara Pym and that was Excellent Women, which is the latest Pym to be re-released as a VMC. There is a little mystery about it though, in that it was published as one of the anniversary hardbacks (which was the edition that I read), and the back of the book claims that it is VMC #30. However, this doesn't seem to correspond with the list that I have, and indeed I've not seen any other edition of Excellent Women.

Excellent Women is the "excellent" story of "spinsters, vicars and anthropologists" as a reviewer on Amazon puts it. It is the story of Mildred (the spinster) who becomes embroiled in the lives of her new neighbours downstairs, which takes her beyond the world she has previously been involved in (working part-time for the Gentle-woman's association and acting as a pillar for the church (the vicars)) to one involving anthropology and being taken out on dates. It is really interesting because it presents the concept of the single-unmarried woman, and shows that many of them "Excellent women" who were fairly content with their lot, but given the opportunity could really expand their world.

Here are the two Virago editions:

The hardback edition features a cover design by Orla Kelly and has an introduction by Alexander McCall Smith.

I'm going to take this opportunity to highlight the other Pym books which have been republished very recently by Virago as Modern Classics. I own the whole set, and think that the covers are wonderful (and indeed have been the subject of a post by Paperback Reader, although I read them previously in the non-VMC editions. Here they are:

A Glass of blessings is going to be released at the beginning of December, and although I've read it, I shall pre-order it to complete my set!

Friday, 4 September 2009

Daphne Du Maurier: autobiographical VMC 500, 504,

If you've enjoyed Daphne Du Maurier reading, or have enjoyed looking at the covers of her works this week, then I'd really recommend the final two DDM VMCs to you.

500 - The Rebecca Notebook. I absolutely love this book, and if you loved Rebecca, then you must get your hands on a copy of this title. Here DDM describes the formulation of her bestseller - an early plot outline, the original epilogue, and how she developed her ideas. Originally Maxim De Winter was called Henry! It also includes some memoir/autobiographical material.
504 - Myself when young. This is DDM's early autobiography, based on diaries from the period 1920-1932. It provides a wonderful portrait of the writer and demonstrates how much she loves Cornwall, whilst filling in some of the details of her life - her childhood, education, publication of her first book, and marriage, and sharing with us information about family relationships.

(If you're really interested in DDM's life, it's worth mentioning Flavia Young's A daughter's memoir, and the outstanding biography by Margaret Forster to read).

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Daphne Du Maurier: biographies VMC 503, 524, 529, 523

Besides her novels, DDM wrote some non-fiction, mainly biography. I mentioned Vanishing Cornwall at the start of this week, and today I bring your attention to her other works.

503: The Du Mauriers.
This is the biography of some of her ancestors, which she intended to write "like a novel".

524: The infernal world of Branwell Bronte.
DDM was interested in the Brontes, but decided to focus her attention on Branwell, a much maligned character. I found this book intensely interesting because I had read so much about the sisters but very little about him.

529: Golden lads.
Again, DDM focuses on a character hidden in the shadows, and writes about Anthony Bacon, the elder brother of the more famous Francis.

523: The winding stair.
This builds on her research for the earlier Golden Lads, but focuses this time on Francis Bacon.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Daphne Du Maurier: the short stories collections VMC 498, 519, 540

Aside from her novels, DDM wrote lots of short stories. Perhaps the most famous is The birds, immortalised by Hitchcock's film (which I have not yet seen). Many of them are very chilling. I'm not a huge fan of the short story, but I did enjoy reading these a while ago, so I will leave you with the covers.

519 The Rendezvous and other stories

498 The birds and other stories
540 The breaking point: short stories

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Daphne Du Maurier: Novels VMC 492, 497, 499, 501, 502, 505, 506, 507, 509, 515, 516, 518, 535

Today I'm going to show you DDM's other novels. It's been a while since I read most of these, so I am going to content myself with giving you their covers. One might be forgiven for thinking that the only DDMs worth reading are the classic four that I blogged about yesterday, but I would urge you to dip into her other books. Out of these, I particularly enjoyed I'll never be young again, Julius, and The loving spirit.

492 The house on the strand
497 The loving spirit
499 The king's general
501 Mary Anne
502 The scapegoat
505 Rule Britannia
506 Julius
507 The glass-blowers
509 Castle Dor
515 I'll never be young again
516 The flight of the falcon

518 The Parasites
535 Hungry Hill