Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Author Snapshot: Daphne du Mariuer

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…


One of the more famous opening lines for a novel is Daphne Du Mariuer’s first sentence of the eponymous character recalling her days at Manderley. Rebecca, a gothic romance, if there ever was one. No wonder Hitchcock snapped it up. I’m not sure which is the bigger hit: the novel or the film. They are both memorable, eerie, and suspenseful. Whenever I reread the book, I immediately want to view the film again. The novel leaves a legacy found in a variety of mediums:


  • Stephen King alludes to Mrs. Danvers, the troubled housekeeper, several times in Bag of Bones, and again refers to her in “Father’s Day.”
  • Jasper Fforde creates an army of Mrs. Danvers clones in his  Thursday Next series.
  • Danielle Steel nods to the novel in her Vanished, since the plot is similar to Rebecca.


  • The Man with Two Brains, a Steve Martin comedy, acknowledges the novel as his character consults the portrait of his deceased wife, Rebecca.


  • Dark Shadows, the original 70s Gothic soap opera (not the Johnny Depp film) relied on Rebecca’s sinister setting to create its creepy plotline.
  • Carol Burnett lampooned the novel with her “Rebecky” skit.

And if Rebecca‘s Gothic romance plot line isn’t your cup of tea, perhaps you remember The Birds? It was a short story before Hitchcock got ahold of it and produced a movie that still freaks me out. I found her short story in an anthology of animal uprising stories including Animal Farm. Watch out for pigs and birds–they pack a punch when they take over the world.

While Daphne Du Mariuer might not be in vogue as much as she once was, she definitely left on impact on the literary world with her contributions of novels, plays, and non-fiction. She often wrote ahead of her time, as evidenced in her House on the Strand, which alluded to the mind-altering drugs used in the sixties. There is some controversy about plagiarism, which I choose not to dwell upon. And some aspersions about her personal life, which I won’t delve into either. What fascinates me is her diversity as a writer. Though labeled as a romantic novelist (a label she disliked), she proved she could write beyond what critics’ and the publics’ labels. She wrote historical biographies, chilling mysteries, science fantasy, and wrote them well.

Some trivia which isn’t trivial:

  • awarded the Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
  • daughter of actor parents: Sir Gerald du Maurier and Muriel Beaumont; granddaughter of George du Maurier, Punch cartoonist.
  • cousin to the Llewelyn Davies boys, who were the inspiration for J.M.Barrie’s Peter Pan.

    Daphne du Maurier in her later years image: BBC news

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14 thoughts on “Author Snapshot: Daphne du Mariuer

  1. That was interesting. From a historical point of view it was serialized in an Australian women’s magazine, with suitable illustrations, in 1939 as seen at

  2. Dark Shadows? Really? I remember watching that as a child when I stayed home from school and my mother went to work. Quentin, the scary one. Wasn’t he the vampire? And all the creepy dark sets where creepier people used to hover about. OK, so now I have to read Rebecca. My pile keeps growing higher and higher…

  3. Thanks for putting together this post. I only recently read Rebecca for the first time and find myself looking for any excuse to read more about du Maurier.

  4. You’re so right, I can’t watch the film without wanting to read the book again and vice-versa. They are so intertwined in my mind now. I love her storytelling style, don’t you?

  5. Makes me feel good that I bought du Maurier’s collection of short stories!

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