In June 1969 when Labour Politician/Academic Harold Wilson was British Prime Minister, Daphne du Maurier (1907 - 1989) was created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), a title she accepted but did not use.
By then her novels and short stories included
THE LOVING SPIRIT (1931),
JAMAICA INN (1936),
her masterpiece REBECCA (1938),
FRENCHMAN'S CREEK (1941),
HUNGRY HILL (1943),
THE KING'S GENERAL (1946),
THE PARASITES (1949),
MY COUSIN RACHEL (1951),
THE APPLE TREE (short story collection including "The Birds" - 1952),
THE SCAPEGOAT (1957),
THE GLASS-BLOWERS (1963),
THE FLIGHT OF THE FALCON (1965)
THE HOUSE ON THE STRAND (1969)
Eight years later, nearing 70, Miss du Maurier published a memoir of her years from age three to age 25. It was called MYSELF WHEN YOUNG: THE SHAPING OF A WRITER. From the first to the last of six unnumbered chapters, MYSELF WHEN YOUNG shows a consistently evolving child, an adolescent, and finally a young woman -- always and everywhere learning to write and write ever better and better.
First she grasped the point of her famous actor father's dressing up, putting on makeup and pretending on stage to be other people. She made a distinction between the "cruel" lies on the one hand that grownups tell trusting young children about fairies, Father Christmas and God and on the other hand the "true" and good fictions that gifted writers make up in PETER PAN or THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS.
Hence she persuaded her older sister and her younger sister to follow her lead and act out passages from Shakespeare and other writers. Whenever she could, Daphne played male parts. She resented being born a girl, rejoiced when her father taught his daughters to play male sports like cricket. Only males had real adventures! And even in her nursery she was never content simply to hear and imagine an adventure. She demanded to know what was the outcome of "Four and twenty blackbirds" or what a king did once he had defeated a hotheaded rival.
How cruelly did adolescent menstruation teach du Maurier that her dream of remaining a boy forever was only that, a dream. She felt most masculine and creative when she wrote. For that reason Daphne made time and ever more time for writing. She did not like appearing as a girl in society or being feminine. But she played that part increasingly well when it was unavoidable. She would marry a handsome prince and give birth to two daughters and a son.
SOMETHING OF MYSELF: THE SHAPING OF A WRITER draws heavily upon a diary that Daphne du Maurier kept from age 10 to age 25, carrying readers through publication of her first book,, THE LOVING SPIRIT (1931) and her marriage at 24 to a dashing future Lieutenant General.
Who will read SOMETHING OF MYSELF with pleasure?
-- Budding writers who want to read tips on the craft of fiction from one of the world's most widely read authors, re-inventor in the 20th Century of the seemingly played out "Gothic" genre.
-- Aspiring memoirists who cannot fail to note that du Maurier's focus on how she came to writing and stayed with that gift elegantly unifies her autobiography and passes over in silence many peripheral happenings.
-- People who simply enjoy good writing.
-- Students of 20th Century France and England, and especially du Maurier's beloved rural Cornwall, scene of so many of her stories (including "The Birds" and REBECCA, both given film treatments by Alfred Hitchcock). She brings to loving life Cornwall's tides, the winds, the wild countryside, the memories of smuggling, wars and heroic deeds.
Indeed, SOMETHING OF MYSELF means something to Everyman.
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