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du Maurier, Daphne

rebecca winter century manderley

(British, 1907–89)

Daphne du Maurier must be counted one of the best and most prolific Gothic novelists in the twentieth-century British tradition. The stock elements of nineteenth-century Gothic fiction—haunted mansions, brooding landscapes, and mad women—are used with huge success in her fiction. Her most famous novel is Rebecca (1938), in which the heroine marries the handsome, wealthy Maxim de Winter, and comes to live in his Cornish mansion, Manderley. But the new Mrs de Winter has to fight for her husband with the spirit of the first Mrs de Winter, Rebecca, and Rebecca's faithful servant, Mrs Danvers. The novel ends with the destruction by fire of Manderley, in a conscious imitation of Jane Eyre. This literariness, the sexual ambiguities, and the highly effective use of the unreliable narrator, as in My Cousin Rachel (1951), raise her novels above the generic, though perhaps the fact that so many of them have been made into films prevents them from being taken seriously as literature. Although famous for her depictions of Cornwall, one of her best-known stories (because filmed, starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) is Don't Look Now (1971), in which an architect working on the restoration of Venice is haunted by both the city and the death by drowning of his young child.

Susan Hill, Susan Howatch, Mary Stewart. See HISTORICAL, ROMANCE  LM

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