STARRED REVIEW
April 18, 2017

The life of the “Rebecca” author

By Tatiana de Rosnay
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . . ” That evocative first sentence of Daphne du Maurier’s suspenseful novel Rebecca captured millions of readers, including the young Tatiana de Rosnay. A lifelong fan, de Rosnay set out to write a biography of du Maurier, calling it a “novel of a life.”
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“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . . ” That evocative first sentence of Daphne du Maurier’s suspenseful novel Rebecca captured millions of readers, including the young Tatiana de Rosnay. A lifelong fan, de Rosnay set out to write a biography of du Maurier, calling it a “novel of a life.” Like du Maurier, de Rosnay has both French and British forebears and is a prolific, mega-bestselling novelist (her novel Sarah’s Key sold four million copies).

Manderley Forever divides du Maurier’s life into five sections, from her London childhood to her last years in Cornwall. While de Rosnay builds the biography from letters, journals and previous biographies, she opens each section by retracing du Maurier’s steps, especially in du Maurier’s beloved Cornwall, the rugged southwestern tip of England. De Rosnay attempts to visit Menabilly, the model for Manderley, the grand house at the heart of Rebecca. Du Maurier discovered the falling-down mansion as a young woman, and, fascinated, even obsessed, she talked the owners into letting her rent and renovate the house, which became her touchstone and muse. Throughout, de Rosnay shares details of du Maurier’s writing—the varied seeds of her novels, her daily writing routine and the way her writing projects grounded and consoled her.

De Rosnay aims for a novelistic style, writing in present tense, often from du Maurier’s point of view. Occasionally the voice and diction feel too modern for an Englishwoman born in 1907, although this may have to do with the French-to-English translation. Still, we get a full sense of the complex du Maurier: She was bold and glamorous yet reclusive and shy, she fell in love with other women but had an enduring marriage to a troubled war hero, and she was a world-famous novelist who yearned for a more literary standing.

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Manderley Forever

Manderley Forever

By Tatiana de Rosnay
St. Martin's
ISBN 9781250099136

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