Saturday, 5 April 2008

Menabilly reading

Whenever I do an event at a bookshop or literary festival, and people ask about Menabilly, Daphne du Maurier's house in Cornwall, I am reminded how powerful a pull it still exerts: perhaps because it is so entirely hidden from view, and closed to visitors: or as du Maurier herself described it, "the house of secrets". But you can read about it in the following books, all of which open doors into Menabilly.

1. Rebecca: obvious, I know, but Manderley was inspired by Menabilly, and its descriptions of the estate are not only evocative, but geographically accurate.
2. My Cousin Rachel: another of Du Maurier's novels set in Menabilly, and just as atmospheric as Rebecca.
3. The King's General: du Maurier's fictionalised account of Menabilly's role in the English Civil War. She was partly inspired to write the story after discovering that a skeleton -- allegedly of a young Cavalier -- had been found walled up in the buttresses of Menabilly by a previous owner.
4. A Daughter's Memoir by Flavia Leng: a compellingly written account of a Menabilly childhood by du Maurier's younger daughter, which provides a rather less romanticised version of their life there. (For example, she writes that her older sister, Tessa, was deeply unhappy: "She says three things stand out in her mind about her childhood at Mena: the cold, the hunger and the wretched rats; and I suppose you could add loneliness.")
5. "Letters from Menabilly": a volume of correspondence between Daphne du Maurier and her friend, Oriel Malet. It's filled with wonderful vignettes and insight, and I find myself re-reading it over and over again.


Anonymous said...

I will definitely be looking for the letters. I'm afraid I love reading other people's letters.

Justine Picardie said...

I know -- I completely agree with you -- and these are particularly good letters!

hannahf said...

Inspired by your novel 'Daphne' I am planning a trip to Fowey at Easter. In the book your fictional character goes on an adventure to get a glimpse of Menabilly, I wanted to ask if you knew how realistic an adventure this would be? I assume you can find the estate easily from the coastal path, following descriptions in books?

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Du Maurier has often been painted as a frostily private recluse who rarely mixed in society or gave interviews. A notable exception to this came after the release of the film A Bridge Too Far in which her late husband was portrayed in a less-than-flattering light.

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Anonymous said...

Interesting is that the house was the inspiration, along with Milton Hall, viagra online Cambridgeshire, for "Manderley", the house in du Maurier's novel Rebecca in 1938. Like Menabilly, the fictional Manderley was hidden in woods and could not be seen from the shore.

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