Wednesday, 21 May 2008
Hurrah for libraries and librarians
I couldn't have written 'Daphne' without the advice and support of several librarians, and access to library archives -- Dr Jessica Gardner at Exeter University was incredibly helpful, as were Chris Sheppard and John Smuthwaite at Leeds University -- and anyone who has read the book will know that several episodes take place in libraries or reading rooms, and that the narrator's parents were librarians in the Reading Room of the British Museum (where du Maurier herself spent time researching her biography of Branwell Bronte). It's never made explicit in my novel, but I always had an idea that the narrator's father, as a young man, might have been the librarian who appears, very briefly, in the scene where Daphne is struggling against the onset of paranoid delusions, having met her husband's lover in the forecourt of the British Museum (a meeting which actually happened, at du Maurier's suggestion, after Tommy's breakdown, with the woman she named the Snow Queen).
As you might have guessed, I loved libraries as a child (still do), because they seemed to me to be places of escape and also sanctuary. I had quite a stormy childhood -- my father suffered from manic depression (poor man, he really suffered, as did we, alongside him) -- and we moved to new schools more often than I found easy. But I always found refuge in a library, though their contents seemed also to offer secret doors to unseen places.
I don't usually post reviews on the blog, but the publisher for the American edition of 'Daphne' has just emailed me this one from the Library Journal, and I'm so pleased about it -- for obvious reasons -- that I'm pasting it here. Forgive me, but this is the Library Journal, after all, so it feels relevant... I'm expecting the novel to sink without trace in America -- it's a big country, and I'm a little unknown writer, amidst thousands of others -- but at least it's got this far.
Picardie, Justine. Daphne. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Aug. 2008. c.416p. ISBN 978-1-59691-341-7. $24.95. F
Picardie's well-researched novel about Daphne du Maurier is sure to send readers scurrying back to all those books they should have read in college. Du Maurier's works are referenced, as is her fascination with the Brontë family. Toss in Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie and various members of the rare book and manuscript community, and you have an intriguing fictionalization of many intertwining literary lives. The novel is written from the perspectives of du Maurier, manuscript curator J.A. Symington, and a nameless researcher, with each of their stories spiraling upon the other to create a century-spanning novel hidden in lucky coincidences and missing papers (including those of the Brontës). The result is an absolute gem of a novel that will be a hit with fans of du Maurier, the Brontës, and British fiction generally as well as the avid bibliophile. It should serve as an excellent book club selection that may prompt an interest in these literary figures. Highly recommended.—Leann Restaino, Girard, OH