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

23 comments:

Gondel-girl said...

Hi Justine

just read this and had the cockles warmed, as it reminded me of the librarian in primary school who was related to the Brownings ( Elizabeth Barrat and Robert) - she made the whole world seem like a book to dip into. This is Australia, when the world is so sunny outside, the library was still like a coocoon.

thanks for the post.

:)

Rob Hardy said...

Congratulations on a wonderful review in Library Journal!

I'm proud to say that my sister-in-law is the school librarian (and reception teacher) at a primary school in Stratford-upon-Avon, passing along her love of reading to the newest generation of Shakespeare's townsfolk!

oxford-reader said...

During my time at school if you ever needed to find me, I was always in the Library. Oxford, as you know, if full of great hushed rooms of books, and just being allowed into the Bodleian fills me with wonder.
Congratultions on the revue - I hope it doesn't 'sink without a trace'.

Justine Picardie said...

Gondel girl -- I love your name, and your story of the school librarian making the whole world seem like a book to dip into. Was she in Australia?
Rob -- how appropriate that you have a sister-in-law who is a school librarian in Stratford. I wonder if Shakespeare's ghost ever flits through...
Rebecca -- I agree, the Bodleian is a wondrous place. Alice Sebold once sent me a link to an amazing site of photographs of libraries, that made them look miraculously otherworldy. I must try and find it again.

oxford-reader said...

That top picture you've just added is superb. The ceiling looks like it's vying for space with the books, and even though it's daylight, the movement of people looks like ghosts. I always knew they were avid readers too! Where is it, do you know?

Justine Picardie said...

I've added the link to the library pictures: but here it is again:
http://thenonist.com/index.php/thenonist/permalink/hot_library_smut/

oxford-reader said...

Thank you!

Gondal-girl said...

hi Justine - yes she was in Australia, such a beautiful moth of a woman, all dusty tweed and imagination - have written a children's picture book story about it as relief from novel writing slog ( sure you know all about that). Yet to read your Daphne, but look forward to it ( once novel writing slog is done, which co-incidentally is a re-working of Trilby...so got very excited about reading your entry about eating around George Du Maurier's dining table

Justine Picardie said...

Oh my goodness -- you're doing a reworking of Trilby! We have so much to discuss. I was born in Hampstead, just around the corner from George du Maurier's house, and my sons go to school nearby, so I walk past it often, wishing that I could 'dream true', and slip back into the past, just for a few hours, and see the du Maurier family in situ.

HelenMH said...

What a great review. You must be so pleased.

Justine Picardie said...

I am -- thank you. And do you like the lovely library pictures?

Maylin said...

Librarians are HUGE word-of-mouthers which I think is invaluable in the book business. And they are huge personal book buyers too -something that is so often overlooked when talking about the library market. That's how sleeper hits are made! I can tell you that US (and Canadian) librarians take reviews in Library Journal very seriously so congrats! I don't think Daphne is going to sink without a trace at all.

Gondal-girl said...

Ooh Hampstead - I love it ( have been there a couple of times).Always think of Holman Hunt's work around there... Would love to discuss the 'other' Du Maurier's and Trilby with you...what's are your on that book...

Justine Picardie said...

Maylin -- thanks so much for your encouragement. I hope Daphne makes it to Canada -- I suppose Bloomsbury USA will ship it there? Not quite sure how these things work, but I will try to find out.

oxford-reader said...

Justine, I just found another page full of library pictures, thought you might like to see!

http://curiousexpeditions.org/2007/09/a_librophiliacs_love_letter_1.html

Justine Picardie said...

Gondal-girl -- feel free to get in touch with me about the Du Mauriers et al. I was just going past Cannon Hall this evening -- where Daphne grew up in Hampstead -- and New Grove House, where George lived. Both are such beautiful houses... You'd have to be a billionaire to live in them now!

Justine Picardie said...

Oxford-reader -- this link didn't work for me, annoyingly. No pages at all came up...

Gondal-girl said...

yes I would love to, is there an email contact for you somewhere...I am new to the blog-es - phere? There is synchronicity afoot...

Maylin said...

Bloomsbury in Canada is going to be distributed by Penguin Canada starting in June. So I imagine Daphne will be on their fall list. It's all in a transition stage at the moment so the Penguin reps haven't yet seen the fall Bloomsbury catalogues. But I happened to be working a library show today next to a Penguin rep and so was already talking up your book. She was very intrigued (having read The Master too and fasincated by literary fictionalizations)

Gondal-girl said...

or you could try gondalgirl@gmail.com

oxford-reader said...

I've added a link in my blog under libraries, hope it works!

Justine Picardie said...

Maylin -- that is so kind of you, and I'm immensely grateful for your inimitable combining of word of mouth with new technology. Thanks for the information on the Bloomsbury position in Canada, as well -- because no one in the UK company had been able to explain any of this to me!

Gondal-girl said...

just found a great little quote from review of Manguel's book - The Library at night ( on my blog) hope you like it, 'tis lovely.