Sunday, 11 May 2008

In the footsteps of Daphne...

I've just got back from the Du Maurier Festival in Cornwall, after a weekend of sunshine and blue skies (the first time it hasn't rained in the three years I've being going there, so this must have been third time lucky). I got there on Friday evening, and it was still light enough to go for my favourite walk -- along the Esplanade, past the big house, Point Neptune (complete with its grand iron gates, transplanted there by previous inhabitants, the Rashleigh family, from Menabilly, and now keeping the world at bay from its current owners, Dawn French and Lenny Henry), down to Readymoney Cove, and then up the steps from the beach to St Catherine's Castle, pausing for breath to gaze at the view out to sea, before going along the cliffs to the lovely, hidden cove at Coombe.
It's a walk I did many times over when I was researching and writing my book, and this is also the way that the narrator of my novel walked from Fowey to Menabilly, following in the footsteps of Daphne du Maurier. So it seemed fitting to be back here again, on the same path, the night before I was due to talk about 'Daphne' at the Du Maurier Festival.
It can be very conducive to meditative thought, walking at the close of a long day -- the sun slipping at the horizon, where the sky meets the sea -- and on Friday evening, I found myself wandering around and about the path that led me to Daphne; both literally and otherwise. It's been a long journey -- and there were times when I thought I was entirely lost, and would never find my way out again. But as I looked out across the water, in the strange, magical silvery light that often seems to gleam along this stretch of Cornish coastline, I was glad that I had followed this path, with all its twists and turns.
As for what was to come... well, it's getting late now, so I will write more tomorrow about my conversations with the du Maurier family.

12 comments:

dovegreyreader said...

It was so lovely too meet up Justine and I did this very same walk as far as Readymoney yesterday afternoon inbetween events and mainly to see those very gates! As for the rain, well it was strangely eerie. As I walked back in time to hear Daphne's daughter Tessa, a huge black cloud appeared, the thunder rumbled and crashed all around and we had a real Fowey downpour.The spirit of Daphne was there, no doubt about that!

dovegreyreader said...

sorry too many o's in to! It's early for me and blogger is being awkward and saying it doesn't know me!

Justine Picardie said...

How eerie that the storm clouds gathered for Tessa's talk. In previous years, it's always brewed up a storm for the festival -- so I suppose it wouldn't be the same without at least one downpour of rain!

HelenMH said...

That sounds very beautiful and atmospheric. I can't wait to hear about your encounter with the du Maurier's.

rjwj2 said...

Dear Justine,

I've just put down 'Daphne', having read it from cover to cover in just one day: it was a truly excellent read. I'm posting a comment on your blog to ask your advice or that of your readers. I'm trying to write a novel about the exploits of some well-known 19th century archaeologists and I wondered if there were any legal implications attached to creating fiction out of the lives of real people? Is one still subject to libel laws if the person/s is/are no longer living? I will be basing my characterization on actual correspondence so I will not be inventing things about them that weren't true.

I'm looking forward to reading more of your blog about the du Mauriers.

Justine Picardie said...

Helen -- thanks for your comment. I'll post more about my encounter with the du Mauriers later today.
And in answer to the last comment: the short answer is that there are no libel implications if you are writing about the dead. And there is no copyright on a 'life', so you're unlikely to have legal problems with your novel. There is a long precedent -- including du Maurier herself, whose first novel, 'The Loving Spirit', was based on the history of a read Cornish family. She also created fiction out of the lives of previous inhabitants of her house, Menabilly, in "The King's General'. So feel free to go ahead with your book, and the very best of luck with it!

Justine Picardie said...

Sorry, that should be 'real Cornish family' -- my finger slipped when I was typing the previous comment.

Bront√ęBlog Adm. said...

Thanks for posting about it. Sounds like you had a fabulous weekend. Cornwall is on my 'to-go' list, and the pictures you and dovegrey reader have been posting lately do nothing but tempt me!

Cristina

StuckInABook said...

So jealous!
Sounds wonderful. Had no idea Dawn and Lenny had the Menabilly gates, how strange.

Primrose said...

Such a beautiful post and I would love to walk in Daphne's footsteps. I have so many happy memories of my trip to Cornwall and Daphne was always beside me as I travelled. I remember feeling outraged when our hostess at a B&B said she was 'old hat' Thanks to your wonderful book, it helps to keep her alive. To me, she's an icon not an old hat!

rjwj2 said...

Many thanks Justine - your advice is very helpful. I'm really enjoying reading your blog, particularly the recent conversations with the du Mauriers. I will keep reading.

Justine Picardie said...

Primrose -- thanks for your lovely comment. And I agree, Daphne is anything but 'old hat' -- she's much too subversive a writer to be dismissed like that.
rjwj2 -- thanks for keeping reading!