Last weekend I picked up Margaret Forster’s biography of Daphne du Maurier and I’ve romped through it as if it were a novel. It seems to me a model biography: fair, truthful and lacking any of those ‘we can imagine how’ and ‘she must have thought’ comments which so infuriate me. It’s hard to like such a spoiled, selfish person; I felt Forster was very restrained in describing but not condemning various less pleasing aspects of the heroine’s behaviour. By the end of the book one does have a respect for her gallantry and especially for her devotion to writing, which she lived to do but could only manage when inspired (very un-Wodehousian). The description of her old age, when she could no longer write, is very sad. I’m not a great admirer of her writing but of course have read Rebecca more than once. It has the same effect on me that Jane Eyre does; however much it irritates me, every now and then I just have to read it again.
I enjoyed this life so much, yet had trouble getting through the fictionalised Daphne. I’ve had this problem before, when I failed to finish Deborah Moggach’s novel Tulip Fever yet loved Anna Pavord’s scholarly work The Tulip. So does the problem lie with the genre or with the writer? Perhaps it’s just me.