Let’s discuss about the queen of gothic novel: the talented Daphne du Maurier.

Historically, the gothic novel was born at the same time as the rediscovery of English gothic architecture, and found its inspiration in all things supernatural. Women such as Ann Radcliff or Mary Shelley, as well as men such as Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker were the first ones to make the genre famous. It then slowly fell into oblivion.

Until an electric choc brought it back to like in 1938: “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier was set in the time it was written and was not full of obvious supernatural elements or thirsty vampires but created instead an atmosphere so maddening and tense you could cut it with a knife. Published in 1938, “Rebecca” is probably the first modern romantic gothic in English literature.

Daphne du Maurier’s sense of suspense was so captivating that several of her novels were adapted for the silver screen, such as “My Cousin Rachel”, “Don’t Look Now”, “Hungry Hill” – “Jamaica Inn”, “The Birds” and “Rebecca” being adapted by the Master of Suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock.

Daphne du Maurier was a prominent and prolific English author, often categorised as a “romantic novelist”, which couldn’t be more inaccurate, given the absence of happy endings in her novels and the sinister tones of most of her works. She has more in common with a Wilkie Collins (ah! Wilkie) for instance. Her narrative craft since earned a strong reputation.

If you want to know more about Daphne du Maurier, her life in France, her bisexuality, the accusations of plagiarism regarding “Rebecca” or “The Birds” – “Manderley for Ever”, a biography by Tatiana de Rosnay is the book for you.

“Rebecca” is mesmerizing, but “The Scapegoat” is enthralling. John, a depressed Englishman on holiday in France, accidentally meets his doppelgänger, Jean, a French count. They have so many drinks that Jean passes out. John then decides to take on Jean’s identity and live his life.

Everything in this novel is captivating: the atmosphere, the suspense, the identity and possession issues: you simply can’t put it down.

April 24, 2020

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