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Daphne du Maurier: A Daughter's Memoir

Since the revelations of Margaret Forster's biography of Daphne du Maurier, it has been difficult to look at du Maurier in the light in which she wished to be seen. We now know of her depressions and self-contempt, of the extent to which her career and her obsession with being a perfect wife and mother were a way of proving to her dead father that she was worthy of him. To her children, of course, she hardly seemed driven at all, and this is an attractive memoir because it makes clear to us that what was won at so terrible a cost was at least some sort of victory. The sheer ordinariness of Flavia Lang's sense of her mother is a tribute of a kind --a happiness so successfully mimicked has its own reality. Of course there are ironies here--Mrs. Lang manages to maintain a blissful naivete about her mother's relationship with Gertrude Lawrence, whose sudden death broke her heart. And the same innocence or reticence applies to the Battle of Arnhem, and the way it destroyed her father's career; things were kept from the children, and the children have grown up, fairly charmingly, to keep them from themselves.--Roz Kaveney

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