Something about her eyes

Patricia Beer

  • Daphne du Maurier by Margaret Forster
    Chatto, 455 pp, £17.99, March 1993, ISBN 0 7011 3699 5

If in doubt start with the weather. This is a piece of advice that has long been followed by biographers who have mixed feelings about the claims of their subjects to the extensive treatment they are about to apply: subjects, perhaps, whose rank or connections would certainly sell the book but who in any meritocracy would themselves have sunk without trace. Interestingly, the opening paragraph of Margaret Forster’s Daphne du Maurier makes good use of this particular technique: ‘Sheet-lightning split the sky over London on the evening of 12 May 1907 and thunder rumbled long into the night. All day it had been sultry, the trees in Regent’s Park barely moving and a heat haze obscuring the new growth of leaves.’ There is almost a Bethlehem feel about this: a new light in the sky and various portents. There is certainly a Hollywood feel: a star is born. In fact the star was not born till 5.20 the next afternoon, but the right note has been struck.

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