Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The politest argument ever

Justine Picardie

It's no secret that I love Daphne du Maurier; when I saw Daphne, historical fiction centered on her obsession with Branwell Bronte (ooh! and I love the Brontes, too!), I knew this book was destined for me.

The plot revolves around several key characters: du Maurier herself, eager to prove herself a "real" author by completing a biography of Branwell, the forgotten Bronte, that puts him in a new light; J.A. Symington, a former member of a Bronte expert who may not have honestly gained some of his most prized possessions; and, finally, our young (unnamed) narrator who finds herself in the middle of a real-life du Maurier novel just as she struggles to complete her own du Maurier studies.

At right: Daphne at work

While the plot was interesting, several things failed for me. The narrator's journey is simply not interesting, and I hated being taken from the world of du Maurier and Symington in order to return to this fool's problems. She's, what, 23 and married to some recently-divorced scholar 20 years her senior. Not surprisingly, he can't get over his first wife, and he doesn't respect her scholarly interest in du Maurier, and he's so condescending and blah blah blah.

Also, the dialogue. When moving between du Maurier and Symington, no problem. But when writing current dialogue...whoa. Not good. For example, during a scene in which our lovely young narrator argues with her husband's ex-wife, she says, "Rachel, don't be arch with me, and please stop manipulating me." Arch? Really? And, "please stop manipulating me"? This narrator needs a good case of "Bitch, step OFF." Or, maybe even something non-verbal?

'Nuff said.

In a nutshell: Daphne and Symington provide an intriguing tale; unfortunately, the narrator doesn't fare as well. Still, reading Daphne taught me more about one of my favorite writers.

Bibliolatry Scale: 3 out of 6 stars

FTCBS: I received Daphne as part of as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.


Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Some novels were just not meant to be that good.

Bybee said...

That's funny about the unnamed narrator. I love Rebecca, but that drove me nuts.