(1907-1989), English

Daphne du Maurier Best Books

Daphne du Maurier has an exceptional repertoire of novels, short stories and plays to her name, including the popular ‘Rebecca’, ‘Jamaica Inn’, and ‘The Birds: Stories’.

Although Daphne du Maurier is best known for her mystery and suspense novels, she has written several short stories and plays as well. Some of her most popular works include The Loving Spirit, Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, Frenchman’s Creek, My Cousin Rachel, The Scapegoat, and The King’s General. We explore each of these works below as well as an extremely popular short story called The Birds: Stories.

Daphne du Maurier Best Books


The Loving Spirit

The Loving Spirit is the very first novel that Daphne du Maurier published in 1931 and was the beginning of her career as a writer. Set in the early 1800s, this novel explores the lives of the Coombes family, as they undergo several trials and adventures as a family. The narrative in The Loving Spirit takes place in Cornwall, a place in England where du Maurier spent a large part of her childhood. One can see the beginnings of du Maurier’s career as a romance, adventure, and history writer in this novel.

The immense influence of the Bronte sisters on her writing career can also be discerned within this work. The title of the novel itself has been taken from a poem written by Emily Bronte called The Loving Spirit

Jamaica Inn

Published in 1936, Jamaica Inn was one of the first novels where Daphne Du Maurier was able to use mystery and suspense to such resounding success. Set in Cornwall yet again, this novel follows a young orphan’s journey from a small farm in Helford to the house of her mother’s sister. The orphan, Mary Yellan, encounters her vicious uncle who is a drunkard/ It is revealed later in the novel that her uncle is a lying and cheating smuggler as well.

As Mary begins to investigate the various doings at Jamaica Inn, she stumbles upon a smuggling ring filled with murderers who capture ships and steal the cargo after killing all the sailors. Brimming with a thrilling plot and several fascinating characters, Jamaica Inn has been critically acclaimed as one of du Maurier’s best works. This novel was adapted for film by Alfred Hitchcock in 1939.

Rebecca

Providing one of the most iconic beginnings in the history of English literature (“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again”), Rebecca is the most famous novel that Daphne du Maurier has penned to date.

The novel was an instant hit when it was published in 1938, and has remained a masterwork that has never gone out of print ever since its release. Often classified as a Gothic romance novel or a mystery suspense novel, Rebecca follows the story of a young innocent woman who falls in love with an older man. The two of them begin their journey together as they move into Manderley house. However, the young woman soon finds that she is haunted by the ghost of her husband’s ex-wife, Rebecca.

The novel follows the insecurity and jealousy that the young woman feels as she hears stories of how wonderful her predecessor had been – that is until the truth about Rebecca and her tragic death is revealed. 

Frenchman’s Creek

Frenchman’s Creek is one of du Maurier’s famous Cornwall-set novels in the historical genre. Published in 1941, the novel takes place during the reign of Charles II and focuses on the electric love affair between Lady St. Columb and a French pirate.

The societal restrictions placed on Lady St. Columb proves to be too much and she begins to revolt against it. The desire for escape becomes her guiding light as she moves to the countryside and meets a French pirate whom she is immediately attracted towards. Tucked away in the woods of Cornwall, there begins a passionate tale of romance and scandal that ultimately moves to the high seas. Frenchman’s Creek was ultimately adapted for film in 1944.

The King’s General

Published in 1946, The King’s General is set during the period of the English Civil War. This is yet another one of du Maurier’s Cornish novels, as it explores how the civil war distinctly played out in Cornwall.

Du Maurier’s staunch passion for the Cornish spirit of rebellion and independence shines throughout The King’s General as we follow the love affair between Richard Grenvile and Honor Harris. Honor Harris happens to suffer a horrific accident early in the novel when she falls into a chasm and is disabled for the rest of her life. This does not stop her from exerting her fierce personality and becoming a camp follower in Menabilly, where she meets Richard. The two strike up a love affair, which seems to last their whole lives but never comes to culmination, as Richard goes on to marry another woman.

My Cousin Rachel

My Cousin Rachel is similar to Rebecca in various ways. Set in a beautiful estate that du Maurier modeled upon Antony House in Cornwall, England, this novel follows the story of a young man named Philip who falls in love with his cousin Rachel. Rachel, however, has an extremely mysterious and dark past. Her husband, who is also Philip’s uncle, dies under mysterious circumstances, which leads to everyone wondering whether he was poisoned by his wife or not. Much like Rebecca, Rachel continues to be a mystery to the readers to the very end of the novel. She seems to welcome the advances of Philip even though it is apparent that she doesn’t love him.

What’s her game? Is she evil or is she good? The readers are kept guessing till the very end of the novel.

This novel was published in 1951 when du Maurier had already built a stellar reputation as a writer. The first successful film adaptation of My Cousin Rachel was released in the same year and several other adaptations have followed thereafter.

The Scapegoat

Published in 1957, The Scapegoat was written by Daphne du Maurier at the height of her career. The novel was extremely well received by the public and by this time, du Maurier’s reputation had been sealed as “mistress of suspense”. The Scapegoat is yet another exceptional mystery novel that follows the story of an English gentleman and an aristocratic Frenchman. A chance encounter between the two leads to them marveling at how similar they are to each other. The two of them decide to switch places with each other and they end up living each other’s lives as doppelgangers.

Full of mystery, intrigue, and adventures of family life, this novel is a skillful masterpiece. A film adaptation of The Scapegoat was developed and released in 1959. 

The Birds: Stories 

The Birds is one of Daphne Du Maurier’s most famous short stories, thanks to Alfred Hitchcock’s incredibly successful film adaptation, Birds (1963). Published in 1963, this short story is a part of du Maurier’s short story collection, The Apple Tree. The story revolves around Nat Hocken, a disabled farmer, and his family as they are aggressively pursued by hordes of angry birds in their cottage. This catastrophic incident has been painted by du Maurier in such a threatening and menacing manner that no reader can escape feeling a sense of horror with this short story. 

The Birds: Stories is truly one of the most well-crafted apocalyptic tales that narrates the struggles of the defenseless family from the aggressive flock of birds. The story reflects a poignant theme of nature versus humanity, with nature finally getting its vengeance on humanity.

FAQs

What should I read after Rebecca?

If you liked Daphne du Maurier’s novel, Rebecca, then chances are that you are going to like du Maurier’s other works as well, which include The Loving Spirit, Jamaica Inn, Frenchman’s Creek, My Cousin Rachel, The Scapegoat, and The King’s General. You can even check out some of du Maurier’s short stories, specifically The Apple Tree collection.

What is the storyline of Rebecca?

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier follows the story of a young, shy narrator who remains unnamed throughout the novel. She falls in love with an older man who is a wealthy widower with a beautiful house. The two get married and move into Manderley estate, but the young wife is soon haunted by the memory of her husband’s ex-wife, Rebecca.

Is Daphne du Maurier a good writer?

Daphne du Maurier is widely considered a good writer. She was a popular 20th Century writer most famous for her best-selling novel, Rebecca. The novel was an instant hit in both the United Kingdom and the United States, and has remained a classic till today. Du Maurier is also praised for some of her other works, including The Loving Spirit, Jamaica Inn, Frenchman’s Creek, My Cousin Rachel, The Scapegoat, and The King’s General.

What is Daphne du Maurier’s most famous quote?

The most famous quote by Daphne du Maurier is “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” This line appears at the beginning of du Maurier’s best-selling novel, Rebecca, and is one of the most iconic first lines in English literature.

About Neesha Thunga K
Neesha graduated in 2020 with a degree in MA English. Before that, she has spent several years teaching English and writing for various organizations. As a lover of English literature, she truly believes that crafting stories through words is the greatest achievement of mankind. She is now pursuing her passion for literature as an Expert on the Book Analysis team.

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