Daphne du Maurier and her Sisters: The Hidden Lives of Piffy, Bird and Bing

Jane Dunn

Daphne du Maurier and her Sisters: The Hidden Lives of Piffy, Bird and Bing

The middle sister in a famous artistic dynasty, Daphne du Maurier is one of the master storytellers of our time, author of ‘Rebecca’, ‘Jamaica Inn’ and ‘My Cousin Rachel’, and short stories, ‘Don’t Look Now’ and the terrifying ‘The Birds’ among many. Her stories were made memorable by the iconic films they inspired, three of them classic Hitchcock chillers. But her sisters Angela and Jeanne, a writer and an artist of talent, had creative and romantic lives even more bold and unconventional than Daphne’s own. In this group biography they are considered side by side, as they were in life, three sisters who grew up during the 20th century in the glamorous hothouse of a theatrical family dominated by a charismatic and powerful father. This family dynamic reveals the hidden lives of Piffy, Bird & Bing, full of social non-conformity, love, rivalry and compulsive make-believe, their lives as psychologically complex as a Daphne du Maurier novel. 3.1 out of 5 based on 9 reviews
Daphne du Maurier and her Sisters: The Hidden Lives of Piffy, Bird and Bing

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Biography, Literary Studies & Criticism
Format
Pages
RRP
Date of Publication February 2013
ISBN 978-0007347087
Publisher HarperPress
 

The middle sister in a famous artistic dynasty, Daphne du Maurier is one of the master storytellers of our time, author of ‘Rebecca’, ‘Jamaica Inn’ and ‘My Cousin Rachel’, and short stories, ‘Don’t Look Now’ and the terrifying ‘The Birds’ among many. Her stories were made memorable by the iconic films they inspired, three of them classic Hitchcock chillers. But her sisters Angela and Jeanne, a writer and an artist of talent, had creative and romantic lives even more bold and unconventional than Daphne’s own. In this group biography they are considered side by side, as they were in life, three sisters who grew up during the 20th century in the glamorous hothouse of a theatrical family dominated by a charismatic and powerful father. This family dynamic reveals the hidden lives of Piffy, Bird & Bing, full of social non-conformity, love, rivalry and compulsive make-believe, their lives as psychologically complex as a Daphne du Maurier novel.

Reviews

The Independent

Helen Taylor

Engaging … this book's strength lies in its account of a trio of lives developing during a period of class and gender upheaval, and the sisters' response to social change.

01/03/2013

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The Literary Review

Jessica Mann

… I found the social history and factual background more interesting than the trials and tribulations of the sisters’ love lives. But altogether this is an original, well-researched and very readable book, full of well-chosen details and perceptive observations. In the subject of rivalry between literary sisters Jane Dunn has found a little goldmine.

01/03/2013

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The Sunday Telegraph

Nicholas Shakespeare

Her tendency to repeat her good points, and to hammer the same nails into the frame, makes her canvas sag in places, but overall her triptych is sensitive and sympathetic. It is also a feat of organisation, the challenge to keep each du Maurier sister separate and yet still bubbling at the same intensity, like three temperature charts. If Daphne is the one we inevitably want to follow, Dunn succeeds in pricking our curiosity about her sapphist siblings, temperamentally so unlike, but suffering ultimately from the same afflictions.

04/03/2013

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The Sunday Times

John Carey

... Dunn’s book is essentially about how parents damage their children ... Where Dunn’s book sags is when it turns to the eldest sister, Angela … the only conceivable reason for recording her life at all is that shewas Daphne du Maurier’s sister — which is surely taking biographical nepotism a bit far. The youngest sister Jeanne sounds much more worthwhile.

24/02/2013

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The Daily Express

Charlotte Heathcote

... we have only the bare bones of Jeanne’s story … Daphne and Angela could also have been fleshed out with more clarity and analysis too, in part by more direct quotes. However, you sense that they found their own personalities as perplexing as the reader does

03/03/2013

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The Financial Times

Peter J Conradi

It is a sign of Jane Dunn’s generous professionalism that she accords the du Maurier girls the same respect that she gave Bloomsbury’s high priestesses in her acclaimed study of Woolf and her sister Vanessa Bell, A Very Close Conspiracy (1990). Yet though she is well placed to subject all the du Maurier works to rigorous criticism and measure their distance — for better and for worse — from (say) Woolf, such “placing” is scarcely attempted ... if du Maurier is, indeed, today still shamefully under-rated, her biographer could surely help to explain why.

01/03/2013

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The New Statesman

Rachel Bowlby

Dunn, after digging where she can, has failed to find belatedly starring roles for Daphne’s siblings or even a significant drama of sisterly relations.

07/03/2013

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The Spectator

Victoria Glendinning

The book proceeds with leisurely amplitude, as Dunn takes the scenic route through her mass of material, generous with authorial asides and comments, and with some repetition of key insights and quotations. Not a friendship, not a holiday — and there are lots of holidays, and lots of friendships — is given the go-by.

09/03/2013

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The Observer

Rachel Cooke

... it's hard to see why either of these women are of any real interest, except in relation to their more famous sister — and perhaps, deep down, Dunn was aware of this, for her book feels strained at times. It's maddeningly repetitive (the text seems to have been edited hardly at all), and her style is painfully convoluted and overwrought. Cliches abound ... Mostly, though, its longueurs are a simple problem of organisation. Her decision to deal with all three women at once, and chronologically, rather than in separate sections, has dealt her narrative a fatal blow.

03/03/2013

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