Original date of publication: 1973
My edition: Virago (2004)
Why I decided to read: I’m a huge fan of anything by Daphne Du Maurier
How I acquired my copy: Awesomebooks website, February 2011
I feel as though I can never go wrong with Daphne Du Maurier’s books. Fiction, nonfiction, I haven’t run into a bad one yet. Myself When Young is a memoir based on the diaries that Du Maurier kept from 1920-1932, or from ages 13 to 25, when her first novel The Loving Spirit, was published. It’s a short book, but covers a lot of ground, from her early years living in the shadow of her father Gerald Du Maurier, her schooling in Paris, and her early years as a writer.
One of the things I enjoyed most about this book was how Daphne talked about the inspiration for some of her writing—specifically Rebecca, The Loving Spirit, and some of her earliest short stories. I also liked seeing how certain places (Menabily especially, which was in the inspiration for Manderley in Rebecca and became the setting of The King’s General) helped inspire and inform Daphne’s novels. I also enjoyed seeing how her family’s history played a role in some of her books. I also didn’t know how much of a role Peter Pan played in Daphne’s earlier years; I knew about her relationship with the Llewellyn-Davies boys, but I didn’t know how pervasive the book was as Daphne grew up.
This book was written in the seventies, when Daphne was in her sixties, so there’s a very nostalgic quality to this memoir. All authors write about what they know, and Daphne was no exception. But she wrote about what she knew very well, even eloquently. There are some beautiful passages in this book about growing up. Daphne draws heavily from her diaries, sometimes even quoting from them. But through those diary excerpts, you can see the germination of a truly great writer.