One hears too much these days about the woes of publishing houses. Electronic media, slumping sales, and cutbacks are standard fare in today's publishing world. However, somewhere in the midst of all the publishing giants out there is an independent publisher that continues to impress the heck out of A Reader's Respite.
Their name is Sourcebooks.
Just why are they so impressive? In a world of rushing to publish the next DaVinci Code knock-off, Sourcebooks has been quietly acquiring the rights to reprint timeless stories that have withstood the test of time.
Among these classics are some of Daphne du Maurier books. When A Reader's Respite learned of Sourcebook's intent to re-release Frenchman's Creek and My Cousin Rachel, we practically swooned. We had worked long and hard to find copies of these books in years past, digging through musty bookstores (our favorite hobby) and combing estate sales (not a favorite hobby).
Thanks to Sourcebooks, though, readers can skip the rummaging through dead people's belongings and simply purchase a new reprint of these fabulous du Maurier books.
Not familiar with Daphne du Maurier? She's best known as the author of Rebecca, a novel which Alfred Hitchcock developed for the big screen and won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1940.
It won't surprise you to learn that despite it's well-deserved award for Best Picture, the movie pales in comparison to the book.
But du Maurier wrote many books just as good as Rebecca. Jamaica Inn was published two years prior to Rebecca and is a good example of her gothic historical fiction that sweeps you into the moors of Cornwall with a good old fashioned tale of pirates and smugglers. The reader is left wondering who to trust and the sheer creepiness of the tale is like a thick fog that surrounds you as you turn the pages. Not surprisingly, Hitchcock also adapted this book to film in 1939.
In 1941 du Maurier wrote Frenchman's Creek, the only romance she ever penned. A woman who longs for the freedom that her era doesn't allow women grabs it anyway and dashing pirates abound in this riveting love story. But as with all du Maurier's novels, there is an aura of unsettledness that permeates the atmosphere, setting it apart from other novels in the genre. This is a fabulous read for fans of romance or fans of gothic historical fiction and it is a tribute to the folks at Sourcebooks for choosing such a timeless classic to reprint today.
At this point, you probably won't be surprised to learn that Frenchman's Creek was also adapted into a movie in 1944, starring Joan Fontaine. American Movie Classics still occassionally airs this one, so keep your eyes peeled.
In 1951, du Maurier released My Cousin Rachel and this one is, thus far in our du Maurier reading journey, A Reader's Respite's favorite. Told from a male, first-person point of view, this is the tale of Rachel, a woman who mysteriously worms her way into men's hearts....right before they die, that is. Whether Rachel is what she seems is up to you, the reader, to decide. This is another Sourcebook's reprint and boy, are we thankful.
Of course, by this point du Maurier was so popular that there was no question that My Cousin Rachel would be adapted for the big screen. The year following the release of the novel, a film was produced starring Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton. As an interesting side note, du Maurier was reportedly less than thrilled with the casting of de Havilland in the role of Rachel. This film, too, shows up occassionally on AMC and is well worth a look (after you read the book, of course!).
Daphne du Maurier wrote quite a few more novels, several plays, and a plethora of short stories throughout her illustrious career, including The Glass Blowers, The House on the Strand, and The Birds (now I know you've heard of that one!). You can read a full bibliography here.
For fans of gothic or historical fiction, du Maurier's books are a must-read and worthy of a spot in your permanent collection.
And if we are really lucky, Sourcebooks will continue to reprint all of du Maurier's works.