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Press release

  • 22 May 2007

What was Daphne du Maurier really saying in Rebecca?

Nearly 70 years after the first publication of her best-selling gothic novel, Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier's serious contribution to popular literature is being celebrated by the literary establishment.

On Saturday, 26 May, as part of the Charleston Festival and to celebrate the 100th anniversary of du Maurier's birth, University of Sussex creative writing lecturer Dr Sue Roe chairs a discussion to examine the author's enduring appeal.

She is joined by journalist Justine Picardie, whose novel, Daphne, is about the interplay between Rebecca and its author; Nicholas Roeg, director of the film version of 'Don't Look Now'; and Nell Leyshon, whose stage play of the same short story is premiered this year.

Dr Roe, who is also convener of the University's MA in Creative Writing and Authorship, says: "Daphne du Maurier writes brilliantly about power relationships between men and women and she had an extraordinary imagination. There's a lot about landscape and about what happens in the far reaches of the creative mind. She manages to bring these elements together in provocative ways."

Born into a rich, artistic family in Cornwall, du Maurier had a privileged early life. She travelled the Continent, sailed boats and then began writing the stories that brought her great fame and more wealth, such as The Progress of Julius (1933) and Jamaica Inn (1936). Although her stories were not experimental like those of some of her contemporaries, nor did she tackle the more serious and weighty issues of her generation, she appealed to the popular audience's taste for fantasy, mystery and sexual passion.

Her short stories, such as 'The Birds', adapted for the cinema by Alfred Hitchcock, and 'Don't Look Now', the movie version of which starred Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, explore profound emotions such as fear and the survival instinct, says Dr Roe, who is also running a workshop as part of the Charleston Festival on the composition of du Maurier's major work.

Dr Roe adds: "Although du Maurier has always been considered a popular writer, she is now being studied more seriously. People are increasingly fascinated by what it is that reaches the popular imagination, and Du Maurier inspires and intrigues people from all walks of life."

Sue Roe is the author of the internationally acclaimed The Private Lives of the Impressionists.

Notes for editors

The discussion: 'After Rebecca': Why has du Maurier's work entered popular imagination and inspired so many artists?' is on Saturday, 26 May at the Charleston Festival.  Tickets available from the Brighton Festival Box Office, Tel 01273 709709


University of Sussex Press officers Jacqui Bealing and Maggie Clune, Tel: 01273 678888, Email:


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