Book Review: "Daphne" by Justine Picardie

Updated on September 1, 2019
AdeleCosgroveBray profile image

Adele Cosgrove-Bray is a writer, poet, and artist who lives on the Wirral peninsula in England.

3 stars for Daphne by Justine Picardie

What's It About?

A young woman is adjusting to life as the second wife of an older man. Paul is a self-assured lecturer in English who considers his new wife's interest in Daphne du Maurier's novels to be low-brow, and consequently is dismissive of his wife's intention to base her PhD thesis on this popular author.

Stepping back in time, Daphne du Maurier is intent on uncovering how great a contribution to his more successful sisters' writings may have made by Bramwell Brontë. She suspects some poems and texts allegedly by Emily or Charlotte were actually written by Bramwell, the womens' signatures having been forged later on in order to increase the market value of their manuscripts and notebooks.

Into the story comes Alex Symington, an avid collector of all things Brontë. Du Maurier exchanges a series of letters with him in the hope of gaining more information for her book which she later titled The Infernal World of Bramwell Brontë. Symington's reputation is tarnished with accusations of theft from several Brontë collections, but this is unknown to du Maurier as she trustingly funds his research on her behalf, and she purchases a few items of Bramwell's works from Symington's own collection.

While du Maurier is struggling to cope with her difficult marriage to an unfaithful husband who is recovering from a nervous breakdown, the present-day PhD student is struggling to deal with her own increasingly remote husband who now seems to regret having married a younger version of his first wife who also was fascinated by Daphne du Maurier's novels.

Gradually, the two separate threads of Picardie's Daphne are brought together in a satisfying conclusion.

About the Author

Justine Picardie is Editor-In-Chief of the British editions of Harper’s Bazaar and Town & Country magazines. She writes fashion articles for these magazines, and has written five books including a biography of Coco Chanel, a book about fashion and fashion designers, and a book which recounts her experience of grief following her sister's death.

She is married to Philip Astor, a barrister, who is her second husband, and has sons from her first marriage to musician Neil MacColl.

What's to Like?

A reader need not be familiar with the lives of either Daphne du Maurier and her well-connected family, or with the tragic Bramwell Brontë and his more accomplished sisters to appreciate Picardie's novel, which is supposed to be partially based on actual events.

Daphne weaves together a pleasingly complex web of plot lines, and spans two time-frames with ease. I've enjoyed reading du Maurier's novels for years, and so a work of fiction based on her life had immediate appeal.

Exactly where fact merges with fiction is unclear, as some of this novel is allegedly based on historical events, but as this is a clearly marketed as a novel this is unimportant, though the author has clearly gone to great lengths to study the history of the real-life du Maurier and Brontë families.

Several ghosts of du Maurier's Rebecca pleasingly haunt the plot. After all, Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca owes much to Emily Brontë's Jane Eyre, and many of the characters seem to haunt each other throughout this engagingly tangled story.

I very much liked the PhD student's position by the novel's end, when she truly begins to flex her wings at last.

What's Not to Like?

A huge amount of research has gone into Daphne, so much so that the author might have chosen to write a non-fiction book if she had desired to do so. A novel's primary task, however, is to entertain and in places this novel's pace and prose becomes too weighed down with academic information to allow it to really shine as a work of fiction.

I have to wonder why the fictionalised du Maurier took Symington at face value, when his correspondence was so laden with procrastination and obvious excuses. Why would she have relied on him as her sole source of information about Bramwell Brontë when she could have approached the Brontë Society and Lord Brotherton, who was president of that society, directly?

The name of the PhD student who narrates her part of the story was not revealed. I would have liked the PhD student's character to be more well-rounded, as the reader learns little of her life outside of her misguided marriage and her PhD studies.

Also, I find it unlikely that anyone would agree to drive off on a day trip with their husband's ex-wife, never mind be an accomplice in that ex-wife's crime.


The biographical and bibliographical information in this article came from:

  3. Amazon UK

Cast Your Vote!

Have you read Daphne by Justine Picardie?

See results

© 2019 Adele Cosgrove-Bray


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)