“Daphne du Maurier, Haunted Heiress”


Nina Auerbach
192 pages; $24.95 cloth

“My experience with Daphne du Maurier has always been the same. I devour her, leave her, and vaguely decide that she satisfied some immature neurotic need in me that I no longer have. Then some years later I read her again and I fall into her world. . . . She’s a complex, powerful, unique writer, so unorthodox that no critical tradition, from formalism to feminism, can digest her.”

So writes Nina Auerbach, the John Welsh Centennial Professor of History and Literature, in her new book, “Daphne du Maurier, Haunted Heiress,” a re-evaluation of du Maurier as a writer and cultural figure.

While Daphne du Maurier is best known for “Rebecca” and the romance novel “Frenchman’s Creek,” she was a prolific author who has not been appreciated critically for her importance as a woman writer, Auerbach argues. Columbia Professor Carolyn G. Heilbrun agrees, explaining that Auerbach has rescued du Maurier from her “Rebecca” fate, “giving her her due, and indicating one of the ways in which women, disliking the assigned female role, learn to live with it and vindicate their sense of deprivation through writing.”

The book, just published, has already garnered national attention, with Library Journal praising Auerbach’s “engaging prose style that reveals her literary passion for du Maurier” and Booklist praising its accessibility and stating that Auerbach’s “analysis of du Maurier’s handling of both female and male characters is particularly instructive.”

“Daphne du Maurier, Haunted Heiress” is the first book in a new Penn Press series, Personal Takes, in which noted critics write about the persistent hold particular writers, artists or cultural phenomena have had on their imaginations.


—University of
Pennsylvania Press

Originally published on December 2, 1999