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Myself When Young: The Shaping of a Writer…

Myself When Young: The Shaping of a Writer (1977)

by Daphne du Maurier

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Not many today are likely to remember the writer Daphne du Maurier. I first read her novels when my aunt stayed with us in Calcutta for a few months for her confinement, bringing with her a number of novels. They were mostly by Daphne du Maurier and Monica Dickens. Inveterate reader that I was, I polished off Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, and perhaps The Scapegoat. Monica Dickens’ novels proved to be too heavily female oriented for my schoolboy tastes. It was, of course, the dizzying success of Rebecca that made Daphne du Maurier (DDM from now on) a household name. It was my memories from school of reading DDM that induced me to bring her memoir, Myself When Young: The Shaping of a Writer, from the library.

DDM was born to one of the leading actors of the London stage, Gerald du Maurier (D in the book), towards the beginning of the 20th century; her mother was an actress. He upbringing was privileged, and her description of their family life reminded me of Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster stories: the same indolent ease of the English upper classes, the maids and butlers, holidays in Europe, sprawling country houses, opulent lunches, famous house guests (Edgar Wallace, for example, was a close friend of her father), etc. Her older sister Angela slipped easily into this undemanding lifestyle, but DDM was cut from a different cloth. From an early age, she tended to be a loner, a voracious reader, and last but not least, a writer. Right from her teens she had begun maintaining a journal, which she often quotes from in the book.

Her memories of her early childhood, with which the book opens, are extraordinarily vivid. Adolescence, she says, is easier for boys than for girls. Here is her eloquent (and funny in places) account of how her mother educated her about menstruation, and every woman reader will, I’m sure be reminded of her own “initiation” on reading this account. Also, even in these short passages, one can admire her ear for dialogue (the rest of the review is at http://cochinblogger.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/the-curious-love-story-of-daph-and...).
1 vote malabar_reader | Aug 14, 2013 |
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. ( )
  Kasthu | Sep 14, 2011 |
I loved this volume of Daphne du Maurier's. She wrote it at about age 70 from diaries she had written as a young girl and on into her early 20s. She tells of her family, their homes, the countryside in Cornwall where she spent a great deal of her life, her years in school and her close relationship with a teacher that continued all throughout their lives.
I think I especially loved how she spoke of her love of the land, sea, the plant life and her surroundings. She was a very adaptable creature and learned to be happy wherever she was and whatever her circumstances, which were not always ideal. When her father passed away he left them without much and from that point on Daphne, her sister, mother and a friend were very dependent upon her brothers for their housing and livelihood.
She speaks of trying to write and how difficult it was for her most of her early years and the fact that she gave up on all of her writings at one point or another.
I am glad that I read this book before beginning to reread her others, which I am going to try to read in order. It has given me an insight into this author that I never had before. ( )
4 vote rainpebble | Sep 30, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maurier, Daphne duprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Taylor, HelenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
Both her novels and her non-fiction reveal Daphne du Maurier's overwhelming desire to explore her family's history. In Myself When Young, based on diaries she kept from 1920 - 32, the most famous du Maurier probes her own past, beginning with her earliest memories and encompassing the publication of her first book and her subsequent marriage.
Here, the writer is open and sometimes painfully honest about the difficult relationship with her father; her education in Paris; early love affairs; her antipathy towards London life and the theatre; her intense love for Cornwall and her desperate ambition to succeed as a writer. The resulting portrait is of a captivating and complex character.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 184408096X, Paperback)

Both in her novels and her memoirs, Daphne du Maurier revealed an ardent desire to explore her family’s history. In Myself When Young, based on diaries she kept between 1920 and 1932, du Maurier probes her own past, beginning with her earliest memories and encompassing the publication of her first book and her marriage. Often painfully honest, she recounts her difficult relationship with her father, her education in Paris, her early love affairs, her antipathy towards London life, and her desperate ambition to succeed as a writer. The resulting self-portrait is of a complex, utterly captivating young woman.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:05 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The shaping of a writer.

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