Thursday, 3 April 2008

Reading Daphne Backwards

You may have noticed a few days ago on Karen's blog that we have a little project planned together: Reading Daphne Backwards. Twyla Tharp, apparently, recommends reading an author's work from their final offering, backwards to their first. I commented on Karen's blog to say how interesting that sounded, and that I hadn't read much Daphne du Maurier (just the exemplary Rebecca under my belt). Karen was also thinking du Maurier territory, and thus a project was born. I hesitate to say Challenge, because those always make me want to hide under the covers and read something else... so Reading Daphne Backwards is a lengthy project, which we aim to have finished by the end of 2008.

The idea is to see how a novelist progressed, but in reverse. What themes become stronger; which weaker? What were their basics of writing, to which the reverse read will draw? It may reveal nothing at all, but it should be fun nonetheless...

First thing to do, buy the books. Bless the The Book People - they had a boxset of ten
Daphne novels for £9.99. Fancy a link to it? Here you are then. I don't know how they do it, but I'm glad they do - and the boxset arrived this morning. It doesn't include all the novels and stories, but I think I'm going to stick to the ones they do have there, for now. The Scapegoat is at home in Somerset somewhere... but I don't think I'll run out of Daphnes for a while.

The running order, then, is:

The Flight of the Falcon

Castle Dor
My Cousin Rachel
The Parasites
Frenchman's Creek

Jamaica Inn
I'll Never Be Young Again
and The Rendevous and Other Stories will have to slot in somewhere...

Do feel free to join in, or just watch as Karen and I compare notes on our blogs.


  1. Hello. What a wild idea. Does it assume clear progress is made from first to last? one would hope for that I guess, but I'm not sure... Perhaps some authors go a bit sideways or round about. And then there's Iris Murdoch, who might have been my choice for such a romp, except that her last novels were a bit off. And if I'd started with them, I probably wouldn't have gone back to the others. But that's maybe a special case.
    I do hope you thoroughly enjoy the project; and do report back.

  2. I have the same set from The Book People - what a bargain! I have never thought of reading an author's work backwards before... may have to give it a try.

  3. Thank you for introducing me to the great Book People site. What bargains!!

    Don't forget Daphne's short stories when you've read the back list, from whence came Don't Look Now. (The Julie/Donald sex scene is mercifully missing!)I've just flipped through it and got hooked on The Way of The Cross - must stop now or that will be another morning that I haven't done the ironing!

  4. Something that can be really interesting is to read a series of books - that is, one where you're supposed to read them in the order they were written - in entirely the wrong order. I did this unintentionally with Terry Pratchett's Discworld series (which I suspect you won't have read, Simon) - I began with the 20th book, Hogfather, then worked both forwards and backwards.

    Although you do lose some of the suspense of the series, it can be really interesting to see a character at one point, then go back through the series to find out what has made them into that character. Susan from Hogfather, for example, is a really complex and strange character - meeting her parents in a much earlier book revealed a whole lot about her, and made Hogfather even better than it already was.

  5. I'm so addicted to going the other way that it would take a bit of a brainstorm to try it this way round. But, oh that book set. I have five of the novels already. Can I possibly justify buying it just to get the other five?

  6. Of course you can justify that! It's still only £2 each for the five novels you don't have... and now you'll have spare copies to give people. It's practically charity...

  7. I like calling these reading projects "projects" too. I've got several going (on my own slow speed!). Daphne has been one of them--I've read some of her novels and short stories and want to read all of them eventually. Last year I read the bio by Margaret Forster. So I'll be watching your project closely! Since I've already read some of the novels (in no order at all), I won't attempt to join in, but if you keep us posted on what novel is up next, maybe I can read along with one or two during the year. Will you have a class outing at some time to Menabilly?

  8. And plenty more besides these - The House on the Strand, The King's General, Hungry Hill, Mary Anne....

  9. What a lovely set. I finally got around to purchasing Rebecca - on your recommendation Simon - and it alone cost me 6 pounds.

    I look forward to hearing how the experiment goes.


  10. She wrote so much! And you have to end with Loving Spirit - her first big adventure into publishing. The House on the Strand is also a must and.....
    have fun!

  11. I'll be the third person to mention The House on the Strand, squeeze it in if you can. And I also love Terry Prattchet. :-)

  12. I used to love Daphne du Maurier novels when I was in my teens and twenties and read most of them then. I read The Scapegoat a few years ago and didn't enjoy it as much as I'd hoped, but that could have been just a question of time and place. Rebecca is a wonderful book, and My Cousin Rachel is also great. Good luck with that huge pile!

  13. I will tell you how THE BOOK PEOPLE do it. They give the publishers almost nothing for the rights and the authors get about 000000.1% of that nothing. So for example, if they bought 10,000 copies of a book of mine I would receive around £150. You say it is practically a charity, Indeed, at the expense of the authors. I am not one to go on about discounting and I am lucky enough to make a very good living. Nevertheless, 150 pounds for 10,000 copies of a book of mine - and indeed of anyone else`s - is a disgrace. I would absolutely rather give a free copy to anyone who asked me. The only benefit from the publisher`s point of view is that it enables them to print on the back of the order, thus bringing their own printing costs down with a bang. So don`t look on The Book People as people wearing shiny haloes. Mr Ted Smart who owns it has made many mega millions on the backs of people like me.


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