>Going down a dark hall

>I’d like to second Elizabeth’s hopes (see comments in Monday’s post) for a Gothic revival. I’ve just finished listening to Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier, narrated by Tony Britton. When I told friends I was reading it, to a woman they started talking about their adolescent (around 10 up, I think) mania for Du Maurier. I vividly remember reading her short-story collection Kiss Me Again, Stranger (could be a Mary Downing Hahn title) and then the collection Don’t Look Now, with the title story providing the story for an astoundingly sexual movie in 1967. Then Rebecca, in college, and that’s all.

I can see how Jamaica Inn could be kind of pulse-pounding for a young teen: there’s the exciting melodrama involving the drunken, dangerous uncle (the heroine, Mary Yellan, thinks he’s a smuggler, but it’s worse) and then there’s Mary’s rather anachronistically saucy badinage with the brooding love interest, and lots of semi-veiled musings on “instinct,” which Mary keeps trying to tell herself is “love” but Du Maurier, semi-misogynistically, won’t let her. The atmosphere and scene-painting are as good as Rebecca–it’s the same landscape (Cornwall) a century earlier.

Is Du Maurier still doing things for teens?

share save 171 16 >Going down a dark hall
Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

Comments

  1. >I don’t know about Du Maurier, but I had a big thing for Victorian romances when I was in high school. It was over-the-top melodrama and flowery language and all this subliminated sex! Which was just my cup of tea.

  2. >I asked that same question last spring. No one seemed to have much knowledge of how Du Maurier is doing with young readers these days.

    At the time I was reading Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel, and Du Maurier’s short story, The Birds, YA was just getting started. There was nothing like the wealth of books directed toward teenage readers that there is now. Nor was there the wide array of fantasy available now. While I do remember reading a little Arthur C. Clarke, I wasn’t aware of science fiction being a big draw back then, either. That exploded after I got out of college.

    So it may very well be that young readers today have a lot of other options and don’t turn to older authors.

  3. Cassandra Mortmain says:

    >I don’t know if I still count as a young reader, as I am now 22, but I certainly read Rebecca when I was 15, and I believe it still shows up frequently on summer reading lists, so I wouldn’t be surprised if other teens find her the same way.

  4. Anonymous says:

    >Yes, when I was in high school, Rebecca was unconventional and great. Later I discovered Victoria Holt, who also wrote Gothic romances, and she was a substitute for Du Maurier because I was unaware of her other books until I ran into them in a college library by accident.

  5. >Don’t Look Now continues to freak me out, in the very best way…I second the call for a gothic revival. Even though they never left, bring back the Brontes!

    - Kathe

  6. Elizabeth says:

    >Oh, Victoria Holt! I was trying to remember her name when I wrote the comment on Roger’s post, below, on trends. I loved her in high school.

    I am interested in Melinda’s comment about the submlimated sex in those great Victorian and gothic novels. I would suggest that all that deep, brooding sexual tension–without tangible description and usually without consummation until the end of the novel– can be a very good fit for the teen and preteen. Their hormones are beginning to rage, and they are filled with longing…without perhaps being ready for the real thing.

  7. Roger Sutton says:

    >Victoria Holt was too girly for me but I loved Barbara Michaels. I’d like to see a literary mashup with Don’t Look Now‘s murderous Venetian dwarf with Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti!

  8. Anonymous says:

    >Does anyone else remember GEORGETTE HEYER? A teenager’s delight!

  9. >When I first saw this post, I was hoping it would be about Lois Duncan—who was all the rage in my middle school. Down a Dark Hall was probably my favorite of her books.

    But a post about Daphne du Maurier is even better. I hope the kids still like her stuff, we’re publishing a selection of her creepy stories next fall. The title story is “Don’t Look Back.” Actually, I would wager that some of the “tame” stuff is actually freakier than the more explicit end of the spectrum.

  10. >I thought that there would be a link to our blog here, but by “we,” I mean New York Review Books Classics http://www.nyrb.com.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    >Oh, Lois Duncan! A Gift of Magic was the big book of my 7th grade, passed eagerly from reader to reader. Then my sister and her friends were all hooked on I Know What You Did Last Summer, and I loved Stranger with my Face. Are you listening, writers? Ou sont les neiges d’antan?

  12. Roger Sutton says:

    >One of the most gothic experiences of my career was when I interviewed Lois Duncan for SLJ on the occasion of her winning the Edwards Award. We were doing it by phone, and there were elaborate preparations because Lois and her husband were “in hiding.” When we spoke, she wouldn’t even tell me where she was calling from, explaining that they were afraid of the people who murdered their daughter Kait, and though–here’s where it moved from mystery-and-detective to Barbara Michaels territory–they had been in touch with Kait regularly via dreams and a psychic. Brrrr!

  13. >I had no idea about the true-crime story in Lois Duncan’s life. How very strange. I found an interview with her at http://www.teenreads.com/authors/au-duncan-lois.asp and discovered that she’s kind of a hard-ass!

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