#DaphneDuMaurier #AnnabelAbbs

Today, Day 4 of my Daphne Du Maurier Blog Tour, I am delighted to be joined by Annabel Abbs, author of The Joyce Girl.

The Joyce Girl

Paris 1928. Lucia, the talented and ambitious daughter of James Joyce, is making a name for herself as a dancer, training with many famous dancers of her day and moving in social circles which throw her into contact with Samuel Beckett. Convinced she has clairvoyant powers, she believes her destiny is to marry Beckett, but the overbearing shadow of her father threatens this vision. Caught between her own ambitions and desires, and her parents’ demands, Lucia faces both emotional and psychological struggles that attract the attention of pioneer psychoanalyst Dr Jung. 

The Joyce Girl was published in June 2016 by Impress Books. You can read my review here

But now I'll hand over to Annabel to hear all about why she loves Daphne Du Maurier! Enjoy reading!

Do you have a favourite book by Daphne Du Maurier and what is it you love about that book so much?

Rebecca is my favourite novel.  It’s brilliantly crafted and plotted. The sense of place is superb. The nightmarish atmosphere of menace is evoked superbly from the very first line.  The writing is beautiful – lyrical, economical, dream-like.  The tension and suspense build at the perfect pace. As a reader, one doesn’t necessarily realise how incredibly difficult this is to achieve – du Maurier makes it look so effortless.  But any novelist will know that a novel this accomplished is a work of genius. 

When did you discover her novels? Were you recommended them? Discover them independently? Which one did you read first?

I discovered Rebecca in my teens, then went on to Frenchman’s Creek and Jamaica Inn.  Later I read one of her more obscure works and found it disappointing.  It put me off her for a couple of decades until my daughter was told to read Rebecca in year 6 by an inspirational teacher who was quite prepared to go off piste. I picked it up and was left breathless, again, by that opening chapter. I then noticed that du Maurier was born three months after the woman I was writing about at the time (James Joyce’s dancer daughter, Lucia).  She died a few years after Lucia, having achieved the full creative life that Lucia yearned for. I was struck by other parallels too: both Lucia and Daphne were flappers, both had unusual and intense relationships with their fathers, both were probably bi-sexual, both were hugely complicated.  So I began re-reading du Maurier.

Frenchman's CreekJamaica Inn

Why do you think her novels still resonant with readers today and what makes them so unforgettable?

She deals with the issue of female entrapment.  Despite progress in the field of women’s rights, many women still feel entrapped.  Until this ends I suspect her novels will continue to resonate. 

How has she influenced your own writing? Or what impact do you think she has had on the psychological thriller genre as we know it today?

Writing a novel that is both literary and gripping is extremely hard.  She achieved it. I tried to do it in The Joyce Girl.  I think Jessie Burton does it in her novels.  And Sarah Waters does it in her novels.  I always wanted my novel to be be ‘page-turning’ but with depth.  Du Maurier does this in spades.

The MiniaturistThe MuseThe Little StrangerFingersmith

Which recent psychological thriller do you think Daphne Du Maurier would have wanted to have written if she were alive today?

A couple of recent debuts remind me of du Maurier and I think she would have approved:
The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley has du Maurier’s incredible sense of place and her sinister and suspense-ful atmosphere, as well as the evolving layers of tension that du Maurier is such a master of.

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller also evokes place and atmosphere superbly, while ratcheting up the tension in a very unsettling way, so reminiscent of du Maurier.   Both these debuts leave one feeling slightly disoriented and very unsettled – things I consider to be trade-mark du Maurier.

Our Endless Numbered Days

To these authors, I would add Susan Hill and Sarah Waters.  Jessie Burton, to a lesser extent, as she’s not really in the gothic genre. But her ability to plot and evoke place are right up there with du Maurier.  And like du Maurier, Burton is unlikely to win a high-brow literary prize or enter ‘the cannon’ simply because she’s been incredibly successful.  This makes me furious!

Have you seen any of the screen adaptations of her books? Will you be going to see My Cousin Rachel? Are you able to enjoy film adaptations or do you find yourself flicking through your paperback and checking for accuracy ?!

I love different interpretations of novels and characters.  They make me challenge my own assumptions and ‘reading values’.  Often I’ll return to a novel with a different lens after seeing a film of it.  I’m a big believer in the phrase ‘No one has the last word on anyone’.  I’m looking forward to My Cousin Rachel but I’d love to see another version of Rebecca.  Apparently there’s a new one in the making. Can Hitchcock’s be beaten? I’m not sure…

If you were able to host a ‘fantasy book group’ and Du Maurier came along, what question might you ask her about her own novels? What question do you think she might set your book group about her novels?

Having seen the recent BBC film about the Brontes (To Walk Invisible – brilliant, watch it on catch-up if you haven’t seen it) I would probe the root of her later obsession with Branwell Bronte.  She wrote a biography of him and it was her least successful book, but I suspect she identified with him in some way – or perhaps she was haunted by the way in which his imagination deserted him? I’d love to know…

Anything else to share while we're talking all things Du Maurier?

Yes please – my fury! Du Maurier was, apparently, very hurt at how disregarded she was by the literary set of her day.  She famously never won a literary prize and serious critics turned their high-brow noses up at her.  But Rebecca contains some of the best writing, plotting and characterisation in English literature.  Frenchman’s Creek and Jamaica Inn are not far behind.

And yet my daughter is studying a module in her A-level English called ‘Women in Fiction 1820-2010’.  This reading list includes the usual suspects: Austen, Eliot, Woolf, Plath, Mrs Gaskell, the Brontes, Rhys and (perhaps more surprisingly but pleasingly) Sarah Waters, Angela Carter and Jeanette Winterson. But why, oh why, isn’t du Maurier there? Please?

Lastly, I’d really recommend Justine Picardie’s biopic novel of du Maurier, Daphne.  This is a light, easy read which manages to bring an older du Maurier brilliantly to life.  There’s a dual narrative which didn’t work quite so well for me, but her chapters on du Maurier are well-researched and fascinating.


Thank you, Katherine, for letting me air my views on this marvellous writer.

Thank you Annabel for sharing all your views on a marvellous writer! Fantastic answers and a few more things to add to my TBR pile. I am definitely ordering Justine Picardie's book today! 

Annabel Abbs

THE JOYCE GIRL won the Impress Prize for New Writers and tells the lost story of Lucia Joyce, a dancer in 1920s Paris and daughter of modernist author, James Joyce.

Longlisted for the Waverton Good Read 2017 Award, selected by The Guardian as a Reader Pick 2016, featured in The Hollywood Reporter (Feb 2017) as a top book-to-film pick, sold in 13 countries. Annabel will be speaking about Lucia Joyce at the Sydney Writers Festival and the Istanbul Literary Festival in May, and at Much Ado Books (Sussex) in June.

If you have missed any stops on this blog tour then click on the links below:
Sam Blake on Daphne Du Maurier

Emily Organ on Daphne Du Maurier

Anna Mazzola on Daphne Du Maurier

You can follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or check out my website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk


  1. I'm really enjoying your Daphne Du Maurier posts this week, and I've especially enjoyed this one with Annabel Abbs. I've just shared on twitter and Facebook :)


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