All my life I've seen myself as a fan of Daphne du Maurier, based on that seemingly firm foundation of teenage reading, but then I look closely; a read forty years ago of her best known novels and a disgraceful neglect of all the others since.
Things need to sharpen up around here.
The admiration now in need of some substance, reading the whole lot is the only solution and it's proving to be a magnificent endeavour. All helped by the fact that Virago have bought them all back into print of course and ably assisted by that special offer from The Book People which for £9.99 kick-starts any ailing Daphne shelf back into life. Even I couldn't bring myself to write in some of those early and first editions (squashed flies and all) gracing my shelves.
The Parasites written in 1949 comes with an intriguing epigram, 'For Whom the Caps fit' and not difficult to join up the writing and see that the family of children portrayed closely mirror Daphne's own experience of life in a theatrical family.
In particular perhaps Papa.
Delaney, the needy and ego-centric singer and matinee idol with a keen sense of his own requirements to the detriment of all those around him. There's a dancing mother who bears more than a passing resemblance in both life and the loss of same, to Isadora Duncan which deviates from the reality of Daphne's life but it's Julie Myerson in her introduction who confirmed what I thought I was also detecting.
These introductions are best read after the event I find, and it was Julie who identified a central and very Bronte-esque element to The Parasites, specifically a Wuthering Heights element. It was itching away invisibly as I read and suddenly there it was on the surface and ready to be scratched and suddenly a book you've read is exposed in a new light and with whole new layers of meaning.
'...a prime strength of both Bronte and du Maurier is their ability and willingness to imagine and mine the darkest reaches of the human mind, of passion and sexuality (the male and the female side) and of life and death. These are brave writers unafraid to look over the edge into the abyss.'
The big difference also flagged up by Julie is that Wuthering Heights doesn't actually make you laugh out loud, The Parasites most certainly might, not least the scene where Maria Delaney is left alone with her baby for the first time. Nanny has an afternoon off, baby Caroline has not responded to her Gina Ford routine and wakes screaming hours before she should. The ensuing mayhem, if it wasn't quite so awful, would have you in hysterics and thank goodness good old Woolworths had the answer with a dummy.
A book about the exclusivity of the family, the shared history and, in the case of the Delaneys, rather a patchwork of mixed heritage and pedigree all contributing to a secret world impenetrable to outsiders. Everyone takes a hand in the narrative often individually then merging collectively so the blurring of the family from individuals into one entity is seamless and significant.
If separation is to happen then so be it, but drastic measures will be called for and given the scope of Family Delaney you know that just about anything could happen...and it does.
Such a good read, but another lesser known Daphne perhaps? Thankfully yet another of those brought out of mothballs by Virago and it comes highly recommended here.