If you’re looking for the best of Daphne Du Maurier’s novels, this list has you covered. Maybe you’ve heard of the author Daphne Du Maurier, but you aren’t sure which of her books to read first. Or you’re already a fan, and you want to know what to read next. Here are DuMaurier’s seven best novels, perfect for both newer fans of her work and those who have long loved this author’s dark, suspenseful writing.
While Daphne Du Maurier’s bestselling novels were not taken seriously by critics when they were first released, they were instantly beloved by readers. And these novels have since become classics, inspiring many contemporary authors who admire Du Maurier’s ability to create dark, moody atmospheres in her fiction. Du Maurier’s first novel was published in 1931, and from 1931 until her death in 1989, the author published several novels, plays, short fiction, and works of nonfiction. She also has a collection of short fiction that was published posthumously in 2011. This list, however, will focus on the genre she is most known for: her compelling psychological thrillers, crime stories, and suspense novels.
Rebecca is the novel DuMaurier is most famous for. Between 1938 and 1965, over 3 million copies of Rebecca were sold. To this day, Rebecca inspires contemporary fiction, film, and art and remains a favorite for readers everywhere. The story follows an unnamed narrator who has recently married a wealthy widower. But when she moves to the dark and mysterious house in which her new husband lived with his previous wife Rebecca, she discovers that his wife isn’t completely gone. Every part of the house, and every person in it, is haunted by the memory of Rebecca.
My Cousin Rachel is a dark Gothic romance that will keep you thinking about it long after you’ve turned the last page. The novel is narrated by Philip Ashley, a young man who was orphaned as a child and was raised by his bachelor cousin Ambrose. Ambrose intends to make Philip his heir, and everyone is completely content with this arrangement. But everything changes when Ambrose takes a trip to Florence, falls in love with and marries a woman, and mysteriously dies soon after. Philip is devastated by the passing of his cousin and suspicious of his cousin’s widow, Rachel, from the moment he meets her. And yet, in spite of himself, the more time he spends with Rachel, the more he feels drawn to her.
Jamaica Inn was inspired by Daphne DuMaurier's trip to the real Jamaica Inn, which you can still visit in Cornwell, England today. This suspenseful novel tells the story of Mary Wellan and her journey to the haunting Jamaica Inn on the Cornish cost. And while others tried to warn her to stay clear, Mary is intent on honoring her mother's dying wish that she join her Aunt Patience and Uncle Joss Merlyn at the inn. But no warnings could prepare Mary for what dark schemes were being hatched at the inn, or the mysterious man she would fall for in spite of her better judgement.
So many classic adventure novels center on men's stories. But of course, what other author would be more qualified to buck tradition and gift readers with a classic adventure novel with a strong female lead character? Frenchman's Creek is that novel. Lady Dona has a thirst for adventure, and so she escapes the boredom of London’s Restoration Court in search of excitement in Navron, Cornwall. There, she meets French pirate Jean-Benoit Aubéry and begins a love affair with him. Together, they embark on an adventure filled with all the danger and glory Dona so hungered to find. But, of course, danger means consequences, and Dona will ultimately have to risk her life to save the man she loves.
The House on the Strand is a Gothic novel with elements of the supernatural and science fiction. This mixture of genres is reminiscent of Victorian Gothic authors such as Robert Louis Stevenson, but as with all of DuMaurier’s novels, the author creates a style that is wholly her own. Dick Young takes up an invitation to stay in a house owned by his friend Professor Magnus Lane. While staying there, Dick agrees to try a new drug that Magnus has discovered in his scientific research to see what effects it has on him. But once Dick tries the drug, he finds himself doing the seemingly impossible: traveling through time.
If you only read one short story collection by DuMaurier, make it The Birds and Other Stories. This book includes the title short story “The Birds,” which was later adapted into a famous film by Alfred Hitchcock. The other five stories in this collection are great companion works to “The Birds.” All of the stories include the sense of suspense and dread that DuMaurier is so famous for, but this collection also focuses specifically on man’s misplaced sense of dominance over the natural world.
The Scapegoat is a thriller that is completely unputdownable. John and Jean have a chance meeting in a railway station, and immediately they’re shocked by their uncanny resemblance to one another. For the next few hours, they drink together and have pleasant conversation. But before John knows it, he’s extremely drunk, and when he awakes, he discovers Jean has disappeared and stolen his identity. Not knowing what else to do, John assumes the role of Jean and takes over his life.
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Emily Martin received her PhD in English from the University of Southern Mississippi. She currently writes for Book Riot (http://www.bookriot.com/author/emily.martin) and co-hosts the podcast Book Squad Goals (http://www.booksquadgoals.com).