Rebecca by Daphine du Maurier

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.
Gollancz, 1938; Virago (present publisher).

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…

Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier’s best known novel, has never been out of print in 82 years. It’s generated sequels, retellings, films, tv series, an internationally staged musical, fanfiction, and a system of codes used by a Nazi spy. Some are better than others – but they keep coming.

Only one character in the novel – the villain – is openly lesbian. But to those in the know, the novel was probably always part of queer culture.

Book cover: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (Penguin paperback edition) 1962
Penguin paperback edition, 1962

It’s a novel of two women who fight for a beautiful, ancient house. The male character, Maxim, wears the trappings of a gothic hero. But the story is about the power of Manderley and the war between the female characters: the 21 year old second wife and the housekeeper, Mrs Danvers, who claims the house for the dead first wife, Rebecca.

The story works on many levels and there is something in it for everyone. But gradually the queer content has emerged and, if anything, increased the novel’s appeal.

After du Maurier’s death in 1989, biographies revealed her bisexuality. She saw her creative side as ‘the boy in the box’. He escaped in fantasy and sometimes, in reality. Married with children, she quietly had affairs with women.

Meanwhile, the book, once viewed as a superficial gothic romance, is now seen as a classic – a brilliantly plotted mystery whose characters, like Rebecca herself, have survived – and deepened – long after their time.

This is a summary of a much longer blog which is in preparation on a queer insight du Maurier and Rebecca. One more book in the Lavender Menace Queer Books Archive.

Hot-Blooded Dinosaurs

The Hot-Blooded Dinosaurs: A Revolution in Palaeontology by Adrian Desmond
Blond & Briggs, 1975.

QUEER DINOSAUR DISCOVERED! Some people may remember the ITV series based on this illustrated science book, now found mainly in charity shops. The queer dinosaur in the story of this book wasn’t a reptile, he was a human being – an eccentric from another time, who loved publishing, art, boyish girls and girlish boys.

Title page: The Hot-Blooded Dinosaur

Anthony Blond who founded Blond & Briggs in 1960 was born into a wealthy family who didn’t like him much. His company published everything from classics to trash and liked giving new writers their start. He rescued Simon Raven from drink and debauchery by paying him a salary to write and stay away from London. Raven had earlier written the classic The Feathers of Death, about gay obsession in the military, which was republished by Gay Men’s Press in 1998.

Blond’s autobiography, Jew Made in England (2004), also in the archive, tells the story of his hot-blooded life honestly.

This is a summary of a much longer blog which is in preparation on Anthony Blond and his queer publishing career.

Mortimer’s Deep

Mortimer’s Deep by Simon Taylor
Balnain Books, 1992.

Book cover: Mortimer's Deep

A house of men on an island at the end of the world…

Mortimer’s Deep is a dangerous stretch of water in Fife. It lies between the village of Aberdour and the medieval monastery of Inchcolm on a stark, rocky island. Storms blow up quickly and, even on what starts as a calm day, lives can be lost.

The characters in Simon Taylor’s medieval novel survive the crossing, but they lose their old lives.

How did gay men live in the Middle Ages? Kings and nobles had male lovers or victimised their servants. In monasteries, same-sex relations were probably as common as they are in all-male settings today. There was severe punishment, but also close friendship and loyalty. For some, like Simon Taylor’s characters, the monastery was a home they could not find anywhere else.

Brother Michael flees to Inchcolm to escape his abusive master, Sir William de Mortimer. Michael’s good looks, he tells us, are his curse. His honesty and conscience bring him almost as much trouble.

Brother Simon has a brilliant career in the church in Rome. He is clever, strikingly handsome and ruthless, but his rise to power ends in disaster. In exile on Inchcolm, he is still scheming and involves Michael, his lover, in his web. Royal intrigues, false visions and mysterious deaths unfold – and Michael realises that someone must stop Simon. But it may mean the sacrifice of Michael’s hard-won peace on Inchcolm – or even his life.

The nineties were the age of ‘crossover’ novels and Mortimer’s Deep, a mystery one reviewer called ‘taut as a coiled spring’, is also a gothic novel – centred on the dark island and the monastery, still visible from the Fife coast today. It also has elements of horror and, most of all, a vision of queer history, woven from many sources by Simon Taylor – a medieval scholar and a native of Aberdour.

This is a summary of a longer blog which is in preparation and will appear here soon.

Create your own queer LGBT+ digital books library

You’ve got your own collection of queer LGBT+ books at home, right? We are encouraging you to create your own queer LGBT+ digital books library and then share it with us. Our long term aim is to create a digital archive of queer LGBT+ out of print and hard to find books which will be interactive and accessible on our website.

Here are a few simple steps to set you on your way.

Logo: Libib graphic square
  • Sign up at libib.com
  • Download the Libib app onto your phone or tablet or use the web version on your desktop
  • Start by naming your own digital books library
  • Add all your queer LGBT+ titles using either your phone to scan their barcodes or enter the details yourself
  • Include a description and tag them, eg, queer fiction, lesbian history, trans politics.

Have a look at our Libib page on our website for more detail and for a simple presentation you can download to keep.