There are thoughtful Cornish biographies of a number of people. We’ve chosen the following, including Daphne du Maurier, John Betjemen and Rick Stein. Great contrasts!
Rick Stein: Under a Mackerel Sky
Rick Stein’s childhood in 1950s rural Oxfordshire and North Cornwall was idyllic. His parents were charming and gregarious, their five children much-loved and given freedom typical of the time. As he grew older, the holidays were filled with loud and lively parties in his parents’ Cornish barn. But ever-present was the unpredicatible mood of his bipolar father, with Rick frequently the focus of his anger and sadness.
When Rick was 18 his father killed himself. Emotionally adrift, Rick left for Australia, carrying a suitcase stamped with his father’s initials. Manual labour in the outback followed by adventures in America and Mexico toughened up the naive public schoolboy, but at heart he was still lost and unsure what to do with his life.
Eventually, Cornwall called him home. From the entrepreneurial days of his mobile disco, the Purple Tiger, to his first, unlikely unlikely nightclub where much of the time was spent breaking up drink-fuelled fights, Rick charts his personal journey in a way that is both wry and perceptive; engaging and witty.
Manderley Forever: The Life of Daphne du Maurier
Bestselling novelist Tatiana de Rosnay pays homage to Daphne du Maurier, the writer who influenced her deeply, in this startling and immersive new biography. A portrait of one writer by another, Manderley Forever meticulously recounts a life as mysterious and dramatic as the work it produced, and highlights du Maurier’s consuming passion for Cornwall.
De Rosnay seamlessly recreates Daphne’s childhood, rebellious teens and early years as a writer before exploring the complexities of her marriage and, finally, her cantankerous old age. With a rhythm and intimacy to its prose characteristic of all de Rosnay’s works, Manderley Forever is a vividly compelling portrait and celebration of an intriguing, hugely popular and (in her time) critically underrated writer.
John Betjeman and Cornwall “The Celebrated Cornish Nationalist”
This is a lively new account of Betjeman’s life and work and his defining lifelong relationship with Cornwall.
Quintessentially English, Betjeman was an ‘outsider’ in England and doubly so in Cornwall where, as he was the first to admit, he was a ‘foreigner’. Yet, as this book describes, Betjeman also strove to acquire a veneer of ‘Cornishness’, discovering his own Welsh ancestry and cultivating an alternative Celtic identity in Cornwall.
North Cornwall, in particular, was for Betjeman a place of ‘liberation’, where he found relief from the many conflicting pressures in his life.