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Sally Beauman, the novelist, has died

8th July 2016: It is with great sadness that we tell you that the writer Sally Beauman died yesterday. 

Sally, who was the author of Rebecca’s Tale, seven other novels and two non-fiction books about The Royal Shakespeare Company, has died aged 71.  Her most recent novel, The Visitors, was published in hardback in 2014 and in paperback in 2015.

Sally was born in Devon on 25th July 1944.  She was educated at Redland High School, Bristol, and at Girton College, Cambridge.  She began her career as a critic and journalist, writing for New York magazine, the New Yorker, the Daily Telegraph and Vogue, and she was the editor of Queen magazine.  In 1987 her first work of fiction, Destiny, was published and since then she has become a successful and much-loved novelist.

 

Sally Beauman (c) Charles Hopkinson

The book that she is probably best remembered for is Rebecca’s Tale, the companion novel to Rebecca, arguably Daphne du Maurier’s most famous work.  The idea of Rebecca’s Tale came about because Sally commented to Daphne’s son, Kits Browning, that Rebecca’s voice had been utterly silenced.  Almost all that Daphne tells us about Rebecca comes from Maxim or Mrs. Danvers - hardly reliable witnesses.  Kits challenged Sally to give Rebecca a voice.  She questioned the key points in Daphne’s novel – who was Rebecca, why was she murdered and what impact did her death have?  Then, taking existing characters, introducing new ones and giving Rebecca her own opportunity to give us her perspective, she created a novel which moves the story of Rebecca forward whilst still delving into the past.  It is a masterpiece of writing, walking in Daphne’s footsteps but also entirely fresh and new.  She truly does give us Rebecca’s tale. 

Sally attended the Daphne du Maurier festival in Fowey on a number of occasions, particularly during the time she was writing Rebecca’s Tale, the year it was published (2001) and in 2007, when she was a keynote speaker at the town’s Daphne du Maurier International Centenary Conference.  Sally contributed to the wonderful Radio 4 programme Rebecca’s Daughters, broadcast on 15th May 2007 and repeated on Christmas Day of the same year, again to celebrate Daphne’s centenary year.  She also wrote the introduction to the Virago editions of My Cousin Rachel and The Breaking Point and the afterword to Rebecca.  She contributed extensively to The Daphne du Maurier Companion, edited by Professor Helen Taylor and published to mark Daphne’s centenary.

I think it is obvious how very important Sally Beauman was within the world of Daphne du Maurier and I leave it for Daphne’s son, Kits, to say the last words:

Hacker and I will remember Sally with deep affection and admiration. She was a great supporter of the Du Maurier Festival and it was around our dinner table that 'Rebecca's Tale' was conceived and we will always be eternally grateful to her for her splendid book and for the wonderful 'Intros' which she wrote for the Virago editions of Daphne's novels.  She and her husband, Alan Howard, became dear friends and we shall greatly miss the lovely, happy times we shared with them in Fowey and at Ferryside.

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