Who is Daphne du Maurier? Carrie Johnson gives Jill Biden novel by Cornwall-loving author

Writer is one of Britain's most celebrated suspense novelists

Daphne du Maurier became an unlikely talking point before Friday's G7 summit after one of her novels was given to US first lady Jill Biden by Carrie Johnson.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and new wife Carrie met US President Joe Biden and Jill on Tuesday where they posed for photos and spoke to the press on Cornwall's seafront in south-west England.

During their meeting, Mrs Biden was given a first edition copy of The Apple Tree – a collection of short stories by 20th-century British author Daphne du Maurier, who lived in Cornwall, the picturesque corner of England that is hosting the G7 summit. Her husband was given a framed photograph of a British mural depicting black 19th-century abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

English novelist Dame Daphne du Maurier (1907 - 1989).   (Photo by Edward Gooch Collection/Getty Images)

Douglass escaped slavery in the United States, going on to become an abolitionist leader who toured Britain and Ireland, the latter a country with which Mr Biden has ancestral ties.

Mr Biden cited Douglass in a 2020 speech on race at a time when the country was confronting questions on contemporary and historical racial injustice sparked by a protest movement that spread to Britain.

Mr Biden reciprocated by presenting Mr Johnson, a keen cyclist, with a US-made bicycle and helmet and giving a silk scarf and leather bag made by military wives for his wife Carrie.

The mural is painted on the wall of a residential street corner in Edinburgh – a city where Douglass stayed on his tour – by artist Ross Blair who used the hashtag #blacklivesmatter when first unveiling the piece online in 2020.

Global leaders are in Cornwall for the G7 summit on Friday, during which they will discus climate change, the pandemic and economic recovery.

The event itself will take place at Carbis Bay near St Ives – an idyllic, upmarket seaside town known for its museums, art galleries and restaurants.

The area is also the setting for many novels written by du Maurier, a writer known for her page-turning prose and suspenseful plots.

2CX0JXW Portrait of Frederick Douglass (1818-95),  an American social reformer, abolitionist and statesman by Ross Blair on a wall in Edinburgh.

The works of du Maurier will no doubt be familiar to Mrs Biden, who for more than four decades has taught English and writing to disadvantaged pupils.

Du Maurier became one of Britain's most celebrated novelists in the postwar period, despite initially being dismissed by critics for her narrative style.

Her books, often described as gothic with paranormal undertones, were hugely popular with the public and served as inspiration for major Hollywood titles, including Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.

Born into an artistic and well-off family in London in 1907, du Maurier spent much of her life by the Cornish coast where she eventually passed away, aged 81.

Her work Rebecca has never gone out of print since it was first published in 1938 – a testament to her ongoing appeal to readers across generations.

That work eventually catapulted her to popular acclaim in Britain, selling more than three million copies in the decades after publication.

But fame did not sit easily with du Maurier, who slid into reclusiveness before her death in 1989.

Other notable titles of hers include Jamaica InnMy Cousin Rachel and The Scapegoat, novels driven by mysterious characters, noirish plots and a picturesque Cornish setting.

Many readers will see strong similarities in more modern fiction such as Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

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