The short stories collected in this new Virago edition of The Doll were only recently discovered and thank goodness they were!
I was quite surprised by some of the stories in the collection. The title work, The Doll is unsettling, and… I want to say racy! Du Maurier explores obsession and unrequited love and finishes the tale with a disturbing finale.
The opening story – East Wind, was one of my favourites. The lives of the inhabitants of a remote island are changed forever when a ship arrives. It breezes in, the sailors bringing with them drink and debauchery. The islanders are sucked into a sort of haze, so that when the wind changes and the ship finally leaves, the damage is irreparable.
Piccadilly and Maisie both feature prostitutes. Maisie spends a moment to reflect and dream about a better life before being sucked back into the game. She sees a vision of her future self, but blocks it out preferring to stay with her head in the sand. In Piccadilly, a young girl is led astray by the thief, she has fallen in love with. Well, is she lead astray? She sees signs, that she believes are compelling her along a certain path. Is she stupidly accepting or just resigned to the inevitable when she sees a message in red neon at the end of the platform?
The tale that really gave me the shivers was Tame Cat. Without giving away the main thread of the story, I can say that the main character is a girl who discovers that growing into an attractive young woman is not necessarily as lovely as she expects.
There were a couple of depressing, anecdotal stories about relationships, which seemed cynical for the sake of it – perhaps Daphne was just working out some issues! Otherwise, this collection is as chilling as any of Du Maurier’s other works. For me it is as if in these early stories, she serves up in individual dollops the ideas that she subsequently brought into her later novels. A compelling read for any lover of Du Maurier and a fascinating introduction for those not yet inducted.
Are you a lover of Daphne Du Maurier or are you yet to discover her?