Tag Archives: Daphne Dumaurier

Don’t Look Now and Other Stories – Discovering Daphne Readalong #4

4 stars 4/5

Thanks to Simon lending me his library copy of Don’t Look Now and Other Stories on Monday (after I was able to hunt out my own last weekend), I am able to conclude Discovering Daphne! This copy might have travelled some 200 miles from its home in Manchester, but within the pages of this short story collection I travelled much further, from Venice to Israel, Crete to Ireland.

Don't Look Now and Other Stories by Daphne Du Maurier

Penguin Modern Classics, 2006 paperback edition (first published as a collection in 1971), 272 pages - loan

Don’t Look Now is the first story, and the most famous (made into a film with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christy in the 1970s), was a re-read for me, yet it lost nothing in the telling. I decided on a whim to read all the stories in a muddled-up order instead of one after the other, which I usually do.  I feel it was rather apt to finish Discovering Daphne with the spooky Don’t Look Now on Halloween! Daphne du Maurier is a mistress of atmosphere and as she does in Rebecca where she takes the reader through the gardens of Manderley, she conjures the labyrinthine streets of Venice, romantic by day, haunting and oppressive by night. A couple are on holiday in this beautiful city, there trying to forget the loss of their little girl and mend their relationship, but the story takes a turn for the unusual when they bump into two strange old ladies. Don’t Look Now is probably my favourite short story, or at least it’s my favourite short spooky story. Luckily I hadn’t seen the film the first time I read this (although I have now and I have to admit it’s rather dated but creepy in the way that 70’s horror movies almost inherently are), so I was quite taken aback by the nasty little twist at the end and I found it almost as suspenseful the second time around. This is a brilliant, chilling tale.

Not After Midnight is about a schoolmaster who takes a holiday in Crete. Looking forward to enjoying painting the Mediterranean seascape, he finds that his peace and quiet is shattered by an over-loud American man, named Stoll who is staying at the same hotel with his long-suffering wife. As the story develops, the schoolmaster has a disconcerting feeling that something is not right on his idyllic island. When I first picked up this collection of stories and read Not After Midnight perhaps I was just not in the right mood because I found it a bit dull, but for some reason the second time around it really unsettled me. I think I missed the little hints of what was to come when I read it before and this time I was really absorbed. It is a strange little tale and perhaps would lose something for a reader with no understanding of Greek myth but I really enjoyed it.

In A Border Line Case a young aspiring actress, goes on a journey to Ireland to find an old friend of her recently deceased father. While on the Emerald Isle she is practically kidnapped by the locals and spends an unusual night with her father’s old comrade. I don’t want to give anything away but suffice to say this is one of the more shocking tales in the series! I’m not quite sure whether to think it’s a little too bizarre or just brilliantly nasty.

I enjoyed the descriptions of Jerusalem in The Way of the Cross but wasn’t really gripped by the storyline. All the characters were horrible apart from poor hormonal Mrs Foster and pathetic Miss Dean. This doesn’t normally put me off but I think that perhaps there were just too many different personalities in a short story for me to really be invested in what was happening with them.

The Breakthrough was a curious experimental piece – a mix of the spiritual and scientific (something that du Maurier also plays with in The House on the Strand.) It wasn’t quite my cup of tea and I also wasn’t convinced by how quickly the main character came to believe in the research that he was doing, but it is original and I liked the idea that something amazing could be discovered unbeknown to the rest of civilisation in a little backwater somewhere.

Although some stories in this collection stand out much more for me than others, overall I think it’s a perfect way to dip into du Maurier’s work. It is also interesting to read because it was written much later than her better known novels, so feels quite modern. If you like a good scary story then it’s worth buying for Don’t Look Now and some of the others in the collection are just as dark if not more so. My advice is to make you’ve got a nice cup of tea to take away the chills after reading this one.

The Guardian also chose Don’t Look Now as a reading choice for October – you might enjoy heading over to read the comments and commentary here, or read this excellent review by Simon, my lovely Discovering Daphne co-host.

Did you join in with the Don’t Look Now readalong or have you perhaps been tempted to pick up a copy?

The Doll, by Daphne Du Maurier

4.5 stars4.5/5

The short stories collected in this new Virago edition of The Doll were only recently discovered and thank goodness they were!

The Doll, Daphne Du Maurier

Virago Press, paperback, 2011 edition, 224 pages - review copy.

As a big fan of Daphne Du Maurier, I found it fascinating to read her early work and gain an insight into the author who went on to write the wonderful Jamaica Inn and Rebecca.

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?

Look out for another Daphne Du Maurier related post going up today with a special announcement from Savidge Reads and myself. You can also read his thoughts on The Doll over at his blog.

Venice: A literary list

At the beginning of January I put up a post about my wonderful Christmas present – a trip to Venice, and after I asked other bibliophiles for their recommendations of what to read on holiday, I was nearly as excited about my final choices as the trip itself! Thank you everyone who helped out with my holiday list!

I couldn’t reduce the list to anything less than five, but as they are mostly novellas or short stories. Here they are:

Don’t Look Now & Other Stories – Daphne Du Maurier (Review here)

Death in Venice – Thomas Mann (Review here)

Death a la Fenice – Donna Leon

The Haunted Hotel – Wilkie Collins (Review here)

The Passion – Jeanette Winters (Review here)

A Life in Books

I discovered this little quiz on Claire’s (Paperback Reader) blog the other day and thought it was an interesting challenge. I have to admit that I cheated a little by adding a couple of books I read later last year though! Some answers are better than others…

Using only books you have read this year (2009), answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. It’s a lot harder than you think!

Describe yourself: The Uncommon Reader (Alan Bennett)

How do you feel: A Case of Need (Michael Crichton)- need more time!

Describe where you currently live: Too Close To Home (Linwood Barclay)

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: The Reef (Nora Roberts)

Your favorite form of transportation: The Thirty Nine Steps (John Buchan)

Your best friend is: Rebecca (Du Maurier) – from primary school!

You and your friends are: The Believers (Zoe Heller)

What’s the weather like: In Cold Blood (Truman Capote)- it’s blimmin’ cold today

You fear: The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)

What is the best advice you have to give: One Good Turn (Kate Atkinson)

Thought for the day: To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)-‘tis a sin…

How I would like to die: The Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood)

My soul’s present condition: Possession (A.S.Byatt)

Why not try it for yourself?

Back from a Blogging Hiatus!

Memories of travelling: Sunrise at Changi Beach, Koh Samui April 2009, courtesy of the photographer boyfriend.


Over the last few months I’ve had a bit of a blogging hiatus, due to travelling, job applications and whatnot. Composing cover letters drains all the fun out of writing! But while I might have given the keypad a break I’ve been enjoying catching up on some great books.
There’s nothing like long plane, and bus journeys to give you some good reading time, in fact the only downside was fitting the books into my rucksack and making sure I didn’t have to pay excess! I even sacrificed a pair of shoes to make space for Margaret Atwood’s hefty novel The Blind Assassin. Below is my travel reading list (from which you’ll notice that I managed to get through quite a few on my ‘catch up list’).

  • The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood – A big old pullitzer prize winner full of original ideas as the perfect escapism from cramped hostels in Tokyo.
  • The Parasites, Daphne Dumaurier – A dark little novel exploring the relationship between and the personalities of a group of self-centred siblings enjoyed in the sunshine in Bangkok.
  • No Time For Goodbye, Linwood Barclay – Unputdownable thriller / mystery about a girl who discovers her family have gone missing one morning. Beach reading for Koh Samui.
  • One Good Turn: A Jolly Murder Mystery, Kate Atkinson – Entertaining read about a curious collision of lives pilfered from a hotel bookshelf (I did leave the Parasites in return!) in Koh Samui.
  • Mudbound, Hillary Jordan – A moving story about the struggles of rural living and racial tension in the Mississippi Delta after the second world war, consumed mostly in a hotel room in Ho Chi Minh City.
  • A Case of Need, Michael Crichton – A fantastically battered copy of a 70′s novel about an abortion doctor and a heated legal case read in a very hot, fanless guesthouse in Siem Reap Cambodia.
  • Sovereign, C.J. Sansom – A monkish mystery set in Tudor times that now I think of it has lots of parallels with The Name of the Rose. Fitted in between lots of partying in Sydney!
  • In Cold Blood : A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences, Truman Capote – An incredibly detailed journalists account of a gruesome murder of an all-american family that occured in Kansas in 1959. An instant favourite during my stay in Auckland
  • Just After Sunset, Stephen King – Awful and at times just plain wierd book of short stories, by a usually excellent horror writer.
  • The Body Farm, Patricia Cornwell – My first foray into the Kay Scarpetta novels was entertaining but I still prefer Tess Gerritson and Sophie Hannah
  • The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins – Such an enjoyable classic, I loved the over the top characters and the thick plot while staying on Rarotonga in the Cook Islands
  • The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco – A bit of a struggle to get through the theological philosophising to the actually very good plot while driving around sunny California!
  • The Testament, John Grisham – A multi-billionaire commits suicide and leaves the expected heirs nothing while pledging everything to a daughter who lives a life of a reclusive missionary! A recipe for trouble thoroughly enjoyed on a 2 night stint in an LA hostel.

The stand out novel by far for me was Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood which, on putting down thought ‘I think this might be the best book I have ever read!’. I found the depth to which Capote investigates the characters and the skill by which he conveys them to be truly extraordinary. It’s a book that really got under my skin and it is definitely my ‘new favourite’. Really I should have been organised and planned books for different countries (although I did read In Cold Blood in advance of visiting the States!) but I enjoyed picking up novels I might not normally have read in hostels and second hand bookshops along the way. For instance, I have never particularly wanted to read a Michael Crichton novel or a John Grisham having had some idea that they are the kind of books read by middle aged business-men, but actually really, really enjoyed them to my great surprise and found the writing style to be superb. It just goes to show how important it is to stay open minded about what does and doesn’t make a well written book.