Don’t Look Now – Selected Stories of Daphne du Maurier (1966)

A book of short stories by the Mistress of Macabre, Daphne du Maurier (really Dame Daphne)… Again,      a title that I picked up who knows where and outside my normal reading topics. I am usually not a big fan of short stories, but fabulously, these short stories were actually long enough for me not to feel cheated. (Note to self: how long has a short story has to be before it turns into a novella?)

There are five stories in this particular volume, each with its own level of suspense and weirdness, although on the surface, the stories are pretty non-scary. It’s only as you get through the story and get deeper and deeper into the plot that du Maurier winds the tension up and the end and BAM. Usually some type of twist that you had *no* idea was coming. (I do love me a good unpredictable ending.)

Four of the stories were really well done – interesting, great characters who I really felt for, believable action and that twist at the end. But one story was actually really dreadful. It was a romance of sorts, but between two twisted people with twisted ideas about things so it wasn’t that believable. The story also had not aged well at all – I imagine in the sixties when this was written, there was a lot of shock, horror, awe at some of the things her characters get up (casual s*x, talking about s*x like it’s a grocery list, aren’t we so hip talking about s*x…) but when I read it with twenty-first century eyes, it was eye-rollingly bad. It reminded me of one of the more campy James Bond films from the sixties – all “hot pants and innuendo and rolling around under the sheets” sort of thing.

However, despite that one, the other stories were actually *really* good. She is really good at dialing up the tension in her stories and developing her story – both her characters and their actions are very believable. The last story focused on a group of (very) English people who were in Jerusalem for a trip with their vicar. Their original vicar had become sick and had to stay on their cruise boat, and their pinch hitter vicar was someone who was much younger, not well prepared and who they did not know or really respect. He did his best, but with this particular crowd, there was no winning. As the tour proceeds, various awful things happen to the calamitous tour group individuals, and it ends up as a comedy of errors (except more awful than funny).

This whole book was really very well written, with good plots (excluding that one I talked about). The book was published in 1966, and so this edition had well read pages that were yellowing around the edges from age, each page fell open (as evidence of much use), and it was just the right size. ( I know these characteristics are not about the actual writing per se, but I think they all add to the overall package of the reading experience…but then I am a nerd.)

I saw the film of “The Birds” when I was about twelve, and couldn’t go out outside for ages without having to think myself “Cover your eyes”…. I still think that to this day when I see a flock of black birds flying around… And apparently, “Don’t Look Now” was made into a film during the 1970’s but haven’t seen it or heard about it…

So – overall grade for this book – not bad, but nothing to shout from the rooftops. I thought “Rebecca” was waaay better…

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