Daphne Du Maurier is always an author that I adore but also worry about every time I read. I have always loved her books, in fact I have actually really loved all of her books so far, yet I always think the next one could be the one that puts me off. So with a mixture of excitement and trepidation I opened up my copy of ‘The Birds & Other Stories’ (have you noticed I am slowly but surely becoming a short story convert?) little did I know I was about to open up what is quite possibly my favourite short story collection so far.
From having read previous Daphne Du Maurier’s short stories , and indeed her full novels, I do like it when she goes to the darker side of both her fictional writing, humour and thoughts on human nature and ‘The Birds & Other Stories’ is really like a distilled collection of just those tales. It is of course ‘The Birds’, which is probably the most famous of all her short stories and which gets a full mention in the title, that most people will think they know because of the Alfred Hitchcock film. In actual fact the story is nothing like the film apart from the fact that birds do turn on humans. I would say that (having watched the film again since) Daphne’s original version is much darker and with its setting of a family living in a small town by the English seaside it actually creeped me out much more. What’s great about this collection is that the most famous story isn’t even the best.
I’m not going to give you the ins and outs of each and every tale, or why would you buy them (and I highly recommend you do), but I think a nice taster would be of benefit – and I have made sure I don’t give big things away just a hint or two. ‘The Little Photographer’ is all about a surprising love affair in a hot bored summer that soon turns bad and with devastating consequences, just when you think it couldn’t twist any more… it does. Along similar lines, and yet totally different (if you know what I mean), ‘Kiss Me Again, Stranger’ is one of the most macabre tales in the collection on how love at first sight can blind you from the truth. ‘The Old Man’ is a harrowing family drama and to even hint what Du Maurier does to turn this on its head would ruin everything especially as it’s the shortest story in the collection.
My two absolute favourites however were ‘Monte Verita’ and ‘The Apple Tree’ – though ‘The Birds’ wasn’t far behind, I just thought I new it better than these two which I had never heard of before. When ‘Monte Verita’ opened with two leading male characters who spend most of their spare time rock climbing, I admit I thought ‘oh dear’. Slowly and surely Du Maurier weaves in a mysterious lover and the story of a mysterious legend deep in the mountains of a far off land and soon I was completely hooked. My very favourite of the stories had to be ‘The Apple Tree’ which is a superb and really creepy tale of unease all based on the relationship between a widow and old gnarled apple tree in his garden. Oh so subtly from minor little goings on after his wife’s death Daphne builds and builds odd happenings and you will soon be preying the protagonist doesn’t do just what you know he is going too.
I actually cannot recommend this collection enough. In fact I would say this book might actually get a re-reading over the next few weeks as the darker nights draw in. Even though I have already read them I have no doubt that Du Maurier’s words could build the tension again and again and leave me feeling pleasantly chilled. This is a collection I know I will return to again and again.
A book that will: have you curled up and gripped through the night. Afterwards you might want to leave the lights on and certainly won’t want to walk past cemeteries late or night, or even an orchard! 10/10
Can you tell I thoroughly enjoyed this book? What made it even more delightful was that I then discovered I could take two books of the TBR as my rather rare (with its wonderful cover) copy of ‘Kiss Me Again, Stranger’ is the American title of the 70’s edition of the same collection only in a slightly random order and with two additional stories which can be found in ‘The Breaking Point and Other Stories’. So which Du Maurier’s have you read? Has anyone else given this or any of her other short stories a go? What’s your current favourite short story collection?