The Birds & Other Stories – Daphne Du Maurier

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?

24 Comments

Filed under Books of 2010, Daphne Du Maurier, Review, Short Stories, Virago Books

24 responses to “The Birds & Other Stories – Daphne Du Maurier

  1. You’ve made this sound so irresistible – how annoying that it’s not amongst the 12 or so books by Daphne du M that I own! I’d sort of stopped reading her, after My Cousin Rachel and The Flight of the Falcon not living up to Rebecca, but maybe I should try her short stories next – I have to be in the right mood for short stories, but I seem to be in that mood at the moment, and have read quite a few this year.

    My favourite collections have always been Bliss and The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield – the first short stories I read – but A Winter Book by Tove Jansson is rivalling them. Currently reading Stories of the Strange and Sinister by Frank Baker, which are definitely a little macabre…

    • Aha, you see this is why I am saving ‘My Cousin Rachel’ until last as I think I would absolutely love it almost as much as Rebecca and so want one of the best to be last.

      The Birds, in fact most of her short story collections, are brilliantly dark – she is queen of the short I think in my humble opinion.

  2. OMG I have to read this. I loved Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel. And I have also grown to love short stories. This is perfect for RIP!!!

  3. I am one story away from finishing NYRB’s edition of Don’t Look Now — I mean, an hour ago, I just turned the last page of “Kiss Me Again, Stranger.” [Reading du Maurier’s short stories for my project of a month-or-so of strictly short stories.] This collection was my first du Maurier read, and it was stunning. I mean, just love love love her now.

    Also, that one story left? It’s over 80 pages. So I’m taking a deep breath…

    • I have heard that ‘Don’t Look Now’ is one of her best collections of shorts and is weirdly one that I don’t think I own. *Goes off to look at his shelves.* Nope I don’t, drats.

  4. We lived in Cornwall from 1981 – 1995. Menabilly was, and still is, a special place to visit. Thanks to du Maurier, we searched it out in the early days and fell in love with it.

    Having said all that, I don’t possess a copy of ‘The Birds & Other stories’. I’m about to put that right.

  5. I just finished this collection as well and I love the stories themselves but wish that her female characters had been more multi-faceted; the ideas and the creep-factor here are delicious — the pacing and structure remarkable — but her characterization (or lack thereof) made them less enjoyable for me than they might have been. I don’t remember this interfering with my enjoyment of Rebecca or Frenchman’s Creek though, and I’ll definitely read more of her work nonetheless.

    • Ooh, interesting point! I hadn’t spotted this at all, maybe I dont expect that so much in short stories. I thought the dead wife in The Apple Tree was drawn really well. Maybe she looses that a little in exchange for a big story in less pages, then again I didnt notice it. Ooh you have made me think!!

  6. Ooh. I’m usually not one for short stories or creepy tales, but something about this collection sounds really intriguing to me! (maybe just because I’ve seen Hitchcock’s version of the Birds and want to see how the original is different).

  7. I really enjoyed The Birds, but it sounds like I’d love the story more! It seems that the book is almost always better than the movie.

  8. Wow, I can definitely see that you loved the collection! I haven’t read anything by the author yet, but she is on my wish list.

  9. Dot

    I have this collection of her stories too and it’s great. I loved The Birds, very chilling!

  10. I have only read so far Rebecca and this collection of short stories by Daphne, and have loved both. My favourite of the stories was definitely Monte Verita, it was just great how it started so normal and mundane but turned so quickly into a magical and sinister tale which had me gripped. Can’t wait to try more of her work.

    • Monte Verita was brilliant, I so wasnt expecting it, she is fabulous at twists in her short stories and her novels. I do think in her short stories there are more twists or bigger ones though!

  11. novelinsights

    Oh oh oh. I am going to see if the library have this tomorrow!! You have to read Don’t Look Now Simon. Creepsville.

  12. Ross Patrick

    Finished reading Monte Verita yesterday.

    I agree, it is a very powerful story and beautifully written. I really enjoyed how the perception of the narrator changes dramatically in the final few pages, creating dramatic twists for the reader. The reader wants to know the “truth” right?!

    I also thought that for a short story it almost gave too much. I was expecting it to finish much earlier, leaving us high and dry. Not a criticism, but just unusual from short stories I have read so far.

  13. Pingback: The Birds – Daphne Du Maurier (A Spook-tacular Giveaway) | Savidge Reads

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