Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Don't Look Now


Here's my first review for the NYRB Reading Week: Don't Look Now by Daphne Du Maurier. As readers of my blog know, I'm a big, big fan of Daphne but I'm not a fan of short stories and that's probably why I've been avoiding her short story collections. However, I must say that I'm quickly being converted. Don't Look Now is probably the first short story collection that I've read straight through. This is an excellent book of just nine stories dealing with the creepy, the sinister and the macabre.

I was already familiar with the first and title story, Don't Look Now, having seen the spine-tingling film from the 70s starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. A couple getting over the death of their daughter are on holiday in Venice and encounter two elderly women with psychic powers. This was my favorite story from the entire book and it makes me want to see the film again which was, in hindsight actually very true to the story and excellently done. This story is a masterpiece that will haunt you for a long time.

My next favorite was Monte Verita, an atmospheric and  very long short story about two men in love with a woman who escapes to a monastery that seems more otherworldly than real.

The Blue Lenses was a creepy and at times darkly humorous story about a woman who undergoes an eye operation only to wake up seeing the humans around her with animal heads. The animals depict the true natures of the persons they inhabit. A snake head for example for a sneaky and two-faced nurse who's having an affair with the patient's husband.

The Birds was made into a Hitchcock film in the 60s but this story is completely different from the movie. It's darker and completely chilling.

La Sainte-Verge is about a sailor's wife who loves her husband blindly and so obsessively that as she kneels in church and prays for her loved one's safe return she literally sees what she believes.

There are four other stories in this book that are worth reading. Each one is a page-turner and so different from the last. This is a  great collection that's worth having on your shelf because you'll definitely be rereading your favorites through the years. As usual, Du Maurier's writing is perfect. Her stories are original and well-crafted as well as vividly atmospheric. Plus to top it off, this wonderful NYRB edition includes an insightful introduction by the writer Patrick McGrath. 

15 comments:

  1. Yay, your first review! Whereas I still have to put mine up. Hopefully within the hour.:)

    I only read my first du Maurier novel, Rebecca, last year, and I loved it. But I have read The Birds in another anthology long ago. And I think that's why I've always been intrigued by her. I loved that short story and was even disappointed by the tamer movie. I'm glad to know her other shorts are similarly macabre.

    Will be sure to find this book now and read it.:)

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  2. The Birds is an amazing short story isn't it - I've still yet to see the film - I think I'd find it terrifying.

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  3. Hi, Mrs. B!

    Of all the NYRB editions that I own, this is the one that I love best!

    Here's my review:
    http://kyusireader.blogspot.com/2009/08/wonderfully-creepy-stories.html

    I just downloaded the movie of Don't Look Now starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland. I must say that it's really faithful to the book. It was a very satisfying experience watching the movie.

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  4. I didn't know she had some short story collections, I will deffo have to look out for these. I'm particularly chuffed that they are ghost stories. Have you read the Edith Wharton ghost stories?

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  5. I'd love to collect all of her books, so far I've only read Rebbecca and Jamaica Inn -loved them both.

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  6. I haven't read any of her short work either, although I am a fan of the short story. These sound great.

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  7. That's a very unsettling cover, but these stories sound great!

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  8. I'm not much of a short story reader either, although I've read a few collections over the year that impressed me quite a bit. I didn't even know that Du Maurier wrote short stories!

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  9. I'm so glad you loved it! I love Daphne du Maurier too, and I think her short stories are some of her finest work.

    But then again, I absolutely love short stories. They're little worlds unto themselves, and have to almost perfect in order to work at all. No spare words in a short story!

    Roald Dahl's short stories are captivating, I don't know anyone who hasn't liked them. And Somerset Maugham! And, oh dear, please say you have a place in your heart for Katherine Mansfield, one of the best woman writers of all time, who died before she had time to write anything BUT short stories... so sad. They're wonderful upon wonderful - the Garden Party is probably available online...

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  10. I have this book coming to me, I cannot wait!! I'm so excited to read the Patrick McGrath introduction also -- I finished his book, Asylum, a couple of weeks and loved it! He's perfect to do the intro!!

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  11. "Don't Look Now" - Noted! I LOVE short stories! They're my best friend when waiting in lines and such and during school season in the uni. More so if they're creepy and strange and all that. Hahaha. Great review! :)

    If you'd like to read more short fiction, check out AbeBook's list of Best Short Story Collections. I dunno if you've seen it, but here: http://www.abebooks.com/books/story-month-fiction-collections/best-short-stories.shtml

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  12. @Peter S. - I loved Don't Look Now the film!

    @le - I haven't read Wharton's ghost stories. Yet another to add to my growing wish-list.

    @jane- Of Human Bondage by Maugham is one of my favorite novels but I haven't read his short stories. I'll check them out and I'm ashamed to say I have 3 books by Mansfield on my shelves but I haven't read them yet. I'll check if I have The Garden Party.

    @Coffee and a Book Chick - I enjoyed Asylum too and his introduction to Don't Look Now is pretty good.

    @litstuff - Thanks for the link. I'll definitely look this up.

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  13. I've been meaning to read a book by Daphne Du Maurier. I find a lot of book lovers enjoy her stories, especially Rebecca. However, I'm still not 100% sure if i'm ready for her works. I've seen this particular book in Fullybooked. I might consider giving it a try. Thanks for the review and i'm starting to think that at the end of NYRB week I'll be armed with a book shopping list.

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  14. Lovely review Mrs. B! Hope you have fun with the NYRB Reading Week! :)

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  15. This was the first (and remains the only) du Maurier I'd read and I positively loved it. I couldn't get over how good she was at pacing, tension, atmosphere. A truly skilled writer. And the stories really stick; I still think of them.

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