Back in November I went on a book buying spree and one of the books I bought was Daphne du Maurier’s Don’t Look Now, a collection of short stories. I picked the book up at the start of January and finished it within a couple of days.
Du Maurier is most well known for her novel “Rebecca” which was made into a film in 1940 directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier. I read the book many years ago and was gripped by the gothic tale of the deceased first Mrs de Winter (the titular Rebecca) whose memory continues to haunt her husband, his second wife (also the narrator) and Mrs Danvers, the malevolent housekeeper. I also read My Cousin Rachel, an excellent novel about jealousy and the havoc it can wreak upon a relationship. Du Maurier also wrote the short story upon which Hitchcock’s film “The Birds” was based.
Du Maurier is a mistress of suspense and an amazing story teller in the classic mould. Although her work was usually sold as romance, her writing was in fact far more sinister and gothic than the genre usually allows for. Her technical grasp of plot and tension is excellent and she keeps the reader turning the pages until the early hours of the morning.
“Don’t Look Now” is the first of the five stories within the collection. The story is probably familiar to most people from the film version starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. I had never seen the film and so the plot was unknown to me. The ridiculous ending made me laugh a little (which I know was not the author’s intention!) but I’m interested to see the film version which is supposed to be truly creepy.
The story in the collection that affected me the most was the third one, “A Border-Line Case”. In this story, Shelagh, a young actress, is the only witness to the sudden death of her father. She takes a trip to Ireland to find an old friend of her father’s and the resulting events seem fairly innocuous until you get to the last two paragraphs when it becomes disturbing in more ways than one.
Du Maurier is a bit of a one trick pony and at times she reminds me of Wilkie Collins in terms of the suspenseful subject matter she chooses and the way in which she handles it. However if you haven’t read Rebecca it’s definitely a must read and my favourite of hers so far.