‘The Birds and other stories’ by Daphne du Maurier

The Birds and other stories

Daphne Du Maurier is one of my favourite authors; she is one of a cherished few who nourishes my dark side. Rebecca is a serious contender for my most loved piece of fiction ever, and My Cousin Rachel is right up there too.

Having said that, I’ve never actually seen a film adaptation of any du Maurier book. Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ though, will be going straight on to my viewing timetable this Autumn.

This collection of stories begins with The Birds, which is a gripping and horrific epic in short form. On one level, it is about a man, Nat, trying to protect his family against a building ominous threat, culminating in an unprecedented attack of nature; freakish, violent and malevolent.

Then, if we consider that this was written with WWII in recent memory, and imagine how it might feel, in a remote location, being under attack and isolated from all communication, with the consummation of a threat which has been underestimated and misunderstood, we can conceive how apocalyptic it would seem. A terrific story.

The second in the collection is Monte Verita, and this is the most lengthy in the book. Fate and destiny, the power of enduring, obsessive love, superstition, worship and fear, and the formidable, indomitable power of nature are all explored in this story. This is arguably the least popular of the collection, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I think I approached this book with the preconception that The Birds was the classic, and from what I already knew about it, believed it would be my favourite. But, I think I loved The Apple Tree the most, because it has the Daphne du Maurier hallmark of taking an (often subconscious) anxiety, and transforming it into a shrouded, crippling dread for her narrator!

This is a story about an elderly, recently bereaved widower, except he’s not in mourning. He’s gained the freedom he appears to have always wanted from his passive-aggressive, shrew-martyr of a wife. I didn’t like him one bit, mind. I was glad of the crippled, wizened, and bent old apple tree in his garden, that haunted and tormented him to distraction. Good on it!

The Little Photographer follows The Apple Tree, and to me, it has the feel of Roald Dahl’s ‘Tales of the Unexpected’. The young Marquise, basking, bored and beautiful, is on a luxury holiday with her two children and their nanny. She lures a local to whom she has a vague attraction, to take some photographs of her in various locations and poses. A one-sided obsession begins; the story takes a dark turn and by the end, there is the sobering sense that no-one can escape the consequences of their actions.

Kiss Me Again, Stranger is I think, my least favourite of the collection. A young war veteran becomes obsessed with an usherette at his local cinema. The urban equivalent of a siren story.

The Old Man. What a story!! A voyeuristic neighbour becomes obsessed with the comings and goings at the home of an individual, known only to us as ‘the old man’. He has a wife, with whom, our narrator observes, he has a relationship which is romantic and exclusive. Over time, children are born to them, but the neighbour worries that, as parents, there is something abnormal and worrying in their level of attention and affection towards them. The climax of this story will, without doubt, have you going back to the start and reading it again. This is a real treat to conclude the collection.

Hope you enjoy it, if you are picking this up for the first time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The thinning of the veil…

wolf howling at moon

Well, here we are. It’s that time of year again. The nights are closing in; the veil between the worlds of the living and dead are thinning as I speak. Allegedly.

Without fail, I always try to scare myself witless for the next six weeks or so, year-in, year-out, therefore I have further burdened my already double stacked shelves in preparation.

I’m telling myself I’m mad, because first on the list this year is ‘The Woman in Black’ by Susan Hill. I have some experience of this story; twice I have seen it performed at The Theatre on the Lake in Keswick in the Northern Lake District, which is one of my favourite venues. The first time, I came out a bit shaken. The second time, a few years later once I’d had children, I exited the theatre a little bit psychologically damaged. To the point, that when the film with Daniel Radcliffe broke loose several years later, I couldn’t bring myself to watch it!

The books are never as bad though, right?

Also in the wings, I have MR James’ ‘Ghost Stories’, Daphne du Maurier’s ‘The Birds and other stories’, A Discovery of Witches’ by Deborah Harkness, ‘The Witches of New York’ by Ami McKay and I plan to revisit a story that I enjoyed at the time, but didn’t review and that is ‘The Loney’ by Andrew Michael Hurley. I have thought about it so often, and certain parts have really played on my mind in the period since, that I think I owe it a review.

Updates as I get through them. Think of me; I’m a wuss and I have no earthly idea why I do this to myself!