October 29, 2006

Don't Look Now

Don't Look Now by Daphne du Maurier
Short Stories
Finished on 10/20/06
Rating: A- (8/10 Very Good)

As I recently mentioned, there’s been a plethora of reading challenges within the book-blogging community. I didn’t join in on Carl’s R.I.P. Fall Reading Challenge since I was busy with my own challenge. However, after a month of classics, I decided to wrap it up and move on to something else. With Halloween coming up, I got an itch to read something creepy and gothic. While perusing my TBR shelves, I came across a copy of Daphne du Maurier’s Don’t Look Now. I have no idea where this book came from! It’s an old hardcover with a dust jacket that I can’t seem to locate anywhere online. Either my mom sent it or I picked it up at a library sale or grabbed it from a traveling book box. Who knows?!

Rod and I were on a Hitchcock kick a few years ago and among others, we rented The Birds and Rebecca, but I’ve never read any of du Maurier’s books. (Maybe that’s when I got the book! After our Hitchcock marathon.)

Anyhow, I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially once it dawned on me that I was about to read a collection of short stories and not a novel. I am not a big fan of short stories. I’m always disappointed in them. Just as I’m settling into the narrative and feeling a sense of familiarity with the characters, boom, it’s all over!

Looking through my reading journals, I only come up with a few short story titles that I’ve read: Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories by Alice Munro; The Love of a Good Woman: Stories by Alice Munro; Ordinary Life: Stories by Elizabeth Berg; and a few collections of shorts by Rosamunde Pilcher. As I recall, I loved the Berg collections, but she’s one of my favorite authors and I’d probably be quite content reading her grocery list. The others were disappointing and I’d pretty much resigned myself to not reading shorts ever again. Part of my displeasure is that none of the stories are memorable, even after just a few days, let alone years.

That said, I was absolutely spellbound and pleasantly surprised when I finished du Maurier’s Don’t Look Now. All but one of the five stories were fantastic, each dripping with sinister suspense and mystery. These psychological thrillers are not chock full of intense action. Instead, internal drama and foreboding tension overshadow the actual plot. The conclusion of “A Border-Line Case” had me shaking my head in disbelief, wondering how in the world I hadn't seen such an obvious finale looming. (I don’t feel too ignorant. Rod didn’t see it coming, either!) Then again, perhaps that's what makes for a satisfying resolution to a mystery: You're amazed that you hadn't seen it coming, but looking back, you see that it was inevitable--it had to end the way it did.

I can picture each and every one of these stories on the big screen and was pleased to hear that Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie starred in one of my favorites, “Don’t Look Now,” which we’ve just received from Netflix. I can’t wait to curl up with a bowl of popcorn and a brownie (or two!) and see if the film is as good as the story.

It occurred to me that I may have misjudged the genre of short stories. Perhaps it’s as simple as just not caring for Alice Munro. And that Rosamunde Pilcher’s sagas are better suited than short stories to her style of descriptive writing. I don’t think I’ll be quite so quick to dismiss short stories in the future. These were great fun and I have a feeling I’ll be ready to read them again next year. du Maurier was quite a prolific author, writing numerous novels, short stories, plays and biographies, and I plan to peruse her bibliography for future ideas, perhaps in time for next year’s R.I.P. challenge. Until then, I have The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty, The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain and Tales of O. Henry (sixty-two stories!) to keep me occupied. Those should last me a while, don’t you think?


  1. O.Henry, James Thurber, P.G.Wodehouse, John Floyd (my buddy) and Vladimir Nabokov are my favorite short story writers, thus far. I'm glad du Maurier has nudged you into reading more short stories and I'll look forward to seeing what thrills you.

    BTW, is your copy of Don't Look Now kind of blue-gray? You might recall I considered reading mine for the RIP Challenge but decided I was in a novel mood. I'm sooo glad to know you liked those stories, since it's still waiting for me!!!

  2. I can't remember reading any short stories...no reason behind that, but now I just may look into this one. I really enjoy psychological thrillers so this would be right up my alley. Thanks.

  3. Connections I made to your post:
    1. I'm so relieved that you have a To Be Read shelf. Sometimes I feel like I'm failing (at what?) because I have stacks of books I haven't read yet. And, I keep buying more!

    2. I haven't been much of a short story fan myself, except for that wonderful O. Henry story "The Gift of The Magi." Oh, and an Edgar Allen Poe story or two.

    3. I LOVE REBECCA!! It's one of the best endings I've ever read, next to Possession by A.S.Byatt, in my opinion.

    So, I'll pick up Don't Look Now as soon as I can. At least it can sit on my TBR shelf. :)

  4. Nancy, thanks for the names of your favorite short story authors. I haven't read any of their works other than The Gift of The Magi (O. Henry) which I absolutely love. And yes, the cover is a darkish blue-gray with the water and maybe a gondola in the distance (in Venice). It's downstairs which is why I'm not 100% certain.

    Joy, I think you may enjoy this collection. The length of each story seems just right. Not too short yet not long or draggy. Well, other than the last one. Neither Rod nor I cared for it (he didn't even bother finishing that one). I'll be interested in your opinion, if you do decide to read the book.

    Bellezza, I have to be honest. I don't have a TBR shelf. I have NINE TBR shelves! It's really out of control, but honestly, I haven't bought any books in ages!! (Well, other than The Book Thief and The Thirteenth Tale.) I still have the B&N gift card I won burning a hole in my pocket. My mom is very generous and sends me books when she's finished, not to mention the other books I've received from friends and former co-workers. Sigh. I want to try to read what I own first. It's such a struggle sometimes when I keep reading what others have said about a recent release. You should see my Amazon wishlist! Yikes! Did you see I mentioned to Nancy that The Gift of the Magi is one of my favorite short stories, too? I have a lovely copy that I gave to Rod for Christmas one year and I read it every December. I'll have to read Rebecca some day when the movie isn't so fresh in my mind. Oh, and I have Possession in my stacks, too. I enjoyed the movie with Gwyneth Paltrow and tried to read the book (prior to the movie) but got hung up on all the poetry. I still plan to try again.

  5. Sounds like we have the same copy, Les! I also really enjoyed Brief Encounters with Che Guevara by Ben Fountain. Don't know if you'd like those stories, but I thought most of them were fabulous - very thought-provoking and I loved his "voice".

    Gift of the Magi is lovely.

    You know, I had no idea I'd read so many short stories!

  6. Anonymous11:18 AM

    More ideas for the TBR pile. I wish I could make myself gravitate toward short stories since they give you quick release from a reading session...unlike novels where you just CAN'T find a good place to stop. :) Some good possibilities here, though.

  7. Nancy, thanks for the recommendation. I'll see if I can find it on my next library trip.

    Jenclair, let me know if you read any good ones!

  8. Possession's a movie? Clue phone for me. (The poetry bogs me down too. I just skipped it in the book.)

  9. Anonymous5:05 AM

    If you are looking for gothic, creepy and incredibly compelling, I highly recommend The Thirteenth Tale. My review was posted yesterday on my blog. The friend I gave it to finished it on one plane ride. It might be my favorite book of the year!

  10. I have got to read more DuMaurier. I loved Rebecca!

  11. Carl, I'm going to save Rebecca for your Second Annual R.I.P. Challenge.

    Di, I've read The Thirteenth Tale and should have my review posted in the next few days. I wish I could say it was my favorite of the year, but The Book Thief holds that honor.

  12. I recently read the Glass Blowers by Du Maurier and didn't care for it much. I've been assured that Rebecca is much better and these short stories look great. I haven't read short stories but I can see a definite appeal to them.

  13. Framed, thanks for the heads-up about The Glass Blowers. I think I'll try Rebecca next time I'm in the mood for du Maurier.

  14. Does September 2011 count for "as soon as I can?" Geez, I hate to be that lax in time!!! Well, I finally got around to it, and I loved this story. Wish I could see the film with Julie Christie as I can totally imagine her in that role. Perhaps I'll need to sign up for Netflix myself, but I won't say "as soon as I can" because that might not be until 2017. ;)

  15. Bellezza - I'm glad you're a bit lax with time. I enjoy going back and rereading my earlier reviews. :) Boy, I put a lot more work into them than I do these days...

    Don't both with renting the movie. It was a huge dud!


I may not answer your comments in a timely fashion, but I always answer. Check back soon!