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Don't Look Now: Selected Stories of Daphne…

Don't Look Now: Selected Stories of Daphne du Maurier

by Daphne du Maurier

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Gripping, absolutely gripping – my listening to three Daphne du Maurier tales on audio: No Motive and two from this collection, Don’t Look Now and the author’s famous The Birds. Each reading spanning an hour and a half, the storytelling so compelling, picking up dramatic momentum every single minute, I dare not take a break until the shocking conclusion. And to add a bit more atmosphere to my listening to The Birds, out my apartment window, down at the pond, a gaggle of Canadian Geese started honking and fighting and honking some more.

Patrick McGrath writes in his astute Introduction to this New York Review Books (NYRB) edition how Daphne du Mauier possessed an uncanny genius to craft her stories in ways to sustain tension right up until the the final sentence, an ending frequently shocking and disturbing in the extreme. I enjoyed each of the nine pieces collected here but two most especially: Don’t Look Now with its clairvoyant older twins and creepy happenings and the story serving as the focus of my review: The Birds. And please don't think of the Hitchcock film - other than attacking birds and terrorized humans, Daphne du Maurier's tale is a hundred shades darker, incomparably more ominous and threatening, even to the point of impending cataclysm for the entire human race.

“Black and white, jackdaw and gull, mingled in strange partnership, seeking some sort of liberation, never satisfied, never still. Flocks of starlings, rustling like silk, flew to fresh pasture, driven by the same necessity of movement, and the smaller birds, the finches and the larks, scattered from tree to hedge as if compelled.” Handyman Nat Hocken lives in remote farming country out on a peninsula in England and remarks to one of the farmers how there’s something quite strange about all the bird behavior this autumn. Just how strange? Nat finds out very quickly when that very night birds enter the bedroom window of his little son and daughter, dozens of little birds, attacking both of them, trying to peck out his son’s eyes. Nat takes immediate action, gets his children out of the room, closes the door, and frantically swings a pillow left and right, up and down, to kill as many birds as he can.

The next morning: “Nat gazed at the little corpses, shocked and horrified. They were all small birds, none of any size, there must have been fifty of them lying there upon the floor. There were robins, finches, sparrows, blue tits, larks, and bramblings, birds that by nature’s law kept to their own flock and their own territory, and now, joining one with another in their urge for battle, has destroyed themselves against the bedroom walls, or in the strife had been destroyed by him.” And this is only the beginning. Later that day Ned is attacked by bigger birds out in a field and, after he races home for protection, both he and his wife hear on the radio that the government of England has called a state of emergency, advising all citizens to remain inside and take the necessary precautions to ensure their safety. But, above all else, people are urged to remain calm.

Fun facts: there exists almost ten thousand different species of birds and according to some experts, the total worldwide bird population could total as many as four-hundred-billion. Whoa! Four-hundred-billion. No matter how you look at it, that’s a lot of birds. Imagination what would happen if, as if directed and coordinated by some unseen unifying force, all those birds began an attack en masse on humans.

Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek believes the author was targeting the prevailing welfare state for their inability to effectively deal with the attacking birds. Patrick McGrath notes how du Maurier’s story anticipates a global ecological disaster. I myself think McGrath is on the mark and Žižek is way off the mark. As Nat Hocken asserts, survival, at least immediate survival, has everything to do with the sturdiness of the one's shelter. Sorry, Slavoj - politicians of any stripe will be of little help in fending off a nonstop attack conducted by billions of birds.

Daphne du Maurier delves into the unsettling psychology produced by such an attack. Almost to be expected, initial reactions revolve around denial and rationalization. Very understandable since the cycle of human existence is completely dependent on the laws of nature. And the more we understand the laws of nature, the more we feel we are in control. Herein lies the terror of the tale – the laws of nature remain intact with one glaring exception: the behavior of the birds. All of a sudden nature has transformed itself into the unknown. As writers such as H.P. Lovecraft recognized, there is no stronger human emotion than fear and no great fear than fear of the unknown.

As per the well-worn admonition, “Don’t just stand there, do something!” humans being humans, there is a natural instinct to take action. Upon hearing a roaring sound, Nat reflects how the authorities have sent out airplanes but knows this is sheer suicide since aircraft would be useless against thousands and thousands of birds flinging themselves to death against propellers, fuselages and jets.

Then Nat hears another sound, a sound prompting him to have one last smoke: “The hawks ignored the windows. They concentrated their attack upon the door. Nat listened to the tearing sound of splintered wood, and wondered how many million years of memory were stored in those little brains, behind the stabbing beaks, the piercing eyes, now giving them this instinct to destroy mankind with all the precision of machines.” Did I mention gripping? I can assure you, you will never encounter a more chilling, spellbinding, mesmerizing tale then this one. Darn, down at the pond, those Canadian Geese are still honking up a storm. But no attacks on humans have been reported . . . yet. ( )
  GlennRussell | May 1, 2017 |
In his introduction, Patrick McGrath notes that although Daphne Du Maurier's work has had great popular success, "during her lifetime she received comparatively little critical esteem." Du Maurier herself was "pained deeply" about being "dismissed with a sneer as a bestseller" rather than as a serious writer. If her popularity, her status as a "bestseller," or her reputation as a Romance novelist keeps people from reading her work in this collection, well, that's a shame. If you're tired of same old same old in your reading life, and you want a bit of shaking up, I can't think of a better book to recommend than this one, a fine selection of stories that should not go unread. The choice of stories in this book might be a little uneven, but for the most part, they're worth every second of time you spend not only reading them, but thinking about them long after you've turned that last page. This book might also provide a different perspective from which to examine Du Maurier as much more than simply the woman who wrote Rebecca.

As a whole, this is a fascinating collection of stories. Thematically you'll find the author covers a wide range: isolation, love, loss, grief, dislocation, revenge, obsession, fate -- all very human attributes that here take on a different sort of significance in the lives of her characters. The beauty in these tales is that her people are just going about their every day lives -- at least at first. For example, In "Don't Look Now," a husband and wife are in Venice on holiday to help them to deal with their grief over their dead child. In "Split Second," a widow with a young daughter away at school steps out to take a walk and returns home. "The Blue Lenses" is expressed from the point of view of a woman who is recovering from eye surgery. All of these things are very normal, very mundane, and described very well by the author. But soon it begins to dawn on you that something is just off -- that things are moving ever so slightly away from ordinary, heading into the realm of extraordinary. By that time, you're so caught up in the lives of these people that you have to see them through to the end. The joke is on the reader, though -- in some cases the endings do not necessarily resolve things, but instead, point toward another possible chapter in the characters' futures. While the author doesn't do this in every story, when she does, it's highly effective and leaves you very unsettled and in my case, filled with a sense of unease thinking about what's going to happen to these people next. As one character notes, "Nothing's been the same since. Nor ever will be," and that's the feeling I walked away with in several of these stories.

While I enjoyed each and every story (and I'm not going to go through them all here -- they're best experienced rather than read about) there are some that I felt are much better than others. I was frankly floored by "The Birds," mainly due to the dawning realization on the part of Nat Hocken about the reality of his family's situation -- and that of England and quite possibly the rest of the world as well. This was for me, the most frightening story in the book, one that made me put the book down for a while before returning to it. And if you don't want to read the story because you've seen the Hitchcock movie, trust me -- there is very little similarity between the two. The title story, "Don't Look Now," is equally as chilling but in an entirely different way - I had, however, read it previously and I'd seen the movie, which sort of killed it as a reread. The movie sticks very closely to the story, so do yourself a favor, and read it first. You'll be happy you did. "Blue Lenses" is another excellent entry in this collection, about a woman whose bandages are removed after eye surgery where she's fitted with temporary blue lenses. It's only after the bandages are off that she makes a horrifying discovery -- and then she has to go home. The ending of this one actually made me shiver. Then, in a strange turn of events, another one of my favorite stories, "Monte Verità," starts at the end of the story. "Monte Verità" is longer in length than the others here, but that actually works in its favor. This one is just eerie -- otherworldly is also an adjective I'd use to describe it. The rest of the collection is good as well, but to me, these were the standouts -- the ones that messed with my head (in a good way) the most.

There are a number of good reviews of this book that go more in depth than what I've written here, but don't read them until after you've finished reading the book. I didn't read any of them until just now, after having finished writing my own thoughts down, and I noticed that there are also some that tend to give away the show. Also, you'd be doing yourself a big favor if you save the intro for last. This is a little gem of a collection that I'll be holding onto forever. NYRB classics has really done readers a great service by bringing these stories together -- my advice: if you're interested in trying out Du Maurier's short stories, this edition would be the perfect starting place. ( )
4 vote bcquinnsmom | Dec 24, 2014 |
Upscale pulp fiction, e.g. The birds -- not that there's anything wrong with that. I find haunting the story Kiss me again, stranger (great title). I would be interested in seeing the film of Don't look now. Not sure I'd put the collection in my must re-read pile, but an absorbing first read. ( )
  featherbear | Jul 5, 2014 |
Don’t Look Now is a collection of nine short stories that Daphne Du Maurier published between 1952 and 1980. Daphne Du Maurier’s writing runs the gamut from straight historical to suspense/thriller, so I was intrigued to see what her stories would be like.

These stories cover much of Du Maurier’s career, and they’re all stunning. She takes what are seemingly ordinary people and subjects and turns the story into something far more sinister. From the arresting opening story, in which a couple are grieving the loss of their child and take a holiday to Venice, to a story in which England’s birds attack the human population, to a story in which a woman has eye surgery and wakes to view the inner beast in humans, these stories are amazing and contain a lot of significance, even though some of them are a couple of pages long. Any one of these stories could have been made into an Alfred Hitchcock film; and I’d swear that M. Night Shyamalan used “Split Second” as inspiration for The Sixth Sense. The collection itself is great because all of these stories connect in some way to the others. My personal favorite story in this collection is the titular “Don’t Look Now”—Daphne Du Maurier at her best. This is a collection not to be missed if you’re a fan of the author like I am, or like short stories. ( )
1 vote Kasthu | Jul 14, 2011 |
Enjoyably creepy and well written short stories. "The Birds" in particular is much more compelling than the quite different Hitchcock film, with beautiful details of a stark landscape.
1 vote rebeccanyc | Apr 15, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maurier, Daphne duprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mcgrath, PatrickIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The New York Review Books Classics version of Don't Look Now has the following table of contents:

Don't Look Now
The Birds
Split Second
Kiss Me Again, Stranger
The Blue Lenses
La Saint Vierge
Monte Verita

This is considerably different than other versions of Don't Look Now and Other Stories, which contain only 5 stories and even other versions which contain nine stories don't have all of the same stories as this version.
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"Daphne du Maurier wrote some of the most compelling and creepy novels of the twentieth century. In books like Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel, and Jamaica Inn she transformed the small dramas of everyday life -- love, grief, jealousy -- into the stuff of nightmares. Less known, though no less powerful, are her short stories, in which she gave free rein to her imagination in narratives of unflagging suspense. Patrick McGrath{8217}s revelatory new selection of du Maurier{8217}s stories shows her at her most chilling and most psychologically astute: a dead child reappears in the alleyways of Venice; routine eye surgery reveals the beast within to a meek housewife; nature revolts against man{8217}s abuse by turning a benign species into an annihilating force; a dalliance with a beautiful stranger offers something more dangerous than a broken heart. McGrath draws on the whole of du Maurier{8217}s long career and includes surprising discoveries together with famous stories like zThe Birds.y Don{8217}t Look Now is a perfect introduction to a peerless storyteller."--Publisher's description.… (more)

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