I wonder if, as readers who know du Maurier's later works, we are a bit harsh in our judgment of this collection of stories. After all, du Maurier wro...moreI wonder if, as readers who know du Maurier's later works, we are a bit harsh in our judgment of this collection of stories. After all, du Maurier wrote all but one of the stories in this collection between the ages of 18 and 23. Additionally, they were published singley in magazines and not intended to be compiled nor to be read in succession.
But read in succession I did. I devoured them. For her young age, she showed remarkable insight into the behaviors, attitudes and thoughts that may lead to the unraveling of intimate male-female relationships. Take the first several sentences of "A Difference in Temperament" for example.
"He leant against the mantelpiece, nervously jingling the change in his pockets. He supposed there would be another scene. It was so unreasonable the way she minded him going out without her. She never seemed to realise that he just had to get away sometimes --- for no particular reason, but because it gave him a sense of freedom. He loved to slam the front door behind him, and to walk along the street to a bus, swinging a stick. There was something about being alone he could not explain to anyone. Not even to her..."
And in the next paragraph we get her viewpoint.
"This was what she resented, though; she wanted to share everything. She could never imagine doing things apart from him. She had an uncanny way of reading his thoughts, too. If he was thinking of something that had no connection with her, she would know it at once. Only she exaggerated it in her mind...."
Well, something is going to go awry. That's for sure. Something goes awry in each one of these stories. In the title story a dark secret is discovered. In "East Wind" a secluded island community is disrupted by a ship of men stranded during a storm with disastrous results. In the "Week-End" a lovey-dovey couple on a boating excursion fall asleep, wake to darkness, are unable to restart the motor, and learn their expectations of one another are erroneous. In "Picadilly" a prostitute tells how she got where she is by letting traffic and street signs guide her decisions.
Ego plays a large part in many of these stories, particularly in "And Now to God the Father" in which a clergyman puts one's place in society above humanity. And in "Limpet", the one story written at a later date, in which a divorced woman is unable to see the havoc she has created in other's lives through tactless comments.
Criticism is necessary, however. Passages such as this from "Tame Cat" in which a young woman returns home to a changed relationship between her mother and her Uncle John from several months away indicate how high-schoolish du Maurier must have been when she wrote these stories.
"It was being so different from what she had expected. The breathless feeling of anticipation had fled, and in its place had come a horrid sense of staleness, almost of boredom. She felt lonely and shut within herself. It was something to do with Mummy. Mummy was not well; ever since the day she had come back from schoool Mummy had been cold, easily irritated, snappy with her."
For most readers, this would not be the place to begin with du Maurier. However, like I said, I devoured this book. She compelled me to read and read and read. For readers who like to read an author in chronological order du Maurier would be an excellent choice. (less)
I thought it cool to start reading this on the tenth of December. But having read it, this is not something I would advise. Unless, of course, you enj...moreI thought it cool to start reading this on the tenth of December. But having read it, this is not something I would advise. Unless, of course, you enjoy reading about people living on the edge of financial security and mental stability in the season of family gatherings and shopping to excess. Not only that, Saunders style discombobulates the reader through his characters' thought patterns. He strings together and sticks in fantasies and made-up conversations and then, suddenly, the action is the real thing. Character thoughts sometimes jump around like fourth-of-July sparklers. I could handle all that, but could not accept starting stories with two different characters' thoughts and not helping the reader discern what is going on. If you continue and read the stories through, it becomes clear. And, yes, they've a stroke of brilliance. But I struggled and I'm sure I'm not the only one who did. Little bit of tweaking those beginnings for the sake of clarity and I'd give it another star. (less)
Took this out of lib to read "The Dead" by Joyce. Instead, last night I read the collection's opening story:
"First Love and Other Sorrows" by Harold B...moreTook this out of lib to read "The Dead" by Joyce. Instead, last night I read the collection's opening story:
"First Love and Other Sorrows" by Harold Brodkey. Written in the early 50s, I think what sucked me in was the nostalgia of an urban neighborhood where everyone knew everyone else, where a teen could walk the street on a summer evening and know not only their peers but their parents, where a young woman could experience frivolous dating while artlessly keeping a sense of innocence. The story itself didn't wow me, but the ever important short story's last sentence was brilliantly redeeming.(less)
PLEASE BE FOREWARNED - THESE ARE NOT CHRISTMAS STORIES. These are stories of life and death. Or life, hardship, and death. Or trauma and survival. Why...morePLEASE BE FOREWARNED - THESE ARE NOT CHRISTMAS STORIES. These are stories of life and death. Or life, hardship, and death. Or trauma and survival. Why, why, why, Little Brown did you choose this cover? What a disservice to the author. One reviewer said they selected the title from their library's Christmas books display! Shiver me timbers!!!!
There aren't many warm fuzzy moments here. These are tales of hard-scrabble, working class Brooklyn post-WWII and Korea. Brooklyn is their home, their turf. The narrators do not leave. They stay, they walk out into the night and sometimes they survive and sometimes they do not.
This was a very intense reading experience. Hamill's skill at building suspense in such a short form is incredible. Written as newspaper articles, collecting them into one volume and allowing the reader to read them all in succession was nearly too much for me.