Shannon (Giraffe Days)'s Reviews > The Birds and Other Stories

The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier
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's review
Jul 09, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2010, short-stories
Read in October, 2010

Ah how I love du Maurier! Her mind must have been a weird and wonderful place, and I love the window her stories give into it. The stories in this collection are:
"The Birds" (pp. 7-43)
"Monte Verita" (pp. 44-113)
"The Apple Tree" (pp. 114-157)
"The Little Photographer" (pp. 158-201)
"Kiss Me Again, Stranger" (pp. 202-226)
"The Old Man" (pp. 227-237)

I'll go through each of these separately, because they deserve it.

I have never seen Hitchcock's The Birds, but I've seen the famous beach scene and Big Train's spoof (The Working Class - hilarious; "Look straight ahead and whatever you do, just don't give them any money" ! Oh it cracks me up every time!). The short story is different from the film, as far as I can gather, and a perfectly crafted apocalyptic short story. There was a great sense of tension, fear and even terror; yet at the same time I felt sorry for the birds. Must be my modern, animal-loving sensibilities ;) Regardless, it was quite chilling and the abrupt, open ending only makes it more so.

"Monte Verita" was the longest story, and very involved. The friendship between two men who enjoy mountain climbing changes when one of them, Victor, marries a beautiful and enigmatic woman, Anna. When Victor takes Anna hiking through wild mountains somewhere in Europe, they encounter a strange stone fortress and a village of terrified peasants - and Anna disappears behind the walls, never to be seen again. It's very Picnic at Hanging Rock, though of course it predates that story. There's such a welling of joy and sadness in the truth of Monte Verita; I loved the conflicting emotions it stirred - loved that it could stir such extremes in feeling, and contradictory feeling at that.

"The Apple Tree" is a tightly-structured story about a man now retired whose hard-working and resentful wife dies from illness; when he realises that a sickly, bent old apple tree strongly resembles his deceased wife, he becomes increasingly haunted by her presence, as if she were still determined to make him feel wretched from the grave. And no matter what he does to conquer this spectre, to reclaim his life and enjoy his retirement (and widowhood - she was a horrible person really), the apple tree will be victorious.

The ending was so sad, and yet there was no other way for it to end. It was a clever little story, very vivid and with superb atmosphere.

The fourth story, "The Little Photographer", is rather different. In it, a bored Marquise holidays with her two young children on the French Riveria. She becomes taken with a photographer whom she hires to photograph her and her children; heady with the way he looks at her and the power she has over him, she falls into an adulterous secret affair - until he expresses his determination to follow her back to Paris and continue the affair there, leading her to an unplanned and desperate measure to be rid of him that she can never escape from. It's a fascinating story of a psyche, of what makes us do certain things and how the consequences can affect ours lives forever. The Marquise manages to come across as a sympathetic woman despite her actions, and this makes the writing even more exquisite, that du Maurier can achieve that.

"Kiss Me Again, Stranger" leads on quite well from the previous story, but is quite different again. In it the narrator, a man who works as a mechanic, reminisces about the young woman he met once, who he thought he loved after just one meeting, and who devastated him. It's a bittersweet story, one that resonates so strongly with this quiet man's feelings and hopes and broken dreams, that it's stunning juxtaposition against mystery and murder.

The final story, "The Old Man", completely fooled me. I was totally wrapped up in the story, the description of the old man, his wife and their children, fishing during the day, living simply, and then the problem with his son, that I didn't see the ending coming at all. I mean, the ending yet, but not the twist. It made me laugh out loud, I was so delighted!

Every single story in this collection is a superb example of storytelling at its best, exquisitely told, cleverly crafted and structured, stories that make you think and wonder and feel, stories that mix dread and tension and fear with sorrow, love and hope. I can't think of a writer as truly skilled as du Maurier - or at least, not one where it feels like they speak directly to me, with such intensity and skill and create such vivid images in my mind, images that resonate long after I've finished reading. If you haven't read this short story collection, I highly recommend it, especially if you love stories that are a bit dark, unusual, thought-provoking and even unsettling.

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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Sandi (new)

Sandi I had no idea that du Marier had written "The Birds."

Shannon (Giraffe Days) Sandi wrote: "I had no idea that du Marier had written "The Birds.""

I think I only found that out a few years ago - I had assumed it was just a Hitchcock thing! ;) It was very interesting reading an apocalyptic story like this from a female author from the period when men seemed to be doing these stories.

message 3: by Kylie (new) - added it

Kylie Great review Shannon. I have a pile of du Mauriers (including this one) but I've never actually read any of them. Maybe I'll start with this one.

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