Karen's Reviews > Don't Look Now And Other Stories

Don't Look Now And Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier
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's review
Feb 24, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: ladywritten, specfic, 2012, bechdel_test_yes

I picked this up because I saw, in passing, someone's mention of the movie made from the title story. It raised up for me some misty memories of having seen the movie, with Donald Sutherland racing through the streets of Venice, chasing a phantasmal little girl in a red cloak...creepy stuff. I have a sideline in creepy, particularly as written by smart women like Shirley Jackson and Sarah Waters. It's a surprisingly small stable, and I'm always looking for more folks to add to it.

Du Maurier is sort of in the stable, for me. She's smart and she writes well, but her stories overall have a more contained, controlled feeling than Jackson's do. While Jackson can make an ordinary day in a housewife's life into a flesh-crawling voyage through the uncanny, Du Maurier seems more concerned with writing up ideas. Many of her ideas are good and interesting--"The Way of the Cross" comments on Christ's last days through the misadventures of a group of self-centered English tourists in Jerusalem, for instance--but at the end of the story, they feel like just that. Ideas, written out to their conclusion.

Some are better-executed than other. In "A Border-Line Case"* the twist ending is obvious well before it's revealed, and in "The Breakthrough," all the tension is unaccountably let off at the end of the story, through a main character's change of heart. "Don't Look Now" is arguably the best story in the bunch, although even it feels a little stale in spots.

Du Maurier is a very capable writer: the way she handles point of view and reader sympathies in "The Way of the Cross" is masterful. Her voice is authoritative and confident. But her stories feel more like exercises than true explorations into a frightening, uncontrolled world beneath or beyond our own. In other words, she's no Shirley Jackson. But apart from Jackson herself, who is?

* Editor, why did you let that title pass?

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