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Thursday, 4 November 2010

Review of The Birds & Other Stories by Daphne Du Maurier.

Modern Virago - (Victor Gollancz, originally) 6 short stories;

The Birds 12,000 words. Infinitely better than the film. Set in Cornwall and in a farmworker’s cottage, featuring the farmworker and his family. Excellent tension build up and only a vague reason given for the birds’ uncharacteristic behaviour. Fear and sheer incomprehension handled well and the hanging ending was just right.

Monte Verità 24,000 words.
 More a novelette than a short story. Excellent characterisation of the main protagonists. The sense of isolation and superstition amongst the ignorant was well drawn. Again, the ending was perfect.

The Apple Tree 15,000words.
Clearly, a precursor to many copies. Tension was well handled but I found little sympathy with the main character, in spite of the fact that he was well drawn. I found I didn’t really care what happened to him and, in any case, guessed the ending some short way into the story. A good illustration that the spirit of the dead returned as something else is a theme that has been overdone now.

The Little Photographer 15,000 words.
Very well drawn characters. Some brilliant scene setting of the south of France and the overpowering effects of the heat. Set in a time gone by when things mattered that no longer cause concern. The hanging ending, an uncertain future, matched the ambivalence of the heroine perfectly.
Kiss Me Again, Stranger 8,000. An unusual tale with an oddly schizophrenic sub text around eroticism. The sense of menace was drowned in the period detail to some extent and I found it hard to believe in the killer’s motivation.

The Old Man 3,000 words.
Another story where the ‘surprise’ ending has been so much copied as to make it disappointing. I confess, I didn’t see it coming and that was in part due to some dishonesty in the descriptions. Some of the attributes given to the protagonists could only be human, so to find the story concerned swans left me feeling cheated.


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