Du Maurier shorts

Daphne du Maurier's short story anthologies are confusing. The problem is that quite a few of the stories (especially the supernatural ones) were published in several different volumes; so to review any of her anthologies of short stories (and there are a number of them) you've got to list the entire contents. At the weekend I came across an anthology belonging to my mother, that I'd never dipped into before The rendezvous and other stories. 

According to the author's preface this anthology contains a selection of works from very early in her writing career, probably prior to her first novel The loving spirit (1931), and goes on into the 1940s and '50s so spanning around 30 years. There are fourteen stories in all. Some are extremely good, others less so. Unfortunately (at least in my edition from 1980) none are dated. It would have been interesting to look at the progression in her craft throughout her career.

No motive - I suspect this was an early one. It's a clever Private Eye procedural in that it tracks the work of a detective trying to solve the mystery of why a seemingly happy person committed suicide. The procedural part is well plotted - it would have made a good TV crime show. Story apart it reveals the social mores and morality of the times; and made me feel very glad that I wasn't living in the 1920s!

Panic - Love affair gone bad. Derivative.

The supreme artist - I rather enjoyed this. Not your usual Du Maurier style. Very funny.

Adieu Sagesse - Another slightly different tale. Wryly comic, and reveals Du Maurier's love of sailing.

Fairy Tale - A sweet tale. Not particularly original, but well done. One to be read with a box of soft-centre chocs to hand.

The rendezvous - No idea why this was chosen as the title to the whole collection. Hated the story, thought it was weak, characters were dreadful, nasty little pokes at other authors (Graham Greene? Evelyn Waugh?). Not Du Maurier at her best.

La Sainte-Vierge - Every other reviewer seems to hate this tale. It's not brilliant, it's predictable, but has a wicked sting in the tail.

Leading lady - Weak yet unsettling.

Escort - One of the best. This was a great ghost story. Loved it.

The lover - Sadly a lot of us have known someone like this, and you rather wish you didn't....

The closing door - Liked isn't quite the right word for this one. A man is diagnosed with a terminal illness, how is he going to break the news to his fiancee? Well written, like La Sainte-Vierge there's a scorpion at the end of the story.

Indiscretion - Enjoyable, nicely written.

Angels and archangels - Probably read better at the time that it was written than now. Derivative, but worth a read.

Split second - Along with Escort this was one of my favourites. A classic time shift story that could have been written by someone like John Wyndham or H.G. Wells. Not the sort of story that I would have expected Du Maurier to write, and all the more surprising and enjoyable for that.

None of the stories are long, Split second at around 30 pages is one of the longest. They're a mixed grill of tales with Du Maurier effortlessly shifting across genres. Great fun, and if they're not always Du Maurier at her best, for any fan they're a window into her multi-faceted world.


Popular Posts