Don't Look Now and Other Stories - Daphne du Maurier

Don't Look Now & Other Stories (Penguin Modern Classics) - Daphne du Maurier

It's been ages since I've read a short story collection – I think the last one was Henry James The Turn of the Screw and Other Stories several years ago. It's easy to forget how effective the form can be in the hands of a good writer.


I didn't enjoy these as much as Rebecca (they were published about thirty years later), but du Maurier's gift for atmosphere, and a certain ambiguity about what actually happens, is certainly here. My favourite story was also, I think, the longest: “The Way of the Cross”, a tale about a group of pilgrims to Jerusalem who find the holy city not quite as they expected. There was something very subtle and yet very satisfying about the trials that each of these pilgrims come to, and how those trials change them.


They're all stories about things that take place abroad, somewhere far from home, that yet bleed back into normal life. The title story, “Don't Look Now”, is a nicely creepy piece about a couple on holiday in Venice haunted by the ghost of their dead daughter, and there's something claustrophobic about their being trapped in a foreign country. Du Maurier is better at setting up an uncanny atmosphere than finally having to explain it (which is, in my opinion, also Rebecca's chief failing) – the ends of the supernatural tales fall a little flat – but that doesn't make them any less haunting.


I'm going to keep a lookout for her other short story collection, which I think includes “The Birds”, her most famous story. On the whole, Don't Look Now is an enjoyable book, good for whiling away a winter afternoon.