I was talking to…probably Alice…about Daphne du Maurier and Rebecca and how excellent it is and how excellent My Cousin Rachel is also, and Alice was like, But didn’t you write a Thing on her and aren’t you maybe a bit biased? And I was like, Yes to that first bit and possibly yes to that second bit, although I will be the first to admit that her early stuff can be Kind Of Terrible.
Which brings us to The Doll! (Segues!) Because these are all early short stories, either Not Previously Published or Not Easily Findable. And they are kind of terrible, but here’s the thing (and this may be Raych’s Bias talking): even when Daphne is terrible, she is also atmospheric and cynical and sort of bitchy, so I secretly love it (secretly here on my blog on the internet).
So even though most of these stories are bad, they are campily, juicily, childishly bad. And she doesn’t have to sustain them for more than a few pages, so she can throw all of her energy and cheerful horror into a packet. And the first one begins on an island where ‘the people had degenerated into a quiet, listless folk, the inevitable result of intermarriage.’ And then a bunch of randy pirates pull in and shake things up.
There are a particular few good gems in here (ok, there is at least one solidly gemmy gem). The Happy Valley freaked my shit, and the ending is an open door into WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON? But then there are others, like Nothing Hurts for Long, where a gal spends long, lovely hours primping for her man’s return from Berlin after three years, but is interrupted by a desperate phone call from a friend whose man has left her after returning from a long absence because, as the friend says, ‘going away does make a difference to a man.’ And then?
The first gal’s man comes home from Berlin and is, you know, cold and stuff.
So her moral is sometimes tedious (what’s this, you say? There are members of the clergy who look only to advance their own place in society, and care not for the poor, weak and weary? How shocking). And an ending that may have been fresh and daring in the 30s smacks of Obvious Juice now, like when the recently-blossomed young school girl returns home and her mother is like *jealous bitch-face* and her mother’s secret long-time lover is like *leer*
But! This is probably my bias chirping in again, but the stories themselves are delightful and engrossing and cleverly-drawn. They is UNROMANTICAL IN THE EXTREME, but almost amusedly so. Like, isn’t it hilarious how much we all hate each other?
Not your best, DdM, but certainly better than some other bests. Seven caterpillars.
Requisite ass-covering: book received from TLC Tours. I know! I hate book tours. But I love du Maurier. Paradox.