Archive for the ‘Daphne Du Maurier’ Category

RebeccaAfter reading Daphe Du Maurier’s short stories in Kiss Me Again, Stranger, I knew I wanted to read more of her works. When a copy of Rebecca floated across my desk, I felt it was an omen. I have seen the movie several times but, with my memory, the story is somewhat hazy…as is Du Maurier’s description of Manderley, I might add. And we all know that many times the similarities between the movie and the book are merely co-incidental (take The Birds by Vera Caspary as an example).

So it was with excitement that I finally took Rebecca off my night table and started to read. I’ll admit that it was a slow read in the beginning, describing our narrator meeting Max de Winter in Monte Carlo, falling in love and getting married almost on a whim. It was a wonderful read, but a slow one. As the couple moves to Manderley and Ms. de Winter constantly feels that she is in the shadow of the former Ms. de Winter, Rebecca, the reader understands the thought processes, the insecurities, the nerves as they unwind. Du Maurier lovingly describes Manderley’s grounds and grandeur, knowingly discusses the overgrowth of the rhododendrun as they blot out the sky, tells one of the sound of the sea, one moment calm and calming, the next roaring white caps shrouded in mist.

I previously compared the writing of Du Maurier and Caspary, contemporaries. They both evoke this ethereal feeling as you read their books. I come away visualizing Manderley, the rooms and grounds reflecting the sure hand and tastes of Rebecca, the thoughts of staff and neighbors as they compare the two Ms. de Winters, wondering whether the latter will equal the former.

I was not prepared at all for the course the book takes, I will tell you now. Not even my hazy memory of the movie prepared me (although I did remember certain snippets from the movie as I progressed in the book). I’m a hundred pages from the end and can’t wait to get back to it.

I’m not a fan of current day ‘psychological thrillers’, but this is how I would categorize Rebecca. Nowadays, we’re too graphic, too in your face. I prefer the slow build up, the long winding road (like that of the drive up to Manderley) with twists and turns and divergences. I like the subtleties, the descriptions, the flashbacks, the inner thoughts. I get all that in Rebecca.

I’m not going to tell you how it ends because that would just spoil it. I will tell you that reading Rebecca is worth every minute you spend on it.

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KissMeAgainStrangerI’d never read Daphne Du Maurier until I read Kiss Me Again, Stranger, a collection of 8 short stories. “Where have I been all these years?”, I asked myself. Housed in the mystery section of the antiquarian bookstore Westsider Rare and Used Books WestsiderRareAndUsedBookson Broadway and 78th Street (give or take a block or two), some stories were mysteries and some were just odd, for lack of a better term. All were good.

I did learn something from the book, though. Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Birds was based on a Du Maurier story of the same name. That and the fact that Du Maurier wrote the story and the screenplay is almost where the similarity ends. One takes place in the U.S. and the other in England. One has a romance and one doesn’t. One is about survival and the other isn’t. I must admit the original story is quite compelling. They are both scary, though!

I’d tell you my favorite story, but they are all so different and as I look at the titles to write this, they all conjure up the story lines and I like them all. Kiss Me Again, Stranger, the story, is about GIs being murdered. The Apple Tree is about a tree taking revenge. The Little Photographer is about a vacation liaison turned bad and No Motive is about a suicide. You see, the stories are all over the place, but once started, I couldn’t put the book down.

I find that Du Maurier’s stories and Vera Caspary’s writings have a similarity in their feel. Contemporaries (Laura by Caspary was written in 1943 and Rebecca by Du Maurier was written in 1938) it is not the mystery that is commanding but the story, the atmosphere created by the authors, the surroundings described by the authors.  These are not ‘police procedurals’. They are creations. A few days ago I wrote about painting a picture with words. I found both Du Maurier and Caspary created canvases.

I know I’ve just rambled but since I couldn’t really describe the stories, I had to find a way to tell you why I like these authors so much. IWestsiderRareAndUsedBooks3 hope I have and I hope my enthusiasm will rub off on you.

Just a note on Westsider Rare and Used Books. Quite a store. It’s very narrow. It has a second floor and the stairs are lined on both sides with books. Be careful climbing. Books are stacked on shelves reaching  all the way to the 20+ feet ceiling. It’s got a great mystery corner as shown in this photo to the left of the door (the paperbacks are shelved two deep), but it has a very eclectic collection. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by.

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