I've been enjoying reading Daphne du Maurier's Early Stories, which I had to request from another library through interlibrary loan. As much as I would love to own this (I've been collecting DdM's books for a while now and think she's an exceptional short story writer), it's not only long out of print but the used copies are also well out of my budget. I did a little run down of the story collections by her that I'm aware of, and soon I'll be able to add The Doll: Short Stories to my list (I hear a few of the stories in this Early Stories collection are also included in The Doll). I'm trying to patiently wait for my copy to come in the mail, and since I'm immersed in this volume I'm not doing too badly so far (but still can't wait to get it).
I've been trying to slowly work my way through all her short stories, so this collection has been quite interesting. They were written between 1927 and 1930 when the author was under twenty-three and before she had published her first novel. All had appeared in various periodicals at the time. Although most of the stories in this collection aren't quite on par with her later work, most are still surprisingly sophisticated and all are well written. I'm nearly finished with the collection, which has eighteen stories but so far only one has the trademark du Maurier dark atmosphere--suspense verging on horror. But they all have a sense of irony about them, often coming with a twist at the end. And the stories are often about social ills of the period but aren't in any way heavy handed. Very impressive for a writer only in her early twenties!
As there are too many stories to write about in one post, I'm splitting them up and will give a little taste of each, but no worries as I won't give away endings.
Panic is the most atmospheric of the group I've read. It has elements of horror about it with a nice oppressive feel to it. A young couple travels to Paris for a bit of a fling only to find the city's hotels filled. They end up in a drab, dreary place in Montparnasse that has obviously seen better days. What began as an exciting adventure turns into something very sordid. The woman suddenly seems younger and less experienced than first thought by her suitor as the hotel gives off an ominous feel.
I'd read La Saint Vierge before as it has appeared in other collections. Although not my favorite story is it is very polished. A young Breton wife worries over her fisherman husband who is preparing once again to go to sea for his work. She's little more than a peasant girl with little education but much love that's not quite reciprocated by her handsome husband. She begs the Virgin to look out for her husband and asks for a sign her prayer has been heard.
In A Difference in Temperament a married couple, who in reality love each other, talk at cross purposes. Although they try and communicate they end up not listening and miscommunicate their feelings and then misinterpret the responses. How often does that happen?!
And Now to God the Father is one of my favorite stories so far. Reverend James Hollaway is the Vicar of St. Swithins' Church of Upper Chesham St., one of the more wealthy London neighborhoods. He's well liked and well respected by his upper class parishioners. A very fastidious man, he looks younger than his years and well knows it. He's happy to give advice to all who seek it, though he has an unfortunate tendency to be shallow, hypocritical and self-serving.
If you've ever thought of reinventing yourself or perhaps just running away, Adieu Sagesse might be a good blueprint. Richard Furgerson might be a dull man living with a charming family in a small town with small town attitudes, but he'll get the last laugh.
Adieu Sagesse is not du Maurier's only light-hearted (though somewhat satirical) story, Frustration is another humorous example of her abilities. After a seven year engagement a young couple marries despite the advice their families have against it. Their suggestion was to wait another seven years and plan properly. The groom has few prospects but the couple is tired of their very chaste wait. They happily marry only to have everything that can go wrong, well, go wrong.
Piccadilly is a morality tale of sorts. A young woman who's in service falls for the wrong man. If only she had not been so superstitious. She looked for the right signs, but made all the wrong choices. The things we do for love and the consequences that follow...Quite a bitter story.
Tame Cat is another story of a young woman's downfall, though this time it is through no fault of her own. The young woman in this story is simply very young and naive on the inside, while outwardly she is a blooming flower. Her education comes at a cost of a mother's love and trust.
Mazie is a bleak story of a woman on the game, so to speak. She has no money and no future. She goes into dress shops to just look but gets shooed out when the clerks spot her more than once. She dreams of a better life, but you just know she's not going to get it. Even walking barefoot on a sandy beach is out of her reach. This is almost more a portrait than a story.
I've got a handful of stories left to read and will write about those next week. The illustration (for Panic) I've included in my post is one of several in the book, though the artist's name is not given. I might just have to pick up one of Daphne du Maurier's novels to read next before diving into another collection of stories.