Look what came in the mail for me this month, Daphne du Maurier's The Doll: Short Stories. This is the collection just released by Virago, which includes stories that had been published in magazines or US story collections but "lost" and forgotten. The Guardian wrote about it earlier this year. It looks like only a very few stories are newly reprinted, as eight are from the collection I just finished reading, Early Stories. This is a good thing actually (though I wouldn't have minded more stories that were rediscoveries), as Early Stories is a very difficult and expensive collection to come by. I had to borrow it from a library via interlibrary loan and it is long since returned to the loaning library.
I wrote about the stories in the first half of the 1959 collection here, and now it's time to write about the rest before the details fade too much from mind. It's been interesting reading some of Daphne du Maurier's early work. Many of the stories follow a similar pattern--telling a story that ends in an ironic twist of fate or presents a morality tale of sorts. Not many have du Maurier's trademark atmosphere with an unnerving sense about them, but there are definitely a few hints of what's to come later.
In The Supreme Artist an aging actor who has a starring role opposite an attractive younger actress is met backstage by a woman who claims the two had an intimate relationship in their more youthful days. He remembers nothing of their prior history but goes along with her stories anyway filling in odd details, but not getting many of them right. When the woman leaves and the actress returns she asks who the old woman with the white hair is, playing into the man's vanities and fears.
The Reverend James Hollaway makes another appearance in Angels and Archangels. Away recovering from the flu at the home of one of his distinguished friends a young curate takes over his parish temporarily. He manages to offend and alienate the swanky parishioners of St. Swithins' to the point where they stop attending mass. The charismatic young curate, however, has no problem filling pews and appealing to the more downtrodden souls of London, which does nothing to endear him to Reverend Hollaway who gets his revenge and shows his true colors in the process.
I'd read Indiscretion before, but this is a story I didn't mind revisiting. Du Maurier asks the question 'how many people's lives are ruined by a moment's indiscretion. The story's narrator goes to lunch with his boss regaling him with the story of a woman he met by chance and who duped him. Fate has a way of tricking those who are seemingly self-assured.
Fairy Tale really is a fairy tale of sorts. This is another story with bleak overtones but a happy ending. Once again chance or perhaps fate intervenes in an otherwise unhappy life in a surprising way. It concerns money lenders who have no pity and secret boxes that should contain a very few dollars but is empty when raided in a moment of desperation.
In The Closing Door a happy young couple is confronted with life-altering news, though only one of the two understands what the news means while the other makes assumptions, and worse, passes judgement not understanding the repercussions of her narrow minded views.
For me The Lover was the least effective story in the collection. A total cad plays up to all the women in his cricle and takes advantage of their generosity. Sorry, very vague, but my notes are rather sketchy on this one for some reason.
Leading Lady is another story set in the theater world. This time a famous actress whose beauty is beginning to wane agrees to work with a new producer. She doesn't like or respect him, but he's successful and wants to give her a big role opposite an up and coming actor. The problem is, the actor is a little too good at what he does. The producer has a high moral standard, which the actress (very immorally) uses to trip up anyone who poses a threat to her.
Nothing Hurts for Long are words that are easier to say to someone else than to apply to one's own life (or to assume they need be applied...). A young woman very much in love with her husband, who has been away traveling, has very little time or sympathy for a distraught friend whose own husband has just left her. It's best not to be smug in situations where you think you have the upper hand.
Week-End is much like Frustration in it's tone and light heartedness. Two lovers go away for a romantic weekend but end up with a different opinion of each other after a soggy boat trip. Sweet, caressing words turn to animosity.
Since many of the stories in The Doll overlap with those collected in Early Stories, I will wait before reading any of du Maurier's other short stories (perhaps will save it for Carl's RIP challenge later this year?). I am definitely looking forward to reading more of du Maurier's work this year, however, and think a novel is just what I need now.