‘Don’t Look Now: Short Stories’ by Daphne du Maurier

My rating: 4 stars

The five tales featured in Don’t Look Now: Short Stories by Daphne du Maurier are all distinct from one another, thanks to either their unique main characters, their settings, or contrasting types of narrative. Nevertheless, almost all of them share a disconcerting ambience, albeit in various degrees. Not all of the stories are enthralling, but a couple are just stupendous.

The eponymous story, ‘Don’t Look Now’, is an outstanding opener to the collection. It is an engaging tale, full of not only moments of tangible tension, but also occasional instances of humour. John and Laura were on holidays in Italy trying to overcome the death of their little girl. At a restaurant, they became intrigued by two twin sisters. Laura decided to discreetly follow one of them to the toilets and on her return revealed to John that the woman had told her that she had seen their daughter sitting next to them. She had always had an interest in the occult, but it was only when she became blind that she started seeing things. John was not convinced by this story. He was far less inclined to believe in anything supernatural than Laura and feared for her mental health. He didn’t like the sisters, nor did he believe in them. But should he?

‘Not After Midnight’ is also unsettling. It was impossible not to be intrigued and enthralled throughout. The narrator used to be a schoolmaster but resigned to avoid being dismissed. He justified his resignation with ill-health, a problem caused by a bug he caught while holidaying on the island of Crete in Greece. His problem seems to be connected with his mental health, though. He became extremely afraid of something after he stayed in a room previously occupied by a man who drowned. Continue reading

‘Frenchman’s Creek’ by Daphne du Maurier

My rating: 4 stars

As in many other of Daphne du Maurier’s books, the Cornish coastline comes to life in Frenchman’s Creek. But not only does this historical novel feature a myriad of delightful and evocative descriptions of the locations where the action takes place, it also comprises superb dialogues and many thrilling moments. The main character just falls in love with a French pirate a little too fast for it to feel fully realistic, despite both of them having captivating personalities.

Lady Dona St Columb was married to Harry with whom she had two children, Henrietta and James. Bored of the shallow life she had in the London court, she decided to retreat to Navron, her husband’s estate in Cornwall. When she arrived there with her children, she encountered a dusty house and was surprised to learn that William, the manservant, had been living there alone for a year. Only after being informed that she was coming did he hire other servants.

Soon after her arrival at Navron, she received an unexpected visit from a neighbour who informed her that a pirate, known as the Frenchman, was constantly seizing their goods. She felt some admiration for the pirate, since he had managed to fool them all. Little did she know that she would soon make his acquaintance. While walking around her property, she found the ship of the Frenchman. She tried to leave without being seen, but a man came from behind her and managed to blind her and pin her hands. She was then taken to the ship where she met the infamous pirate, Jean-Benoit Aubéry. Their first interaction is hilarious. He was totally different from what she expected, being indisputably knowledgeable. Continue reading

My Every Main Blog Post about Daphne du Maurier

I fell in love with Daphne du Maurier at first read! When I read Rebecca in 2017, it immediately became one of my favourite books of all time. I then decided to read at least one book by her every year. I’ve also taken part in the Daphne du Maurier reading week (#DDMreadingweek), which is hosted by Ali, since 2019 and this year is no exception. It has started on Monday and ends next Sunday (it runs from 10 to 16 May). I’m currently reading Frenchman’s Creek, which I hope to finish soon (I plan to publish a review on Friday), and would also love to have time to read Don’t Look Now: Short Stories.

But I already have many other posts on my blog only about Daphne du Maurier and her work if you’re interested. So far, I’ve written seven reviews, an author spotlight and a post listing my favourite characters from her novels.

 

Reviews

The Scapegoat

The Birds and Other Stories

The House on the Strand

Jamaica Inn

The King’s General

My Cousin Rachel

Rebecca Continue reading

Favourite Supporting Characters II

The most memorable characters tend to be the protagonists. However, books are far more engrossing when their supporting characters are as realistic, complex and engaging. Per definition, secondary characters are not the focus of the main storyline, but they are still essential for our enjoyment of a story.

Since writing my first post about my favourite supporting characters, around four years ago, I’ve discovered a few more who are as remarkable. Daphne du Maurier created three of them, which is unsurprising considering her talent.

 

Richard Grenville – The King’s General by Daphne du Maurier

Although Richard Grenville isn’t the protagonist of The King’s General, he is a critical character in the story. Honor Harris, the protagonist, explains why she fell in love with him. Their interactions, particularly at the beginning of the book, are amusing, charming and captivating. His actions are both kind and shameful. He is sarcastic, wild and careless with his finances. Continue reading

Book Haul – March 2021

March felt like a good month to get more books, though since last year I’ve been trying to read all of the books that I own before buying new ones. This haul consists of both novels and short story collections, almost all of them written by women. Some have been on my wish list for ages, others are more recent discoveries.

 

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Inspired by Johannes Vermeer’s famous painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring tells the story of Griet, a servant girl who becomes the student and muse of the Dutch painter. Scandal erupts when he gives her his wife’s pearl earrings to wear for a portrait. I’ve been meaning to read this historical fiction novel for ages and hopefully won’t be disappointed.

 

Salt Slow by Julia Armfield

Julia Armfield’s debut collection of short stories is supposedly filled with lyrical prose and dark humour. How could I resist buying it? Various feelings are explored in these tales: isolation, obsession, love and revenge. Continue reading

Favourite Protagonists II

While some books shine thanks to their gripping plots, others enchant readers because of their convincing and memorable characters. They don’t need to have faultless personalities, but their traits and behaviours have to be plausible and feel genuine. A great, complex protagonist is always a plus in any novel. Since I wrote my first post about my favourite protagonists, almost four years ago, I’ve discovered other believable main characters that I soon won’t forget.

 

Mary Yellan – Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier created magnificent characters. The protagonist of Jamaica Inn, Mary Yellan, is just one of many. She is spirited, determined and curious. Although she is undoubtfully brave, in certain occasions she (understandably) succumbs to fear. It’s striking how she frequently muses on her behaviour towards other characters, particularly her aunt. Despite being well-intentioned, Mary is sometimes too severe with her.

 

Circe – Circe by Madeline Miller

Bullied and tormented by her siblings, Circe felt like an outcast since a young age. Madeline Miller clearly shows how the life experiences of the protagonist of this Ancient Greek myth retelling shaped her personality. After using her witchcraft powers, Circe is banished to a deserted island, becoming much more independent and less fearful. Her emotions are believable and palpable throughout. Continue reading

Favourite Books I Read in 2020

In theory, the fiasco that was 2020 afforded us far more free time for reading. Nevertheless, I managed to read not only fewer books, but also fewer pages than in the previous year. The only reason for that is that I found it difficult to focus on whichever book I was reading for long periods of time, having had to shorten each reading session significantly. On the bright side, I enjoyed the vast majority of the books that I have read.

So far, I have read 29 books in their entirety and will certainly finish the one I’m currently reading before the end of the year. Almost all of the books that I decided to pick up were novels and novellas, but I also read a couple of short story and poetry collections (I didn’t review all of them, though). My reading was also varied in terms of genres: literary fiction, classics, fantasy, myth retellings, historical fiction… Two of the books that I read were not new to me. After reading their translations into Portuguese years ago, I decided to finally read Atonement by Ian McEwan and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen in the original. I loved them as much as I did the first time.

However, only taking into consideration the books that I’ve read for the first time in 2020, irrespective of date of publication, my favourites, in reverse order, are: Continue reading

Love a Book, Judge the Next

Loving the first book that we read by an author is a fabulous experience, regardless if they are at the beginning of their writing career or if they already have various books published. The downside is that it can make us be much harsher when reading a second book by them. I think this happened to me a few times. I loved the first books that I read by certain authors so much that I ended up being much severe when judging my following reads by them.

 

Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

The first book that I read by Daphne du Maurier was the magnificent Rebecca, an enthralling, enigmatic and atmospheric novel, which is full of fleshed out characters. After marrying Maxim de Winter, the unnamed narrator moved with him to his family home, Manderley. She already felt inferior to his first wife, Rebecca, before, but living there only increased her insecurities and her sense of inaptitude.

After loving Rebecca, I was eager to continue exploring Du Maurier’s work. I soon picked up My Cousin Rachel. Philip, the narrator of the story, was raised by his older cousin Ambrose, who married Rachel while in Italy. Not long after his marriage, he died. Although Philip harboured suspicions about the role of his cousin Rachel in Ambrose’s death, he ended up falling in love with her. There’s a mysterious ambience throughout, as readers are skilfully led to have conflicting feelings about the characters. I was not fully convinced by how Philip fell so head over heels with Rachel, though. Despite being certain that I didn’t like it nowhere near as much as Rebecca, I feel like I was a bit too harsh on my review. Continue reading

Books Between a 3 and a 4-Star Rating

Deciding on the rating of a book can sometimes be difficult. I usually struggle when my opinions and feelings about a book change throughout the reading experience. Some books have great beginnings, while others become outstanding closer to the end. I decided early on not to give half-stars, since that would make me overthink (even more) the rating. Why only give a book 3.5 stars when it could maybe be a 3.75? That decision left me with another problem, though – how to rate books that I enjoyed for the most part, but that I also had more qualms about than I typically do for a four-star read.

There are at least five books that I struggled to decide whether to rate with four or three stars.

 

Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb

The second book in The Farseer Trilogy continues to tell the story of Fitz, who, being the bastard son of Prince Chivalry, is a member of the Farseer royal family. Court intrigue, battles and magic abound in this novel that I rated with four stars after some contemplation. For almost half of the book, the plot doesn’t seem to have a well-defined direction and the pacing is all over the place. However, the rest of the book is engaging and affecting. The characters gain a new life and shine as bright as in the first book in the trilogy, Assassin’s Apprentice. Continue reading

So Different and So Similar Pairs of Books

Two books can have significant elements in common and still tell different stories. Characters may face similar situations, but their individual choices take the plots in completely different directions. The themes of two novels may be similar, but the action, the characters and the writing style ensure that they are ultimately distinctive and readers are still experiencing a fresh story.

I’ve read (at least) four pairs of books that are both different and similar for various reasons.

 

História do Cerco de Lisboa (The History of the Siege of Lisbon) by José Saramago + The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier

These two novels have in common being my least favourites, so far, by José Saramago and Daphne du Maurier, two authors I adore. This is not the reason why I chose them to be part of this post. Both of them are also set in two different time periods, which are connected by a man. The tribulations that the characters face, however, are completely different. Continue reading