Thursday, November 3, 2011

Don't Look Now, by Daphne DuMaurier

I finished this book a few days ago. It was another one I read for the Good Reads discussion group. We knew of the creepy nature of some of DuMaurier's stories, so thought it would it be a good pick for spooky October. I think we all pretty much enjoyed it. It was a bit longer than some of our other choices, and perhaps a tad more uneven. The first tale in the book, the title piece 'Don't Look Now', was made into a Nicholas Roeg movie that you may have seen--I'll definitely be renting it at some point, as others in the group seemed to have thought it was good and faithful to the story.

Another filmmaker seemed to have diverged a bit more, and not to DuMaurier's liking. Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Birds' was taken from DuMaurier's tale of the same name, but he shifted a few things, including the locale, and perhaps even the larger meaning. It's easy to understand why it might irritate her, but I thought that the deeper tale, which is about our individual helplessness before natural events we are powerless to control, seemed to me to be carried through faithfully. I had the same creepy feeling from both. And Hitchcock, as I learned from a friend, had his reasons for setting it in Northern California. He had read a newsclipping from my very own community, where the birds were mysteriously attacking people. There was a logical reason rather than a supernatural one in this case, though. The birds had conumed an element from a red tide in the bay, which was messing with their tiny little heads.

I found the stories had their strengths and weaknesses. They are definitely of a period and reminded me a lot of certain movies of the forties. There is nothing wrong with that, but some of the stories seem slighter because of that, and read in a row, it can be like watching too many B movies. But DuMaurier's strengths more than compensate. She is excellent on setting, and when she lavishes attention on a character, like the usherette in 'Kiss Me Again, Stranger' she usually nails them.

The introduction to this edition is provided by Patrick McGrath, who is known for writing fiction in the Gothic style himself. I think both McGrath and DuMaurier demonstrate that there is still plenty of room in fiction for this sensibility.

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