Don’t Look Now and Other Stories – Daphne du Maurier

Nu-privi-acum-si-alte-povestiri-Daphne-Maurier-Editura-Univers-1983 I must confess, I expected a lot from this book. With a title like that, I thought, this must be a great book. As it turned out, it really was. There are four stories and I loved them all but one truly stands apart.

Don’t Look Now is about a couple on holiday in Torcello, Italy. What seems like an innocent holiday game of making up stories about strangers begins to be more than that when John and Laura spot two elderly ladies at a nearby table. And when one of them claims to see the couple’s recently deceased child, a girl named Christine, things really get interesting. Told through vivacious dialogue and dropping clues one after the other, the story reaches the end and everything comes full circle, leaving one more mystery behind but providing satisfying closure nevertheless.

The narrator of Not After Midnight is Timothy Grey, a 49 year old bachelor who remembers his fateful trip to Crete and the horrible incident that changed his life. He’s not an unreliable narrator, plagued by bouts of madness concealed into the folds of everyday routine. On the contrary, the accuracy of detail makes him a highly credible story-teller and I couldn’t help but sympathize with him and wishing things had ended on a different note. Timothy seems like the kind of person who’s almost pedantic in his routine. It’s obvious he likes things done a certain way and he highly values his privacy. That is why, when he meets an odd couple – the big, drinking man and his silent wife, he tries to keep his distance. I really liked how the author gave a new spin to a famous snippet of Greek mythology.

A Border-Line Case is about Shelagh, a young woman who tries to find out more about her father’s best friend. The men had had a falling out after Shelagh’s father got married. Her mother can’t stand the man. And following her father’s death in such strange circumstances – he was watching his daughter when it happened – Shelagh decides to employ her talents as an actress to fabricate a story that will allow her to find out the truth. What’s really behind the mysterious, reclusive man living on an island with a few trusted companions? And why does he have a picture of her parents on their wedding day but with himself as the groom? As Shelagh finds herself caught in the mystery, it is Shakespeare who ultimately unlocks the past and reveals the terrifying truth. This is perhaps the most dramatic story in the book and also my favorite.

The Way of the Cross takes place in Jerusalem. A group of people under the supervision of young reverend Babcock visit the holy city. They are quite a mix – the young couple on their honeymoon, an older couple from the high society and their spoiled nephew, a businessman and his wife, and an elderly spinster. It’s obvious from the start that things aren’t as they should be. Reverend Babcock had to take the place of an older and much beloved reverend on this trip, a fact that will have devastating consequences for all in the group. With uncanny precision, the author unveils the insecurities, weaknesses and secrets of all involved. Shocking revelations, betrayal and humiliation follow in rapid succession. Come here all, and have yourselves be stripped to your very soul – this seems to be the motto of the story.

I was fascinated by the stories and only wished there were more in the book. Du Maurier doesn’t waste any time in lengthy descriptions or flowery turns of phrase. Straight to the point using dialogue for the most part, this seems to be the best way to tell the stories. A clever manipulation of clues dropped here and there throughout make them almost seamless. It was not until quite close to the end that I remembered them, and when the ending came it was as unexpected as it was natural. Of course this is how it happened, I told myself, there couldn’t have been a better way. I went back and forth a couple of times, because I had forgotten some of the clues that were vital to the story. Who knew Shelagh’s love for acting and Shakespeare in particular were more than just a literary allusion? Or that a half-god’s legacy would find a new victim in poor Timothy? Or that a strange prophecy of an old blind woman will prove to be so accurate? The characters are exposed, their flaws and hopes and desires revealed. There’s cruelty but also love and vulnerability.
I couldn’t praise this book more. I had no idea such a little gem was hiding in my library. The edition I have is a Romanian translation from 1983 which I discovered one night when sleep was slow to come. If you’re a fan of mystery, I recommend you give this book a try.

My rating: 5/5 stars
Read in February-March, 2016


A few days ago I was ver excited to read about a Romanian Writers Challenge on Bellezza’s blog. The challenge is hosted by Snow Feathers, a Romanian blogger, and lasts until 1 December 2016, so there’s plenty of time if you want to join. Coincidence or not, I found out about this event not long after I finished a Romanian book, Why We Love Women, by Mircea Cartarescu, so this event seemed too good to pass up. As soon as I’m done with Dan Brown and the mysteries of the Vatican (I’m about halfway through “Angels and Demons”) and write a review for Cartarescu’s book, I’ll see what other Romanian writers I can read for this challenge.

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20 Responses to Don’t Look Now and Other Stories – Daphne du Maurier

  1. Such a wonderful review, Delia. 🙂 Thank you. I am sad that book is not available in English.

    The first story sounds creepy. I am curious to know how it unfolds. All the other stories sound intriguing too.

    I loved this sentence — “Come here all, and have yourselves be stripped to your very soul…” So beautiful!

    That sentence reminded me of one of my favourite quotes of Murakami’s — “What happens when people open their hearts?They get better.”

    • Delia says:

      Hi Deepika,

      The book is available in English under the title “Don’t Look Now and Other Stories”. The pic I posted is of the Romanian translation I have.

      Ah, Murakami, he’s quite something, isn’t he? I thought the answer to the question “What happens when people open their hearts?” was “They bleed.” Not nice, I know. 🙂

  2. That would have been King’s answer, Delia. 😀

    It is available in English? Adding it to my TBR right away. 🙂 Thank you.

    • Delia says:

      I sure hope so. I miss a good horror story. 🙂

      Of course it’s available in English. You may have heard of “Rebecca” – that was by the same author, quite a famous classic.
      I hope you enjoy it.

  3. Brian Joseph says:

    Based on your description of these stories they seem dark in such an appealing way.

    I have wanted to read Don’t Look Now for a while.

    I love the cover art of the edition that you posted.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Brian,

      You described them perfectly. They are dark and unexpected. That’s also one of the reasons why I liked them so much, their unexpected side.
      “Don’t Look Now” is such a creepy little tale. It’s like watching a train, knowing it’s coming and yet being unable to move from the tracks. Scary, right?
      The book I have is from 1983. It’s such an old edition, it doesn’t even have an ISBN number. It’s in a pretty good condition for an old book.

  4. Lynn says:

    I love Daphne DuMaurier – she is without doubt one of my favourite authors (definitely top 10). I haven’t read this one but I must go and take a look at it.
    Lynn 😀

    • Delia says:

      I’m glad to hear that, Lynn. I also have “My Cousin Rachel” which I hope to read this year. I hope you’ll get to read these stories and like them.

  5. Bina says:

    The collection sounds wonderful, Delia! I’ve only read the Not After Midnight story, but I’m generally a DuMaurier fan. Sounds like I need to read her other short stories 🙂
    Can’t wait to see what Romanian authors you’ll introduce us to!

    • Delia says:

      Hi Bina,

      Glad to see you like Du Maurier so much. It makes me want to grab my copy of My Cousin Rachel and start reading. Soon.
      I found “Not After Midnight” the weakest in the collection. No that it was bad in any way, but I thought the other stories were a lot more fascinating. I hope you’ll read them too so you can tell me I was wrong. 🙂
      Ah yes, I’m still behind with my reviews but getting there….slowly. I’m taking it one book at a time.

      • Bina says:

        Heh maybe the story does better then if it does not have to go up against the other short stories 🙂 I’ll have to go look for her short story collections!
        Yes, grab My Cousin Rachel now 🙂 That is such a good one! Maybe my second favorite of hers.

        • Delia says:

          You may have a point there. 🙂
          I hope you like the stories if you get to read them.

          I’m glad to see such a vote of confidence for My Cousin Rachel. I hope to get to it soon. If it’s as good as these short stories it will be great.

  6. Stefanie says:

    I’ve got this book and I’ve been meaning to read it for ages, don’t know why I can’t seem to get to it even though I’ve yet to come across anyone who doesn’t like it. Maybe this will be the year!

  7. Deb Atwood says:

    You’ve definitely got my attention. I’m not much for reading short story collections (though there are short stories that are among my favorite literary works). I do like collections that carry a common theme or thread like Joyce’s The Dead. Looks like the Du Maurier collection focuses on the stranger and revelations. I’ll give this a try.

    I know I read My Cousin Rachel, but I can’t remember a thing about it now. I even thought it was a movie with Joanne Woodward, but it turns out that’s Rachel, Rachel. Ha ha! However, I did see that My Cousin Rachel is currently in production and will be a movie soon.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Deb,

      I’m glad this sounds good to you. I think you’ll like it, considering you like ghost stories. I found a free copy of “The Dead”. It’s a novella, isn’t it? Adding this to my TBR. Thank you for mentioning it.

      I’d better hurry up and read “My Cousin Rachel” before the movie comes out. (I had no idea one is in the works, and with Rachel Weisz, too! Exciting!) I said the same thing about “The Martian” and I still haven’t read that book or seen the movie.

  8. Vishy says:

    Wonderful review, Delia! I haven’t heard of this book before. It looks quite fascinating. I think my favourite stories from your descriptions are ‘Don’t Look Now’ and ‘A Border-Line Case’. But I like the other ones as well. I will look for this book. Need to read some Du Maurier one of these days 🙂 The Romanian Literature Challenge – this is so wonderful! I hope you as part of the challenge, you write an introductory post on Romanian literature – I would love to know about your favourite writers and get some recommendations. Looking forward to reading your posts for this challenge and adding some Romanian books to my ‘TBR’ list. Thanks a lot for telling us about this.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Vishy,

      I hope you read this book so you can tell me which one is your favorite. I was impressed with the stories.

      Ah, Vishy, I hope I won’t disappoint you if I say my relationship with Romanian literature has just started to get serious. I’ve been away from Romania for a really long time and it’s only when I get back for short periods of time, that I get a chance to read Romanian books. From what I know, not that many Romanian authors have been translated but I will do my best to have some recommendations ready. Who knows, maybe you can join us, too. 🙂 That would be amazing.

  9. Caroline says:

    I read this a long time ago and remember liking it. I thought the title story was set in Venice as the movie that’s based on it is set there.
    I hadn’t heard of the Romanian Writers Challenge. I’d be very interested to try literature from Romania.

    • Delia says:

      It’s a very interesting story, isn’t it? I was shocked by the ending, it was so bizarre!
      I thought it was Venice as well, but Torcello is mentioned early on several times – “here in Torcello” says one part of a sentence, so I did a bit of research and it seems Torcello is “a sparsely populated island at the northern end of the Venetian Lagoon, in north-eastern Italy. It is the oldest continuously populated region of Venice, and once held the largest population of the Republic of Venice.”

      The Romanian Writers Challenge was quite a novelty for me as well. I hope you’ll join the challenge. Luckily it runs until the end of the year so there’s plenty of time.

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