Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Doll: The Lost Short Stories by Daphne du Maurier

The Doll: The Lost Short Stories by Daphne du Maurier

Recently, I came across this series of short stories published by HarperCollins. These stories have appeared only once in publication in mostly British literary magazines.
"The Doll" is a strange story about a woman who keeps a life-sized doll in a hidden room in her apartment in London. She's a mysterious woman and in some ways a precursor to DuMaurier's more famous Rebecca. The story falls flat, though, by contemporary standards. The woman in the story seems to be doing something illicit with the doll, named Julio, and this causes the narrator, who loves her, to go mad.

Though this is the title story the first story in the collection, "East Wind" is much more interesting. The contamination of a protected culture, the inhabitants of St. Hilda, and the resulting madness are the themes of this wonderful story. In isolation the inhabitants are purportedly happy. The East wind, however, brings a ship full of sailors of unknown origin who introduce the islanders to the world beyond the island. They bring music and drink and, most importantly, desire. DuMaurier describes the destruction that desire can bring to a repressed or isolated group.

"Piccadilly" is a dramatic monologue, a narrative technique rarely used among short story writers, but one that Du Maurier uses well. Du Maurier's affiliation with drama and theater is clearly evident in this story.

The antagonist of "Tame Cat" is possibly a thinly disguised reference to J.M. Barrie whom DuMaurier knew well. For more information on the J.M. Barrie connection, see my post on Piers Dudgeon's Neverland.

"Week-End" is a chronicle of the demise of one couple's love. Like a one-act play, we hear the intimate dialogue, the small bickerings, and witness the final dissolution.

Though "East Wind" is the most accomplished story, "Happy Valley" comes in at a close second. A woman has a strange ability to see her future even if she is unable to fully remember or change it.

Review: Chantal