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review 2018-06-15 08:57
The Birds & Other Stories - Daphne du Maurier

Birds are gathering, in the sea, in the trees, in the countryside and in the cities. Then they begin to attack, murders of crows, swarms of starlings, a gunning down by gulls. Why are birds attacking and what can be done to stop them? A conclave high in the mountains is said to offer immortality but at what price? An apple tree seems to haunt a widower who is not mourning the loss of his wife. A photographer steps out from behind the camera with unforseen consequences for him and his subject, a trip to the cinema takes an unexpected turn and a father discovers that three is a crowd.


The Birds, immortalised in Hitchcock’s legendary film, is the opening story in this short story collection, the theme tying them together being the magical control the natural world can have on human nature.


The Birds is juxtaposed with the final story in the collection, The Old Man, a cleverly told tale of a jealous father who feels that three is definitely a crowd. Both of these were the stand out stories for me.


Unusually for me, there was not one story in this book that I didn’t like. All are strong, well written, enthralling tales. There is a hint of the supernatural in some, a more than hint of malice in all.  The Birds is perhaps one of the most famous of Daphne du Maurier’s stories but the rest are all there on merit too. There is sadness, revenge, madness, love and loss wrapped up in these pages. The reader is left with an unsettled feeling, a hint of unease that needs to be shrugged off.


The art of short story telling is choosing the right words to give a complete story without the reader feeling short-changed. Here the reader feels as if they have been privy to five mini novels, so complete are the stories. The skill here is that du Maurier often leaves lots unsaid. The unease is created by what is not revealed on the page but what is revealed in the reader’s imagination.


A strong, intelligent, immersive, engaging collection. You’ll lift your head up from the book and view the everyday in a new light. And have slightly healthy respect and wariness for the sparrows in your garden.


Highly recommended.

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review 2018-06-06 03:14
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier -- Look out Jung & Freud. Du Maurier does it better.
Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier,Sally Beauman

I've never read this before, nor have I seen the movie. Not sure how I missed the film, but I did. I was shocked at all the psychological twisty, rather deep and dark Freudian/Jungian stuff found in this novel. I mean, I knew it was a classic and sort of an intertext-something (I really should take a class on how to read a novel) to Jane Eyre, but I'm almost shocked at how affecting this novel was for me..


Oddly this is the second book in a row that seems to be a callback or response to another classic novel. I just finished a 2017 "response" (I'd call it) to the Great Gatsby (No One Is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts), and today I read Rebecca which is certainly a fierce response or some better word to Jane Eyre. Both novels stand very firmly on their own. They didn't need the other books, but it's incredibly interesting to see how they respond to some of the material in the earlier classics. If I have the time, someday, I'm going to take a class on how to explain myself better about books. Back to Rebecca...


Normally a simpering woman who is dying for a man to just sweep her away from it all (no matter when it was written) would turn me off. The fact that she's afraid to trouble him or speak up to him makes sense, but also made me very sad for her at first. The genius is though I kept thinking "pack it up. Leave him," I felt connected to the nameless narrator through the novel as if I was the one in her position. I felt stuck. I felt nervous. I cringed along with her. I found my pulse quickening every time Mrs. Danvers came near. I was scared - literally scared while reading this in the middle of the day.


The dreams that begin and end the book are stunning in the way they set the mood and tell the truth when our narrator can't seem to tell herself the truth. Her daydreams are full of fanciful, childish nattering, but the dreams are the real thing. The juxtaposition of the truth in her dreams v the silliness of her daydreams is very telling and full of foreboding. Du Maurier writes very melodramatic plot without ever tipping into sentimental or soggy language so well that it's almost easy to miss how melodramatic the plot actually is. She's also a master of class and all those games people play, which is a callback to Jane Eyre, but so much of this is in the narrator's fearful mind that it's wildly different from the actual scenes in Jane Eyre. 


I also think the nameless narrator is a perfect way to add one more layer of her personality -- added to her hair, the way she dresses, all of her hiding, acquiescing, nail biting, her class and the way they met -- this is a well-built and very believable character. The daydreaming tops it off for me. She can't deal with her life and shunts all of her wishes and fears into fantasy.


One more thought is that these women - the two Mrs. de Winters - are like two sides of the same person, and in the end de Winter manages to kill them both (and they're both willing to let him.) Sure, the narrator is technically still alive, but it's just a slower/different form of death. There's a lot to say about that from the world of psychobabble, but I'll spare us all.


My final thought was "did Sylvia Plath love this novel?" I don't know, but in her late (mostly Ariel-era) poems, there's a lot  that has the feel (and some of the imagery) of this novel. I tried to do a quick search, but all I learned is that Agatha Christie wrote to du Maurier about the nameless narrator.


Anyway, I loved it. It moved me. I'm not sure what I learned but if I'd gotten a degree in psychoanalysis, I would have wanted to use this as some part of my dissertation: especially in the responses of women to the women in the novel. 

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review 2018-04-09 16:18
Jamaica Inn - Daphne du Maurier

Mary Yellan leaves her home after her mother dies to live with her aunt Patience who lives with her husband at Jamaica Inn. Her aunt has gone from being a strong character to being a downtrodden victim of her domineering husband Joss Merlyn who is a smuggler. Mary has to cope with all this and live.

It's interesting and Mary is a great character, I found myself somewhat spoiled by the introduction and it would probably be better read after the book. I found the ending to be a bit rushed and the romance wasn't well developed for me. I'm pretty sure I read this before but I don't recall much of it.

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review 2018-03-31 20:19
A Tale of Two Men and One Woman
My Cousin Rachel - Daphne du Maurier

Wow. I am so glad that I read this. "My Cousin Rachel" is not just a mystery/thriller, it also has very good Gothic elements and a very twisty (in a good way story). We have two men who come across their cousin Rachel with both trying their best to hang onto her even though she wants freedom from both. You do wonder if Rachel has done all that she has been accused of via her husband Ambrose and his cousin and heir Phillip. Or have both men been seeing zebras where there were just horses? I like to think in the end there was a mixture of things in this story.


The story begins with the Phillip thinking of how murderers are no longer hung at a certain location anymore. He goes on about his upbringing with his cousin Ambrose, and how he will be seen as a standing and upright citizen like Ambrose one day. But you start to realize that these are merely words to Phillip. That something has happened that has broken him. We eventually have him mention his cousin Rachel. 


Phillip is 23 when we go back to when Ambrose decides to depart for a warmer climate due to his health. Both of the men (long without women) have backwards notions about women even for the time this book takes place in. There are a few times we get Phillip's comments about his godfather's daughter, Louise, and wow. His condescension towards her at times did make me worry for her health a few times. Ambrose eventually writes to Phillip about meeting their cousin Rachel in Florence and before you know it, the two are married. Phillip is jealous of the fact that Ambrose has fallen in love and forgotten about him. And those nearby gently tell Philip that he will have to see about getting his own home soon. When Ambrose starts writing Phillip, it seems the bloom is off the rose of his new marriage (it's been 10 months) and then the letters becoming increasingly unhinged with Phillip concerned that something is being done to Ambrose. Taking himself off to Italy he finds that Ambrose has died a few weeks before he came there and all his thoughts are about destroying Rachel if and when he comes across her. 


The story takes a turn at this point with Phillip eventually getting to meet his cousin Rachel and having her stay with him at his house and estate (he inherited from Ambrose). You start to wonder if Rachel is just a woman with unfortunate luck (her first husband died by duel, Ambrose by they say a tumor/brain disease) or is she more devious than she seems. 

Du Maurier likes playing both sides throughout the story. You can see how Rachel's actions at time seem to be as if she is playing with Phillip. However, you get to see his actions and they are in some ways worse. He ignores Rachel when she says stop and doesn't listen to her wants and needs. He seems determined to treat her as if she has no say in her own life. Since Rachel is 35 and Phillip about to turn 25, you would wonder why he would become so fixated on Rachel, but it seems that he was determined to take over something that Ambrose had. 


The other characters in this book are interesting as well. Initially Phillip's godfather (Nicholas Kendall) is put out by Phillip's hostile behavior towards Rachel. But when Phillip swings the other way to being too generous and not listening to his advice, he realizes that Phillip will come to some bad end if things are not changed.

I thought the character of Louise was the only one who saw things clearly and loved re-reading her comments to Phillip. The fact that Phillip treats her as brainless made me shake my head. If anyone could not see what was going on it was definitely Phillip. And you become sad since if things had gone another way, she would have been a perfect wife for him. Due to the ending, I wonder if she stayed away from Phillip in the future, or not.


The writing was very good. The house starts to feel oppressive and dark after a while, matching Phillip's mood. Even though the house is undergoing a restoration with gardens, a bridge, flowers, it feels like it will stay a museum, pretty to look at, with no soul. 


The flow was a bit wonky at first. The book starts off slow and you may find yourself bored, but stick with the story, it will pick up and you won't be able to put this down. 


The setting of the story is in Cornwall and Florence. Most of the book takes place in Cornwall though. Phillip hates Florence and does not write of the charm of the place or the food. He merely complains of the heat and dryness. In contrast, Rachel longs for Italy and the weather. Cornwall at first seems quite magical when Rachel first comes to the house.


The ending leaves you with so many questions. The uppermost in my mind is the question of whether Rachel  is guilty of what Ambrose and Phillip thought of her? In the end though, does it matter? 


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text 2018-03-31 12:57
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
My Cousin Rachel - Daphne du Maurier

So many questions left for me. Was Rachel some dark force? Of were the men who wanted to own her the problem? The beginning makes better sense now based on what we find out Phillip did. Really enjoyed this one!


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