Published by Virgo Press
Publication date – 6 May 2004
Source – review copy
‘How long he fought with them in the darkness he could not tell, but at last the beating of the wings about him lessened and then withdrew . . . ‘
A classic of alienation and horror, ‘The Birds’ was immortalised by Hitchcock in his celebrated film. The five other chilling stories in this collection echo a sense of dislocation and mock man’s sense of dominance over the natural world. The mountain paradise of ‘Monte Verità’ promises immortality, but at a terrible price; a neglected wife haunts her husband in the form of an apple tree; a professional photographer steps out from behind the camera and into his subject’s life; a date with a cinema usherette leads to a walk in the cemetery; and a jealous father finds a remedy when three’s a crowd . . .
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.
About the author
Daphne du Maurier (1907-89) was born in London, the daughter of the famous actor-manager Sir Gerald du Maurier and granddaughter of George du Maurier, the author and artist. In 1931 her first novel, The Loving Spirit, was published. A biography of her father and three other novels followed, but it was the novel Rebecca that launched her into the literary stratosphere and made her one of the most popular authors of her day. In 1932, du Maurier married Major Frederick Browning, with whom she had three children.
Many of du Maurier’s bestselling novels and short stories were adapted into award-winning films, including Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds and Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now. In 1969 du Maurier was awarded a DBE. She lived most of her life in Cornwall, the setting for many of her books.
The was book 2 in my #20BooksofSummer challenge.