The Lost Short Stories

These tales written very early in her career (1926-1932), long before Rebecca.  Some were published much later, some not at all.  It’s fascinating to see the writer she would become taking shape in these early stories.  Sometimes they style is slightly more simplistic as though they were first drafts or rough sketches.  What always comes through, however, is her exploration of the human psyche — both of her characters and the reader.  She reveals only just so much, leaving the reader to fill in the blanks.  But rest assured, we land just where du Maurier leads us.  Somehow we now the darkened path, the frightening staircase will lead us down but we can’t stop reading.
du Maurier on the stairs of her beloved home, Menabilly
Another theme that du Maurier employs in her stories that transfers to the reader is a sense of emptiness. The Doll tracks the slow descent to madness through “found” pages of a diary.  A man chases an elusive woman, named Rebecca (naturally).  She is described as cold, heartless vacant.  To the narrator she is a doll.  Perfection is in construction but absent of feeling or soul.  But Rebecca’s fickle nature drives the narrator mad.  And Now To God The Father displays her distinct distrust of organized religion.  Frustration reads like a novice’s attempt at an O. Henry ironic fable.  Tame Cat is entirely unsettling just like we expect du Maurier should be.  By writing from the point-of-view of an incredibly naive narrator, the reader is able to withhold judgement until the awful truth cannot be denied.  Nothing Hurts For Long are the interior thoughts of a two-faced, fair weather “friend.”  Weekend is bitingly realistic and darkly funny.  Within a few short pages, she has traced the evolution of a relationship, albeit cynically.
All of the stories poke at our idea of normal, challenging what is comfortable.  This is unsurprising, knowing the little we do about her unconventional upbringing.  Her grandfather was George du Maurier, author of the wildly popular Trilby.  Daphne was also cousin to the Llewelyn Davies boys, who ultimately inspired J. M. Barrie to write Peter Pan.  Psychologically unnerving and yet somehow of a parallel universe, The Doll will resonate with fans of Jamaica Inn, Don’t Look Now (aka Not After Midnight), Rebecca, and The Scapegoat.  
Also read a great article in The Telegraph.
Many thanks to the folks at William Morrow / HarperCollins for the review copy.
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ISBN: 9780062080349
Imprint: William Morrow Paperbacks
On Sale: 11/22/2011
Format: Trade PB
Trimsize: 5 5/16 x 8
Pages: 224; $14.99
Ages: 18 and Up

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