The Doll: Short Stories by Daphne du Maurier

Ever since I read Rebecca I’ve been half in love with Daphne du Maurier.  I’ve read quite a lot of her work and she’s such a good story-teller!  Recently I was overjoyed to discover that a new collection of her early short stories had been published in May this year.

‘The Doll’ and the other stories included here were almost all written between 1926 and 1932, and were originally published individually in magazines and journals in the UK and America.  This is the first time they have been published as a collection, and some were only rediscovered very recently.

All the stories are written from such a cynical viewpoint, examining human nature in microscopic detail.  They seem to suggest a distrust in humanity and a predictability in the way in which men and women conduct themselves towards each other.  Yet there is also a bitter humour to be found within the pages; two which prompted a wry smile are ‘Week-End’ and ‘A Difference in Temperament’, which both deal with a man and a woman talking at cross-purposes over the same issues.

‘The Doll’, ‘East Wind’ and ‘The Happy Valley’ stood out because of their strangeness and almost mythical dreaminess, and ‘The Happy Valley’ especially hints at the supernatural.  They are not so firmly set in reality as the other stories.  ‘The Doll’ is written as the journal of a tormented man obsessed by an unobtainable woman.  ‘East Wind’ reads like a fairy tale of a remote island invaded by sailors, who infect the male islanders with drink and jealousy and seduce the women with new-found lust.  ‘The Happy Valley’ is a tale of destiny and ghostliness, where a woman seems to see into her own future, but can’t find herself in it. It contains a vision of Menabilly, the house Manderley was based on in Rebecca, and is a wonderfully sad, dreamy story.

I could go on about each story in turn but you really should read them for yourself.  Written in her twenties, before she was married, before she became an acclaimed novelist, du Maurier is testing out her writing skills and gives us a fascinating insight into her thoughts, revealing a maturity beyond her years.

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