Sunday, September 07, 2008
deliciously dark short stories
One of the many things I loved about R.I.P. last year was short story Sunday, though I did a less than stellar job of remembering to participate on a weekly basis. And while not an "official" part of this year's challenge, I know that at least a couple other people (Stephanie and Somer) are going to post about their creepy short reads...yeah! Though of course, it will be hell on the old wish list. Already added Nocturnes by John Connolly thanks to Somer's post. Anyway, I really do enjoy reading short stories, especially those of the dark variety, so I decided I would try to get a few in each week, too.
Up first were "Don't Look Now" and "The Apple Tree" by Daphne du Maurier. This is the first time I've read any of her work. I was really excited at the prospect of reading Rebecca after reading Chris's review last year. And then was really excited to give Jamaica Inn a go after reading Stephanie's review. But then, as I so often do, I went and scared myself out of actually trying either one of them. I have this thing about "classics"...I get all worried that I just won't "get" them. Despite the fact that I usually enjoy them when I do give them a go. My mind is not always a rational one. Anyway, I actually went to the library to pick up Jamaica Inn right after reading Stephanie's review, but while I was there I saw Daphne du Maurier's Classics of the Macabre. It was an easy decision to pick that one up instead...you know, an easy way to get my feet wet and see if I would really enjoy her writing.
Well, let me tell you, what an idiot I was for ever doubting! I LOVE these stories! Absolutely love them! They are on the longer end of "short stories," at around 50 pages each, but both that I have read so far have gone quickly because it's just very hard to set the book down.
"Don't Look Now" is the story of a British couple vacationing in Venice. They have recently lost their young daughter, and the husband is hoping this trip will help his wife overcome some of her terrible grief. While at a cafe one day, they meet twin sisters. One of the sisters is blind and claims to "see" the couple's dead daughter sitting with them at lunch. The mother is immediately drawn to the sisters, believing the claim. The husband is certain that these women are up to something, playing on his wife's grief. A series of events, some supernatural, some all too earthly, follow that lead the reader on a fast-paced, suspenseful journey to the truth.
"The Apple Tree" didn't have quite the suspenseful nature of the first story, but it was still an enjoyable read. It centers on a man who has recently lost his wife. But as opposed to grieving his loss, he now feels a new sense of freedom. Freedom from a wife he viewed as long-suffering. Though the reader senses some of the responsibility for his wife's demeanor lies directly at his feet. In his backyard, there is an apple tree. And the man begins projecting onto this tree the traits of his deceased wife. As the story progresses we watch his obsession with this tree grow. While the ending is a bit predictable, it is nonetheless a wonderful tale.