Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Doll: The Lost Short Stories by Daphne du Maurier — 224 pgs

A mysterious ship lands on an isolated island during a storm and stirs up desire, debauchery and revenge.  A man exhibits a powerful obsession for a woman who hides a strange secret. A charming and socially connected Vicar hides a flinty heart of steel. A young woman steals the thunder of her aging mother and finds herself in a very awkward and troubling position. These stories and many others form the collection inside The Doll, master storyteller Daphne du Maurier’s early endeavors in the realm of short fiction. Powerful, dark and sometimes sinister, these thirteen stories show a myriad of people in all their glorious malevolence. In du Maurier’s singular and penetrating voice, her characters come to life, stepping out from the ordinary into the extraordinary. With punctilious wit, du Maurier examines the hidden sides of men and women and brings them into the light, where all their flaws and idiosyncrasies come screaming off the page. Both varied and haunting, these stories will leave readers pondering the subtle nuances of the people who live inside the pages of this very eclectic and strange collection.

I’d never read any of du Maurier’s work before now, but I have heard great things about her full length novels and have made it one of my top goals of the new year to read Rebecca. Having the opportunity to read this book really opened my eyes in a lot of ways, and I was excited over it because I considered it a primer for tackling some of her longer works. What I found was strange and unsettling, and made me consider the fact that du Maurier must have had a very cynical mind and perhaps some strange misanthropic tendencies. Though I did get invested in these stories, they weren’t the type of things that one would read to brighten their days or to release the stress of the holiday season. In fact, the effect was just the opposite, and I grew a little wary of what would come next as I perused story after story.

None of the characters in these stories were likable. The men were lecherous and conniving, the women co-dependant and manipulative. There were certain themes that ran through the collection that I found a little disquieting, and most of them had to do with romantic entanglements. The men seemed to take great advantage of the women and then throw them away when they got bored. This happened in many different ways in in many competing scenarios, but after awhile, I felt like it was the same song and dance over and over again. This was a bitter collection, and if I were to make any type of opinion on the mind of the person who created these stories, I would have to assume that the author had been burned and was very distrustful of the opposite sex.

The women weren’t much better. In most of the stories with a female protagonist, they exist as emotionally immature harpies or calculating and mean-spirited witches who have no qualms about doing emotional damage. They also seemed to never be able to genuinely connect with their partners. A lot of the women seemed weak in one way or another. There were a few exceptions, but even the exceptions weren’t strong or positive women who had their heads screwed tightly on their shoulders. I grew to dislike every person who was highlighted in this collection, and though I found some of  the stories fascinating, others were somewhat plebeian and I couldn’t see what the fuss was about. I can’t say this was a collection that I would ever go back to, because frankly, once was enough; but if you like your short stories dark, then this is the collection for you.

Although I didn’t really fall in love with this book, I haven’t given up hope that Rebecca will blow my mind, because I’ve heard such praise lavished upon it. I can definitely see that these early stories paved the way for something very interesting, but I have to admit that I was happy to finally turn the last page of this book. As I mentioned before, if you enjoy your short fiction bleak, then I think this has the potential to be a great read for you, but as far as I’m concerned, I could just as easily take it as leave it.


About the Author

Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989) has been called one of the great shapers of popular culture and the modern imagination. Among her more famous works are The Scapegoat, Jamaica Inn, Rebecca, and the short story The Birds, all of which were subsequently made into films, the latter three directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

TLC Book Tours A warm thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for me to read and review. Please continue to follow the tour by visiting these other blogs:

Tuesday, November 22nd:Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, November 23rd:The Lost Entwife
Monday, November 28th:Dolce Bellezza
Wednesday, November 30th:Wordsmithonia
Thursday, December 8th:The Road to Here
Monday, December 12th:Book Drunkard
Tuesday, December 13th:Book-a-rama
Wednesday, December 14th:Books and Movies
Thursday, December 15th:Raging Bibliomania
Friday, December 16th:books i done read
TBD:Book Hooked Blog
TBD:Cafe of Dreams


This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

30 comments:

Amy said...

Interesting, I'd not heard of this collection before. I think from what I've heard du Maurier's works are quite dark overall right? You said this was some of her earlier work so I wonder if she was really just getting started and that is why they were all a bit too similar?

Suko said...

I think I'd find this collection a bit too dark and upsetting. Excellent review!

Amy said...

I read Rebecca in one sitting! It's a fantastic book! The only short story I've read by her though is The Birds which was really creepy. I'll probably give this one a miss but I do want to read some more of her novels.

Tracy said...

I love Rebecca, hope you do too! And these short stories sound really good. Adding it to my wish list.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I do want to try a few of the stories at least in this collection (as dark as they may be). You MUST read Rebecca and Jamacia Inn --both excellent.

bermudaonion said...

Before I started my blog, I thought du Maurier wrote romance novels, so I've never read her work. I thought this collection might be a good place to start, but the reviews seem to be mixed. From your description, I don't think it's something I want to read this holiday season.

Beth F said...

I haven't read any of her stories -- but I don't often seek out short stories. I did love Rebecca!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I really don't like to read short stories, and I don't like to spend time with characters I don't like, so I'm guessing this isn't for me!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I've only read Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel, and loved them despite that they are really dark in a delicious gothic way. So from that I always thought that anything she would write would be masterful. Not so says Raych, who did her thesis on DuMaurier. Instead of being atmospherically creepy, this one sounds like just a plain downer.

Ti said...

Such a short collection of stories yet they certainly left an impression on you. I know little about Du Maurier's personal life but it wouldn't surprised me if she had been burned a time or two.

I've read Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel and I liked both of them quite a bit, but they too were dark and had characters that were not very likable but with the gothic naure of both novels... it seemed to work.

Ti said...

BTW...the way that you described the women here.. wow. Really gave me an idea of what I'd be dealing with if I picked this one up.

Jenners said...

I read Rebecca last year and it was one of the few classics that was fun to read. She does sound a bit twisted and dark .. but I like that.

Darlene said...

I had seen this one but didn't think it was one for me. I do really want to read Rebecca though!

Kailana said...

I loved Rebecca and really enjoyed My Cousin Rachel. I need to read more from her soon...

Jenny said...

I've been meaning to read Rebecca (I think it was an unfulfilled goal from last year, lol). I've heard it's so good but I was wondering if these short stories might be too bleak for me and I'm thinking they might be!

Aths said...

I haven't read du Maurier's works either and short stories aren't my comfort zone either, but your review has me curious. Some of the books I read are bleak so maybe this might work for me. Great review!

Darlyn (Your Move, Dickens) said...

This book sounds depressing, but I hope it didn't turn you off Rebecca. The themes and the mood of the books are still pretty dark, but the suspense and the romance are worth the read. :)

Aarti said...

I've not read any du Maurier, either, but I feel like she's suddenly very popular on blogosphere! I should read Rebecca, too- maybe that can be on our list for a joint read after Middlemarch :-)

Nymeth said...

I do hope you'll have better luck with Rebecca! It's one of my favourite books.

TheBookGirl said...

I am one of those people who just loved Rebecca, but never got around to reading any other of her books. I'm not much for short stories, though when I read them, I do prefer them on the bleak side, lol, so maybe this would work better for me. I'm glad to read that your experience with this collection will not put you off from reading Rebecca :)

Harvee said...

The woman Rebecca in the novel is certainly an innocent soul, not at all like the ones described in the short stories. Though the housekeeper at Manderley is diabolic, the heroine of Rebecca is very likeable.

Harvee said...

Oops, I didn't mean Rebecca. I meant the new and unnamed wife of Max, the second wife who replaces Rebecca. She is definitely a likeable character and is in direct contrast to her predecessor Rebecca.

Trisha said...

You should definitely read Rebecca, and I should definitely read this collection!

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

I have yet to read Rebecca and have heard such great things about it I have no idea what is taking me so long :)

Vasilly said...

I haven't read the author before either. I love short stories but I'm going to pass this collection up. I can't wait to read your thoughts on Rebecca.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I love this review, Heather! I was excited to learn about the collection (I do enjoy short fiction, and am a fan of Du Maurier), and laughed out loud at your "if you like your short fiction bleak ..."

I'm not sure I gravitate toward *bleak*, but am willing to give this a try; I'll keep your warning/assessment in mind, and give myself permission to stop after one story if it's not working for me.

heathertlc said...

So maybe not the perfect read for this holiday season, but maybe they'd do better in spooky October?!

Thanks for being a part of the tour!

Marie said...

rebecca WILL blow your mind. then go rent the movie. both are incredible! I have this in my TBR and I'm looking forward to it.

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I think you'll have much better luck with Rebecca. That has the haunting and Gothic feel that really wraps you in and makes you wish for a cold day and a cup of coffee. Save that one for autumn, it'll really make it even more of a special read :)

Buy Books Online said...

Yeah.. I agree. The review made me see it twice (when I got time).

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