Before the Whispernet gods delivered Daphne du Maurier’s The Birds and Other Stories to my oft-neglected Kindle, the only du Maurier I’d read was the beloved Rebecca. Now I know why Alfred Hitchcock loved her stories so much. I do have this to say: Hitchcock’s version is laughable compared to the original, and the title story is only the beginning.
This collection includes The Birds; Monte Verita; The Apple Tree; The Little Photographer; Kiss Me Again, Stranger and The Old Man. These six engrossing stories speak of the power of the natural world and how mankind perceives it, the calamities and consequences of war, as well as violence, revenge, and the search for truth. Infused in these stories are unexplained phenomena, the least of which is the apocalypse that ensued when birds attack all humans on earth.
All of these stories aren’t terrifying per se. Some, like Monte Verita and The Apple Tree, contain unexplained supernatural elements that also function as allegories or just simply as eerie plot points. In The Apple Tree, a widower’s deceased wife seems to have been reincarnated in an apple tree on the man’s estate, trying to kill him for his neglect during life. In Monte Verita, an ageless cult of women living on a mountain mysteriously disappear when the locals come to attack them. And, of course, there are the terrifying, murderous flocks of birds attacking people all over the world. You know–no big deal.
Woven within these stories is commentary on the psychological impact of war both on society and on the individual. The characters in The Birds are finally safe from the blitz, but the world has changed as a result of the second World War and nature has turned on mankind. The women of Monte Verita are searching for a truth they cannot find in the modern world, and they would rather die than return to their domestic, businesslike lives. And in Kiss Me Again, Stranger, one girl finds a fiendish way of reaping revenge on the members of the RAF whose defensive actions ended up killing her whole family during the London blitzkrieg. These stories, while eerie, frightening, suspenseful and sometimes horrifying, are also thoughtful stories containing social commentary and vividly drawn characters with voices, and they’re not afraid to speak. The result is mesmerizing. I didn’t put this book (Kindle) down for hours. (I carried it with me like a security blanket, cooking with one hand and answering questions with impatient “mmms.”)
Like I am wont to do lately, I immediately put Daphne du Maurier on my list of must-read authors for this year, and no later. She has enchanted me, as she did when I first picked up Rebecca as a teenager. It’s been years and I still think about that book all the time. I suspect the same has happened with du Maurier’s short stories. I am eager to enter her head again, and come under her spell. So that’s one thing Alfred Hitchcock and I have in common.
Note: I received this title from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Du Maurier, D. The Birds and Other Stories. (2013). Little, Brown and Company. First published 1952.