Sunday 26 March 2017

Tea, treats and long short stories...

The woman who runs Bittersweettart was at the market yesterday so I have one of her delicious lemon raspberry butter cookies to accompany my steaming cup of chai tea - I’m so spoiled!  What could be better than enjoying such a yummy treat on this cold, damp, windy March morning?

I read a collection of stories by Daphne Du Maurier this past week.  One of my all-time favourite “desert island” books is Rebecca, which I’ve read numerous times, and I think I’ve read one or two of her other novels, but I recently read something in an e-newsletter promoting her collections of stories, so I got this one from the library, Not After Midnight:  five long stories.  Long stories, indeed!  They were all at least 50 pages, some of them even longer!  Her most famous short story is “The Birds”, the basis for Alfred Hitchcock’s renowned film, but that wasn’t in this collection.  Instead, I discovered five very different stories set in various parts of the world.  “Don’t Look Now”, set in Italy, tells the story of a British couple who are on holiday, but this trip appears to have a more serious purpose.  The husband is trying to help his wife come to terms with the loss of their daughter, but when they encounter an unusual set of twin sisters, things start to go awry.  “Not After Midnight” is set in Crete, and concerns a teacher at a British prep school who takes himself off on holiday to indulge his true passion, painting.  When an American couple in a neighbouring cabin tries to befriend him, he resists, but is ultimately drawn into their sinister game.  “A Border-Line Case” follows a young actress who, after the death of her father, heads to a remote area in Ireland to find his former army commander and friend, in the hopes that she will understand what caused their falling-out, but what she discovers may change her life forever.   In “The Way of the Cross”, a group of British tourists head off on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, led not by their beloved vicar who fell ill, but by a young, inexperienced reverend who runs into various problems while trying to lead the group.  Meanwhile, each and every member of the group is experiencing his or her own problems, either personal or within their relationships.  And finally, “The Breakthrough” follows an electronics engineer as he heads to remote Saxmere on a special assignment for his boss, to help out a friend who is conducting what may be unauthorized experiments using a small staff and some government grant money.  While initially resisting this secondment, he is eventually drawn into the most secret and most dangerous of research, an exploration which, if successful, may uncover the road to immortality.  I’m not a real short story fan, and these were too long to be considered short stories, yet too short to be considered novellas.  But they brought to mind my high school days, when we had to read such stories as these.  The one I recall most vividly is “The Most Dangerous Game”, by Richard Connell, which tells the story of a big-game hunter who ends up on a remote island and is hunted by a Russian aristocrat.  Of the stories in Du Maurier’s collection, I enjoyed the first three the most, perhaps because they were, for lack of a better work, the spookiest.  They all had an element of the supernatural about them that the others lacked.  The fourth story, set in Jerusalem, seemed too broad and unfocused.  And the final story was a bit too sci-fi for my taste.  I discovered on my own shelves a collection of her stories that includes “The Birds”, which I plan to read at a later date.  But that will have to wait, as I have to make a start on my next book club book, A Passage to India, which we will be discussing next Saturday.

That’s all for today.  Stay warm and keep reading!

Bye for now…

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