Book Review – Echoes from the Macabre by Daphne du Maurier

imageDaphne du Maurier was always on those authors I’d been “meaning to get into”. I’d seen (and loved) Don’t Look Now, as well as The Birds, but had never actually read any of her work. So, when I saw a beautiful copy of Echoes from the Macabre for 25 cents in The Friends of the Berkeley Library bookstore, I knew the time had come.

I read an awful lot of unnerving short story collections. I love the work of Sophie Hannah, Nigel Kneale, Jeremy Dyson, Joe Hill, Neil Gaiman, and I largely prefer Stephen King’s novellas to his longer efforts. It’s no exageration to say that Echoes from the Macabre is one of the finest, and most unsettling, collections I have ever read. Du Maurier’s knack of creating an uncertain world, building tension, then leaving the reader deliciously uneasy is phenomenal.

Don’t Look Now, a tale of a couple grieving for their deceased daughter, is a great start to the collection. The reader is as confused as protagonist John as he chases ghosts around Venice, and the story contains my favorite final line in fiction ever: “The hammering and the voices and the barking dog grew fainter, and, “Oh, God”, he thought, “what a bloody silly way to die…”

With a few of these stories, I didn’t really know what was fully happening right until the end. The Pool is gorgeous, but you are taken along for a ride that are constantly suspicious may end badly. The same with The Blue Lenses, which is absolutely bonkers and hilarious.

Not After Midnight is seriously creepy. A schoolteacher goes on holiday to Greece to seek solitude, he comes across an American couple who behave very strangely. Their efforts to befriend him exasperate him, but he is drawn to their aura of weirdness. It’s the kind of story I could read again and again, and always find something new.

It’s no exageration to say that my new favorite short story is contained in this book. The Old Man is just so wonderful, and ends on the greatest final paragraph I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading (Du Maurier couldn’t half write an ending, could she?). I literally had to put the book down and “have a minute” when I’d finished reading. Wonderful.

This is such a fantastic collection. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Like Shirley Jackson, du Maurier shows just how capable women are of crafting a world that disturbs, intrigues, and stays with you long after the book is closed. I now intend on spending my time seeking out all of du Maurier’s short fiction. And you should too.

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