The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier – review

Published by Virgo Press

Publication date – 6 May 2004

Source – review copy

‘How long he fought with them in the darkness he could not tell, but at last the beating of the wings about him lessened and then withdrew . . . ‘

A classic of alienation and horror, ‘The Birds’ was immortalised by Hitchcock in his celebrated film. The five other chilling stories in this collection echo a sense of dislocation and mock man’s sense of dominance over the natural world. The mountain paradise of ‘Monte VeritΓ ’ promises immortality, but at a terrible price; a neglected wife haunts her husband in the form of an apple tree; a professional photographer steps out from behind the camera and into his subject’s life; a date with a cinema usherette leads to a walk in the cemetery; and a jealous father finds a remedy when three’s a crowd . . .

Birds are gathering, in the sea, in the trees, in the countryside and in the cities. Then they begin to attack, murders of crows, swarms of starlings, a gunning down by gulls. Why are birds attacking and what can be done to stop them? A conclave high in the mountains is said to offer immortality but at what price? An apple tree seems to haunt a widower who is not mourning the loss of his wife. A photographer steps out from behind the camera with unforseen consequences for him and his subject, a trip to the cinema takes an unexpected turn and a father discovers that three is a crowd.

The Birds, immortalised in Hitchcock’s legendary film, is the opening story in this short story collection, the theme tying them together being the magical control the natural world can have on human nature.

The Birds is juxtaposed with the final story in the collection, The Old Man, a cleverly told tale of a jealous father who feels that three is definitely a crowd. Both of these were the stand out stories for me.

Unusually for me, there was not one story in this book that I didn’t like. All are strong, well written, enthralling tales. There is a hint of the supernatural in some, a more than hint of malice in all.Β  The Birds is perhaps one of the most famous of Daphne du Maurier’s stories but the rest are all there on merit too. There is sadness, revenge, madness, love and loss wrapped up in these pages. The reader is left with an unsettled feeling, a hint of unease that needs to be shrugged off.

The art of short story telling is choosing the right words to give a complete story without the reader feeling short-changed. Here the reader feels as if they have been privy to five mini novels, so complete are the stories. The skill here is that du Maurier often leaves lots unsaid. The unease is created by what is not revealed on the page but what is revealed in the reader’s imagination.

A strong, intelligent, immersive, engaging collection. You’ll lift your head up from the book and view the everyday in a new light. And have slightly healthy respect and wariness for the sparrows in your garden.

Highly recommended.

About the author

Daphne du Maurier (1907-89) was born in London, the daughter of the famous actor-manager Sir Gerald du Maurier and granddaughter of George du Maurier, the author and artist. In 1931 her first novel, The Loving Spirit, was published. A biography of her father and three other novels followed, but it was the novel Rebecca that launched her into the literary stratosphere and made her one of the most popular authors of her day. In 1932, du Maurier married Major Frederick Browning, with whom she had three children.
Many of du Maurier’s bestselling novels and short stories were adapted into award-winning films, including Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds and Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now. In 1969 du Maurier was awarded a DBE. She lived most of her life in Cornwall, the setting for many of her books.

The was book 2 in my #20BooksofSummer challenge.

15 Comments Add yours

  1. heavenali says:

    Definitely on my wishlist, a few years ago I read the Don’t Look Now stories which were fantastic.


    1. janetemson says:

      I think I need to add those to my list. And these ones crossed another year off in my ACOB πŸ™‚


  2. I have problems with The Birds as seeing the film at a too young age is definitely responsible for my bird complex… So however good this is I doubt i’ll be reading it! πŸ™‚


    1. janetemson says:

      See I’ve never seen the film. Though I am now giving the side eye to the sparrows that keep playing in the garden…:-)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. hemmiemartin says:

    Sounds a great read – adding to my wishlist. I haven’t seen the film, The Birds’, as I thought it would scare me at the time. I still haven’t pluck up the courage to see it! πŸ™‚


    1. janetemson says:

      I’ve never seen the film either, though I gather it’s different to the story. I may watch it one day – between books! I hope you like the stories if you read them πŸ™‚


  4. I’ve never read Du Maurier’s short stories and it sounds like I’m missing out! I’ll have to search the TBR pile, I’ve feeling there’s some in there somewhere…


    1. janetemson says:

      I’ve become more of a short story fan over the years. I’d only read Frenchman’s Creek before of hers so these were very different. There’s some clever writing in there. Hope you find some on your TBR πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautiful review, I can’t wait to read this one myself!


    1. janetemson says:

      Thank you. I hope you like it when you get to it. I’ll keep a look out for your review πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Naomi says:

    I’ve been wanting to read du Maurier for years. Her short stories might be an easier way to slip her in. They sound wonderful!


    1. janetemson says:

      I think they would be a great introduction. I get the feeling these are more like her other stories. They are very cleverly done. I hope you like whatever you read when you get to it πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

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