Don’t Look Now by Daphne du Maurier, 1971
The magic trick:
Combining different elements to create a complete story
This is the scariest story I read for the October 2015 SSMT blog. But don’t get it twisted: it is not mere genre fiction. This is a complete story, full of memorable characters, real literary themes and symbols, and of course plenty of tense narrative twists and turns. I loved it. Really one of the best I’ve read in my time doing this blog project.
Consider the expert pacing. Du Maurier mixes suspenseful action sequences, mystery and psychological drama to keep things moving in the story. The reader is always a step behind the narrative, anxious for the next reveal but not exhausted by the ride.
Consider also the ending. I write these story assessments mostly with the assumption that the reader is familiar with the story in question and went searching the internet for some commentary. But I know there are other readers who are new to the particular story, and I certainly don’t want to ruin anything. Let me at least say that the ending is definitive. The “Don’t Look Now” plot doesn’t simply fade away; it ends. I think of short story conclusions as falling into one of two categories: the O. Henry absolute ending, narratives strands all wrapped up; or the Chekhov elusive ending, where life is but a wispy vapor receding into the evening breeze. “Don’t Look Now” manages to be both kinds of ending. It, as mentioned, does indeed come to a definitive conclusion, but there are significant questions left to interpretation, symbols and events left to ponder.
It’s the perfect cake-and-eat-it-too story. And that’s quite a trick on du Maurier’s part.
“Darling,” she said. “I know you won’t believe it, and it’s rather frightening in a way, but after they left the restaurant in Torcello the sisters went to the cathedral, as we did, although we didn’t see them in that crowd, and the blind one had another vision. She said Christine was trying to tell her something about us, that we should be in danger if we stayed in Venice. Christine wanted us to go as soon as possible.”