‘La Sainte-Vierge’ by Daphne du Maurier

La Sainte-Vierge by Daphne du Maurier, 1959

The magic trick:

Making the plot so predictable that it’s unpredictable

There’s nothing especially unpredictable here except that things don’t turn out to have been unpredictable. Does that make sense? Probably not.

What I mean is that things seem so predictable that it is actually surprising when what you’ve been predicting in your head actually happens. Which, really, is a kind of unpredictability in itself.

And that’s quite a trick on du Maurier’s part.

The selection:

There was no one near her, and through the trees the village looked dusty and lifeless. The linen lay in an untidy heap by her side. What did it matter whether it was clean or dirty?

She closed her eyes, and was filled with a sense of unbelievable loneliness. “Jean,” she whispered, “Jean.”

From across the fields came the sound of the chapel bell striking the hour. Marie sat up and listened, and over her face came a strange smile, a smile in which hope and shame were mingled. She had suddenly remembered the Sainte-Vierge. In her mind she saw the figure in the chapel, Notre Dame des Bonnes Nouvelles, with the infant Jesus in her arms.

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