The Doll by Daphne du Maurier

The Doll by Daphne du Maurier is a compilation of short stories, I know that a lot of people don’t like reading short stories but du Maurier is one of the best at them I think, and if you’re a du Maurier fan then you’ll definitely want to read them. The stories are:

East Wind
The Doll
And Now to God the Father
A Difference in Temperament
Tame Cat
Nothing Hurts for Long
The Happy Valley
And Her Letters Grew Colder
The Limpet

There’s an introduction by Polly Samson, she says – Within these stories – some good , some less so but all fascinating – are the preoccupations which would possess Daphne du Maurier for a lifetime. The psychological insight that she would later exercise while inhabiting the characters of her novels and biographies is here, but out in the open and turned much more obviously on herself.

Like many writers Daphne du Maurier was obviously drawn to particular themes again and again and it’s interesting to read what turned out to be the kernel of an idea which she returned to in later books.

Perfect Lives by Polly Samson

I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of this book by Virago for review. I hadn’t read anything by Polly Samson before, apparently she’s a lyricist too having written songs for Pink Floyd and she’s married to Dave Gilmour, she certainly has a way with words which is quite poetic at times and the stories involve music in some way, whether it’s musicians or piano tuners.

I’ve been told that some people dip into books of short stories at random, which I think is completely mad because authors and editors usually put a lot of thought into the order which stories appear in anthologies, just as record producers do with music. If you are of that ilk – cease and desist forthwith as these stories need to be read in order.

Perfect Lives is a book of short stories which are all loosely linked because the characters live in the same town. You see their lives from different aspects and nothing about them is as it seemed to be in the beginning. True to life in that way I suppose as people are multi-faceted and always surprising.

I love description in books and there are so many visuals given, but here are just a few which I enjoyed to give you a flavour of it:

Milk bloomed in their mugs of tea on the table between them…

Strips and streamers in storm-blues and mauves hung in clumps like particularly beautiful seaweed from a Sheila Maid hitched over the bath.

Impossibly tall hollyhocks, shimmery-stemmed, silver leaves of artemisia and roses, roses, roses, geraniums and lilies, rubies,garnets and pearls.

Colour,plants and jewels – luscious.
I will certainly read her previous books when I get a chance.

By one of those many spooky coincidences in life this book came through my letterbox at exactly the same time that I was dealing with a piano tuner and boudoir grand piano, not something which you do every day of your life. So it seemed a bit like I was inhabiting the pages although thankfully that was as far as the resemblance with my life went.

Perfect Lives is full of recognisable moments though and I’m sure that other readers will have their own parallel experiences and observations echoed in it. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this previously but I’ve had the experience in the past of being told by at least three women seperately that they felt sorry for me because I had to share my children with my husband. Those single mothers wanted their children all to themselves! I couldn’t help thinking that their children might have something to say about that attitude when they grew up especially as I could imagine the mothers’ reactions when the kids started having relationships with other people. This is the first time that I’ve come across that sort of attitude in fiction though.

I usually read short stories at bedtime because then I can read one and put the light out and think about it while I hopefully get to sleep. I found myself reading these stories one after the other though and I sometimes didn’t put the light out until 2 a m. So I’m going to re-read them singly at some time in the future and I’m sure I’ll enjoy them even more.

Perfect Lives was a Sunday Times Fiction Choice of the Year.