This slim collection of short stories has the hallmarks of classic du Maurier – jealousy, sinister atmospheres, men who are not what they appear to be, relationships in decline. However, they were mostly underwhelming for me and not of the standard of her other published short stories. In her defence, these stories are mainly from her very early career (one of them was written when she was 19) and have only recently been tracked down and published in this collection.
I thought the best in the collection was ‘The Doll’. It stands out as being the most mysterious and painful. Coincidentally (or not?) the desirable yet cruel woman in the story is named Rebecca. Questions are left unanswered and it’s probably the only story in the book I’d re-read. I liked the other stories well enough but they aren’t as good as the other du Mauriers I’ve read. I was quite surprised to read stories where prostitutes (not named as such – or sex workers as they are usually called today) were the main characters, as I don’t think I’ve seen them in her work before. The author is known for writing many of her works from a male character’s perspective but in this collection there are a variety of perspectives and narrative angles, including a series of one-sided letters detailing a romance between a man (the letter writer) and a married woman.
I would recommend this book if you’ve read du Maurier’s other short story collections and are looking for more. I wouldn’t suggest it as a starting point to get into her work.