Sunday, 6 December 2015

Not After Midnight ~ Daphne du Maurier

I don't often write about the same author in one post after another, but I'm on a Daphne du Maurier kick at the moment, so I'm going straight from The Apple Tree to Not After Midnight (which was published in the States as Don't Look Now). 

Not After Midnight was first published in the UK by Victor Gollancz Ltd. in 1971, with a dust jacket illustrated by Flavia Tower, du Maurier's daughter. The collection contains five tales: Don't Look Now, Not After Midnight, A Border-Line Case, The Way of the Cross, The Breakthrough.

'Don't Look Now' is the most famous story of the collection, having been made into an excellent film, starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, in 1973. John and Laura are on holiday in Venice, trying to come to terms with the death of their five-year-old daughter, Christine. They are having dinner in a restaurant when they encounter a pair of elderly twins, one of whom is blind and psychic. The psychic twin tells Laura that she can see little Christine, and later issues a warning that Laura and her husband must leave Venice at once because there is danger for them if they stay. Receiving news that their son is in hospital, Laura immediately books a flight back to England to be with him, leaving John to drive their car back home. But following his wife's departure, John is convinced that he has seen her in Venice with the twins, and a search for her ensues.

The narrator of 'Not After Midnight', Timothy Grey, is a rather timid English schoolmaster and amateur artist. He's on a solo painting holiday in Crete, hoping to capture the Aegean seascape on canvas, when he encounters a strange American couple, the Stolls. Having surrendered to his own curiosity, Grey follows the odd pair and ends up receiving an invitation to visit the Americans in their chalet... but not after midnight.

'A Border-Line Case', which has no supernatural element, is the one tale in this collection that I'm not all that keen on. Shelagh Money, her father having just died suddenly, sets off for Ireland to find an old friend of his, Commander Nicolas Barry. Having arrived at a village near Barry's home, she finds herself being forcibly escorted to the island on which he lives as a recluse. It starts out well, but becomes too predictable, and though I know that some readers do find it to be filled with tension and atmosphere, I am not one of them.

'The Way of the Cross', like 'A Border-Line Case', has no supernatural element. It concerns Rev. Edward Babcock and a group of eight pilgrims on a twenty-four hour excursion from Haifa to Jerusalem. Each one, aside from the youngest member of the group, suffers some form of humiliation and has a dreadful time.

The narrator of 'The Breakthrough', Stephen Saunders, is transferred to Saxmere, a facility on the east coast, to assist with the research of James MacLean and his small team. MacLean is trying to tap Force Six, as he calls it, the untapped source of energy within all of us that awaits release. But he wants to tap it at the point of death, to extract the vital spark - what some call the soul - and use it for the benefit of the living.

I found this collection to be a bit of a mixed bag. 'Don't Look Now' is, for me, the best story in it; 'A Border-Line Case' and 'The Way of the Cross' are the weakest. A fine copy of Not After Midnight, complete with a fine dust jacket, costs about £70 at the moment (approx. $105). There's a modern paperback version, entitled Don't Look Now and Other Stories, published by Penguin, and that costs £9.98. And there's a Virago Modern Classics Kindle edition for £8.99.

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