Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Deal Me In Challenge: Don't Look Now by Daphne Du Maurier

Card Drawn:

Don't look now but Daphne Du Maurier delivers one of the wackiest endings of all time.
I really wanted to like this story more. Truly. My apologies go out to Jay @ Bibliophilopolis, a big fan of Daphne Du Maurier and whose glowing review of "Don't Look Now" inspired me to read it for the DMI challenge. Granted, I do not have any regrets and the author has been on my radar for quite some time so it was somewhat gratifying to finally read some of her work. The story was also adapted into a 1973 film adaptation starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, which I am now curious to watch.  

This is one of the few times during this challenge that I have encountered a short-story that is too long. Condensing the narrative and removing the ridiculous ending would likely have produced a more satisfying story. In "Don't Look Now," Du Maurier embraces the macabre and supernatural, yielding mixed results. With the Gothic backdrop of Venice, it follows a couple on vacation in the beautiful city hoping to rekindle their marriage as they grieve the recent death of their young daughter. Of course, unresolved trauma and guilt tends to have a damaging effect on one's psyche, as John's (the husband) tentative grasp on reality starts to slip away. His psychosis rendered by hallucinations and paranoia is conveyed effectively enough despite being exaggerated at times almost to the point of parody. 

The unique landscape of Venice with its canals, winding pathways, hidden alleys and dark corners becomes the perfect setting for the mysterious and the uncanny. Since John's perspective is the main narrative focalization point, the reader is meant to sympathize with his plight as he falls deeper and deeper into madness but the third person narrator's attention to detail and clinical observation also creates a certain narrative distance. This stylistic choice is a double-edged sword. Du Maurier is less concerned with developing complex characters so they come across as flat, their main focus is only to move the plot along from point A to point B to point C. However, this allows her to focus all of her attention on the plot's mystery and linear progression that slowly builds suspense towards a shocking conclusion. Her primary objective is to deliver an entertaining story from start to finish although many parts do feel tedious. If Du Maurier wanted to generate a visceral reaction from the reader by the plot's denouement, then she is successful because the ending is a real shocker, albeit, in a nonsensical and laughable way. It is one of those WTF moments that completely ruins the story, turning what could have been a memorable psychological thriller into cartoonish absurdity. 

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