Du Maurier December: ‘The Rendezvous and Other Stories’ by Daphne du Maurier ***

I decided to read these stories quite early on in my preparation for du Maurier December, purely because I really felt like digging into them.  I have greatly enjoyed du Maurier’s short stories in the past, and consequently had rather high hopes for The Rendezvous and Other Stories.  Unlike many of her collections, which cover just a few years, the stories here span du Maurier’s entire career.

Several of these tales were previously featured in magazines before being placed into the collection, which was published in 1980.  The Rendezvous and Other Stories is made up of fifteen stories in all.  As with all of du Maurier’s short story collections, a diverse range of settings have been used, from Switzerland and Paris to a tiny Yorkshire village. She has also chosen to use a variety of different eras in which to set her stories.  The strongest tales in the collection are largely set within the period in which she was writing.

Du Maurier has also made use of an array of plots, all of which serve to keep the reader interested.  In the first story, ‘No Motive’, for example, the suicide of a perfectly content woman is investigated; and in ‘Fairy Tale’, an interesting spin on the rags-to-riches story, a destitute couple imagine themselves in an elevated position, away from their constant money troubles and impending homelessness.  In the title story, ‘The Rendezvous’, we learn about a novelist and article writer, and the ways in which his career has progressed, both for better and for worse.  ‘La Sainte-Vierge’ tells of the life of a young woman living in a typical Breton village, and the trials which she faces in her life; and ‘The Lover’ demonstrates a fractured and mistrustful relationship.

When using a more controlled and word-restricted framework within her writing, du Maurier is very thorough.  Never is anything rushed, nor any space allowed to be wasted.  Whilst some plots and characters are far more interesting than others, du Maurier’s writing is strong throughout the collection.  Her building of atmosphere and foreboding is nothing short of masterful.  She touches upon so many emotions too, and demonstrates the power of compassion, guilt, desperation and adoration.  The descriptions which du Maurier has used are incredibly vivid.  In ‘La Sainte-Vierge’, for example, ‘The sea shone like splintered silver, while westwards beyond the beacon streams of burnt clouds were massing in a purple haze’.  Interestingly, only two of the stories within The Rendezvous and Other Stories are told from the first person perspective, something which du Maurier ordinarily excels at.

In comparison to du Maurier’s other short story collections, there are very few thematic links here.  The stories are not shown chronologically, and there does not seem to be any particular order to them.  Sadly, this renders the entire collection a little uneven.  The Rendezvous and Other Stories is not as compelling as du Maurier’s other work.  Whilst there are some wonderful tales here – ‘Split Second’ and ‘No Motive’ are particular standouts – I am of the opinion that this is du Maurier’s weakest and least meticulous short story collection; it does not challenge its readers as her other short stories tend to, and it is also not overly memorable.

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