Don’t Look Now by Daphne du Maurier

“Don’t look now,” John said to his wife, “but there are a couple of old girls two tables away who are trying to hypnotise me.”
Laura, quick on cue, made an elaborate pretence of yawning, then tilted her head as though searching the skies for a non-existent aeroplane.
“Right behind you,” he added. “That’s why you can’t turn round at once-it would be much too obvious.”
And so begins the terrifying story by Daphne du Maurier. John and Laura are vacationing in Italy; John is hoping that Laura will be able to overcome “the numb despair that had seized her since (her) child died.”
Apparently, one of the two women who have been staring at them has psychic powers. She is able to see Laura’s daughter, and she tells them not to be worried. Christine is sitting right between them laughing. Laura is overjoyed, and immensely comforted by this idea, but John is instantly on guard.
“He felt himself held, unable to move, and an impending sense of doom, of tragedy, came upon him. His whole being sagged, as it were, in apathy, and he thought, “This is the end, there is no escape, no future.” A strange foreboding, to be sure, for what is to follow.
When they return to their hotel, after traversing the alleys and bridges of Venice, they discover their son is in need of an appendectomy. Because he is away at his boarding school, Laura decides she must fly to him at once.  John can follow in the car. Arrangements are hastily made, and Laura departs.
However, John sees her with the two women in a ferry passing them downstream. What has happened? Has Laura missed her flight? Is there some emergency of which he is unaware? No matter how hard he tries, and he does work frantically to solve this misunderstanding, there is no solution until the conclusion of this tale.
What a masterful story teller du Maurier is. My favorite book of hers will always be Rebecca, but this short story? It evokes so much of what terrifies me: losing a child, becoming lost myself, chasing someone in a dream who is always just one step away, misunderstandings between a spouse which cannot be bridged. It doesn’t take the bizarre, although that is certainly included, to make this story any scarier than it is.
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55 thoughts on “Don’t Look Now by Daphne du Maurier”

  1. I loved Rebecca when I read it and became an instant fan of Du Maurier. I've meant to read more by her every since. This sounds really good and maybe I'll have to try her short stories before I read another of her novels. Great review!

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  2. The great part about a short story, besides it when it's well written (!), is that you don't need to carve out a huge chunk of time to enjoy it. My version comes from Daphne du Maurier's Classics of the Macabre illustrated by Michael Foreman. It's got several I now want to try! (I do, however, love the cover from the Penguin edition in my post.)

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  3. I've been meaning to read Rebecca for ages (like since 7th grade–ages) but for some reason have never gotten around to it. But this story could really tempt me to try du Maurier sooner rather than later. Not only does the story itself sound intriguing, you sold me when you mentioned Venice!

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  4. Very time I thought I know all of Du Maurier's books (I owned 11 of them) then came a review of a book title I have never heard of! I love her books and I will certainly add this on my list. Thanks for the review.

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  5. I have only managed to read Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel by du Maurier. My library only really has those two. They had another one, but I couldn't stand the edition… So, I sort of fizzled out on reading her. I think I will have to buy something soon!

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  6. Simplerpastimes, what could be better than a story set in Venice?! Nothing, probably. I long for it all the time…hence a challenge coming your way in February. Stay tuned! 😉

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  7. Audrey, Rebecca remains my favorite, but this one is very good.

    I'm glad you like the blog look of the day. I've loved this Japanese maple background before, and it just seems to suit fall. As long as it's not too pink!

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  8. Becky, it's hard to top Rebecca (in my opinion) but Daphne is a master writer; she's not written much that isn't mesmerizing. Although, I remember when I first read Rebecca I read everything else by her that I could find; I was disappointed that none seemed to equal the impact of Rebecca although The Scapegoat stands out in my mind. From the 1970's, so that's saying something.

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  9. Kailana, I've forgotten about My Cousin Rachel. I read it, but I can remember nothing about it. This collection of short stories is just the ticket for an autumnal read which will not require a huge committment on your part.

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  10. I'm going to see if I can download this right away. It sounds too perfect for this rainy evening not to. I have just discovered Du Maurier, though I have loved Rebecca, the film, since I was young.

    Thanks for this review! I love a good short story.

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  11. This was the first Du Maurier I read and my first reaction was, “wow, amazing storyteller.” It's so true.

    Have you seen the film version of “Don't Look Now”? It's one of these funny things, something obviously dated now but also obviously innovative for its time. It's very good, assuming those limitations, and does a surprisingly good job capturing the overall eerieness of the story.

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  12. Picky, it is indeed a perfect ready for a rainy, or autumnal, night. I just loved it! I've never seen the film Rebecca, although so many of du Maurier's books have been made into film. I know I loved that book and this short story so I hope you will, too.

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  13. Trish, she's so wonderful isn't she? She can create a mood almost better than any one I know. The only author of today who really set a mood for me was Donna Tartt with The Secret History. But, I, too love Daphne's writing. Totally. 😉

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  14. Frances, another good part is, it's even shorter than a novella! (wink, wink) You can read it in half an hour, although you might want to take longer just to indulge yourself in the story.

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  15. Nicole, I've only seen pictures from the film (when I looked up images for the book jacket to post). They seemed quite true to the story, and quite terrifying as well. I can just imagine her books translating well into film because as you say she is such an incredible storyteller. Lots of plot going on, but it doesn't have to happen fast.

    (Here's an admission on my part: I never realized she wrote The Birds which Hitchcock turned into the famous film!)

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  16. I didn't know she wrote The Birds, either. How interesting!

    Your last paragraph contains a hint of a great truth: most of the most terrifying stories are simply human experience, writ large and perhaps twisted a bit. “Loss”, for you – now, after my mother's death, “alone” for me. I put myself in her place, alone in those hospitals only without “me” to run interference, and my blood runs cold. 🙂

    A halloween tale set in a nursing home, perhaps….

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  17. I just went back through my archives and found my post for this book (written five years ago with a couple of comments by you!). Glad you finally got around to read the book. 😉 I need to start in on something gothic for the season. I should join Carl's challenge. I haven't participated in any challenges for such a long time!

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  18. This sounds like a suitably gothic read for this time of the year. I have avoided short stories for quite a long time but now I have started to really enjoy them.

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  19. Shoreacres, as we age (and go through the aging process with our beloved parents) it does indeed seem to loom as a tale of terror. If I didn't have my faith I don't know how I'd manage because the word 'loss' takes on so many levels of meaning: loss of sight, loss of movement, loss of finances/income, loss of friends, and worst of all to me, loss of loved ones. Phew! It isn't for the faint of heart!

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  20. Mel U, what a fascinating idea! I know, I wanted to know a lot more about Rebecca too. For example, how did she meet Mrs. Danvers? Let alone, how did she become so self-obsessed. I'm with you in the curiosity about her character.

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  21. Les, I'd love to see you join Carl's challenge…I always love the books you pick. There isn't always time for one more thing, I know, but perhaps a short story or two?

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  22. Marg, I've never been a huge fan of short stories. Until I began the Japanese Literature Challenges. Then, I discovered what an incredible slice of life they could offer. This was only strengthened by the fabulous collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald's I read this summer (Flappers and Philosophers). Now I'm crazy about Daphne's anthology. You might like it as well. 😉

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  23. Elizabeth, thanks for reminding me to read The Birds. I'll try to get to that in my du Maurier collection before the book is due back at the library. I'd love to see from whence Hitchcock got the raw material.

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  24. Where's the little red cape in the book cover picture?? :< ) Or does that not enter into the story? A great friend of ours, a fantastic storyteller, once sat in our kitchen and told us the whole movie of Don't Look Now. It was riveting and terrifying. And it was before I had kids. I don't think I could take reading the terror or the loss of a child. Have you seen the movie? Oh, and I think Venice itself has a creepy quality. All those curvy streets and the water. I read a great book on it, if you are interested in something nonfiction. John Berendt's The City of Falling Angels. It was really fantastic.

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  25. I love Rebecca and am remiss for not reading any of DuMaurier's short stories. I've only read Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel. This story sounds suspenseful and wonderfully creepy!

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  26. Alex, I can't remember if I've read Jamaica Inn or not. I know it gets almost as much praise as Rebecca. All I know is this is the first time I've read her short stories, and now I want to read more of them!

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  27. Nan, I envy your storyteller. I tried to tell it to my husband as we walked our dog last night, but I don't think I did the story justice. He just looked at me strangely, not mesmerized. 😉

    Of course, there is the little girl in the red cape as you remember. I didn't include her in the post because I'm always afraid of giving too much away.

    I completely agree with you about the mysterious/creepy aspect of Venice. Stay tuned for a Venice challenge coming your way (and all readers' way) this February. The book you mentioned is on the suggested reading list, which I'll reveal in November with my co-hostess, but I think I'll have to start with it at your recommendation. Because of course I participate in my own challenges… 😉

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  28. Natalie, I'm so glad to hear that you just finished Rebecca. In a way, it's almost sad to finish that book because it can never be revealed as freshly again. Still, I've enjoyed every time I've reread it, and that's been several times since the 70's. I look forward to reading your thoughts on it.

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  29. Rebecca remains my favorite of hers as well. I haven't this story yet, but I love chilling, creepy stories so I'll have to find a copy. Is it as creepy as Shirley Jackson's stories?

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  30. Like you Rebecca must rank as one of my favourite books by Du Maurier. I haven't really read any of her short stories, so I'm planning to read this sometime next month (well, once I get the book in the post!) I've read quite a few of her other novels, all of which I liked. But I'm still surprised at how prolific she way as I didn't realise she had written so many books.

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  31. I intend to read the collection after I finish my present book (Nights at the Circus). Rebecca was fantastic, and I'd love to read more Du Maurier, and with Discovering Daphne month, what excuse could I possibly have not to?

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