The Doll by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca is one of my favorite novels. I reread it this summer and enjoyed every word, every mood, as much as the first summer I read it in 1977.

Don’t Look Now was one of my favorite selections for Carl’s RIP VI Challenge this October. I was thoroughly entranced with the mind game Daphne du Maurier played with me in the canals of Venice.
So, it was with great delight that I accepted The Doll to review this month. Daphne du Maurier’s lost short stories? I was all over that!
Until I read the first one about a ship bringing a strange northeast wind which caused a certain village inhabitant to brutally murder his wife with an ax, only to find the ship gone the next day when he awoke to fully discover what he’d done. “Okay,” I thought. “We’re off to a rocky start. Surely the next one will be better.”
The next story in the collection was the title piece, The Doll. This story upset me so much that I  actually had a nightmare two evenings later, and I haven’t picked the book up since. I absolutely cannot subject myself to the darkness within, which is far more than a creepy story; it made me feel slimy with poisoned filth.

“Tell the publisher you can’t review it,” suggested both my husband and my mother who listened to me express my dismay.

“But,” I said, “I have to keep to my word.”
Yet, the truth is that I can’t review it. I can’t read any more, and subject myself to a side of Daphne that far surpasses the macabre. The stories I read are, to me, unspeakably evil.

24 thoughts on “The Doll by Daphne du Maurier

  1. I know the feeling and I agree with your family that it was for the best that you just stopped reading. I would have eventually picked up this collection but now I know it's not for me either. I simply can't read about evil without feeling awful.


  2. Those stories sound like my type of reading then. I had a few touches with her body of work, reading an old Bulgarian translation of her work last year. Had the Birds, the Apple Tree, Don't Look Now [I adored it as well] and others, which I loved, though the overall feeling from her work left me at large unimpressed.


  3. I loved Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel so will happily stay away from this one so as not to tarnish the image I have of DuMaurier being a genius with suspense. I don't want to read dark and evil right now, not even a little bit.


  4. And I just received this book in the mail! I don't think I want to read it after your review. I've read everything du Maurier has ever written except this book. I've loved most of them except one short story set in Venice. It's been so long ago that I only remember bits and pieces of it, but the story ended with a man chasing what he thought was a child but who turned out to be a hideous and short woman who then attacked and killed him with a knife.

    For some reason that story has stayed with me and haunted me ever since. The Doll sounds like it will be mch worse, so I won't be reading it!


  5. Debbie, the story you remember is Don't Look Now, and in my opinion, was a wonderful tale of drama. Since you just got the book, maybe you'd like to read a few. I couldn't tell you anything past the first two stories, but I would certainly not recommend the title story The Doll. I'm disappointed, because I've really enjoyed Du Maurier's writing. This book makes me wonder how about her spirit. As in, was she troubled? Or, is it just my reaction?


  6. After reading one great novel after the other, I hit a wall…I stopped 2 books so far after 50 pages, both promising but maybe it is my mood or they do not hold up to the run of great reads…..does this ever happen to anyone? It is frustrating.


  7. I was so envious when I saw that you'd gotten a copy of this one and now . . . well, thanks for the warning. I can't read anything that dark without having nightmares. I'll definitely avoid this one.


  8. Oh, dear! I saw this beautiful book when it came in the store the other day and was tempted to buy a copy, but I think I'll pass. I do not do scary very well anymore.


  9. Well, I am thinking they should have just kept this book hidden if it is that bad… I was thinking about getting a copy, but I think I will read some of her other stuff instead.


  10. Great post! I think I'm remembering right that Ramona in one of the Beverly Cleary books hides a book under a couch cushion because it scares her so. I know that feeling, and the one you are talking about. Years ago I read partway into a most unsettling (only to me it seems, since it was a big seller) book. I closed it and drove the eight miles to the library to pop it into the returns box. I didn't want it sullying my home a minute longer. Another time, more recently, I read the third in a series I had so far liked. It was so dark, so harrowing that I threw it away. I know. How could I do it. But I did. I hate evil and I hate grossness. Who needs to read about it. A long comment to say that I understand completely.


  11. Wow, this one definitely sounds like a massive departure from the du Maurier you've read in the past. I'm sorry it didn't work for you, though I do understand why.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the parts that you did read.


  12. I think I'm an exception when it comes to Rebecca. I'm not a fan. So after reading it, I thought I'd not venture into another du Maurier again. Anyway, here, I have to say I'm really impressed by your very candid remarks, your honesty in speaking negatively about a book. And I must trust you in this, when somebody's saying it's “unspeakably evil”, I wouldn't venture into it to see if I agree or not. Thanks for the review!


  13. Wow! I don't think I was aware at how potentially disturbing this collection is. You're smart to know your limits when it comes to reading and be able to just stop. Thanks for being honest about your reaction because now I probably won't be picking it up.


  14. It's refreshing to read an honest opinion. And no one should have to feel apologetic for refusing to read or review something that is truly upsetting to them. I do like the Du Mauriers I've read but I'm not one for horror. I'm glad for the warning, thank you.


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