Don't Look Now by Daphne du Maurier is a collection of 5 of du Maurier's creepy short stories, most of which I would guess are closer to novella length. My copy was printed in 1971, when Dame du Maurier was apparently still churning out bestsellers, the copyright date: 1966.
The title story, "Don't Look Now" is my favorite. It begins in a Venice cafe, where a grief-stricken couple, John and Laura, have traveled to try to lift Laura's spirits. While playing a silly game, imagining things about people nearby, they meet two older women. One of the women makes a dire prediction and accurately describes their deceased child, whom she claims to have seen happily sitting at the table with her parents. But, she is blind. After the old woman warns them something is going to happen and says John should leave Venice soon, their vacation takes a frightening turn. Is the blind lady truly psychic? What is the meaning of her warning to John?
"Don't Look Now" is one of those stories that is just predictable enough to make you want to say aloud, "No! Don't go down that alley!" But, it's still surprising enough to satisfy. The remaining 4 stories are a little less fulfilling. "The Breakthrough" tells the story of an engineer who gets tangled up in a frightening experiment. "A Border-Line Case" is the story of a woman who tries to fulfill her father's dying wish but ends up in a frightening situation that leads to a revelation she probably was best off not knowing. And, "The Way of the Cross" is about entanglements and intrigue on a group tour to Israel.
"Not After Midnight" was really the only other story that fully captured me -- enough so that after finishing the story I went on a search for someone to chat with about it. I'm not certain I understood the ending (I didn't find anyone to discuss it with, so if you have the book on hand and want to chat with me, I'll happily reread it). "Not After Midnight" is about an art teacher who becomes intrigued by the odd behavior of an American couple while on a painting holiday in Greece and finds himself falling into the same traps as a man whose curiosity led to his death, the year before.
While only 2 of the 5 stories really thrilled me, I still recommend Don't Look Now. Du Maurier's writing is always vivid and atmospheric; the collection is worth checking out, if only for the title story and would have made an excellent read for the RIP Challenge if I'd ever bothered to sign up. In the fall, I always feel compelled to read something spooky, signed up or not.
How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway tells the story of Shoko, an ailing Japanese woman who married an American soldier just after WWII. Her damaged heart may not hold out much longer; and, she longs to return to her home country to reunite with her estranged brother before she dies. After her doctor forbids her to travel, she takes a dramatic turn for the worse. So, she asks her daughter to go to Japan in her place.
Divorced mother Sue agrees to travel in Shoko's stead and takes her daughter along on the journey. In Japan, Sue becomes privy to family secrets and helps to heal the wounds Shoko and her brother have carried with them for decades.
How to Be an American Housewife is told in two parts, the first part from Shoko's point of view and the latter from Sue's. The change of perspective was a little jarring, at first, because I'd grown to love Shoko and the author did an excellent job of giving the two women distinctive voices. Her skill at making the characters distinctive made the transition difficult, in other words. By the mid-point, I also found that I was predisposed to dislike Sue because Shoko doesn't understand her. It doesn't take long to see events described by Shoko from Sue's perspective and to like her, as well.
I loved this story for many reasons. First and foremost, the storyline drew me in and the pages flew. But, apart from that, I loved stepping into Shoko's shoes and seeing what it's like to move to a spouse's home country and leave your own behind. I also liked reading the WWII scenes and some of them were so genuine that I was not surprised to find out they really happened. Highly recommended!
The Education of a British-Protected Child by Chinua Achebe is a book that Amy of Amy Reads talked me into buying when we met up at my local Borders as it was in its dying days. It wasn't a hard sell. I'm always fascinated by Amy's choices but they're far removed from my own, so I was excited to have her point out a book she particularly enjoyed.
The Education of a British-Protected Child is a collection of essays that mainly focus on education, the Nigerian experience (war, politics, imperialism), slavery and other topics important to Achebe, Nigerians and blacks in general. Although it's one of the most post-it filled books I've read, this year, when I first sat down to write about the book I was so overwhelmed by all the passages worth quoting that I think I'm best off just saying that it's worth the time.
Achebe has a unique perspective in being a highly-educated African who has experienced imperialism from the side of the natives, excellent education in an impoverished nation, a wide variety of experiences in other countries (teaching, travel, even more schooling) and war on his own turf. I learned a great deal from this book and felt like my own beliefs were challenged a bit. At times, I disagreed with Achebe, sometimes I was enlightened and in general I was quite simply in awe of him. I may share some quotes in a future post.
My Face-to-Face book group meets to discuss Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, tonight! I can't wait! Happy Wednesday to all!