I had been looking forward to reading this story since watching this super-scary, fantastic film before I first went to Venice. “Don’t Look Now” is actually only 60 pages long. It tells the story of John and Laura who travel to Venice to try to recover from the death of their daughter Christine from meningitis (one of the differences from the film). It is a haunting tale that really sums up the confusion and mysterious side of Venice: “The place was like a maze. They might circle round and round forever and then find themselves back again…” They meet a strange pair of old ladies, one of whom claims to be able to make contact with Christine. Laura eagerly accepts this psychic explanation whereas John refuses to despite his possible own psychic insight, but he is drawn to a strange girl running around the streets of Venice. What follows is a haunting story. I don’t know if I enjoyed this more because of the film but it is great.
Unfortunately the rest of the stories are just not as good, they decline in quality as they go on.
“Not After Midnight” is a tale about a lonely teacher who goes on a painting holiday in Crete and meets a strange, awful, American couple who seem to have a connection to the drowning of a previous holiday maker.
In “A Border Line Case”, a young actress pursues old family friend Nick after the death of her father. She discovers he is obviously a bit of a nutter but unbelievably finds herself drawn to him even when it becomes clear he is up to lots of illegal activities.
In “The Way of the Cross”, a hideous group of people from the same village embark on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem which is largely disastrous. There is a very funny account of someone losing their toot
“The Breakthrough” is a science fiction-style story. A man is sent to help with a project to try and harness the life force of a person to try and overcome death. Generally quite weird.
Lulu’s bookshelf has summed up these stories;
“They’re a bit of an odd bunch – a mix of the supernatural and the mundane. Some of them embrace the ‘unknown’ with psychics, pagan worship, and life after death, while others seem to be building you up to a similar supernatural element only to have the explanation be something quite simple. One theme that runs through all the stories, however, is the idea of taking the protagonist away from their home and putting them into an unfamiliar environment, where the setting itself serves to increase the sense of suspense or the character’s alienation.”
That sums it up really, a hit and miss bunch of stories but not classic Du Maurier.