27 thoughts on “The Breaking Point – Stories by Daphne du Maurier

  1. THE ALIBI

    1 & 2

    “…and he savoured the waiting moment as delicious because of its uncertainty.”

    …being the waiting moment when I savour leaving an extremely intriguing story halfway through, till I happen to read it again — also as I eke out its uncertainty till I read the second half. And I started reading it just now only an hour or so after starting HERE, by chance, a book called UNCERTAINTIES!….a near-equivalent chance to the one where the main male protagonist in this DdM work randomly chooses which London street and its house numbered 8 as the site where to gratuitously assuage his married life-time crisis of despair by future fell means.
    Despite the tangerine colour of the curtains that the woman puts up for him in the basement that he unofficially rents from her at no. 8, and the stream-of-consciousness meaning of the colours of his paints that he uses as his false alibi of being an artist….yes, despite such bright colours and any absurdity attaching to the darkest gratuitous motives of this man’s plan, the house itself increases the grey gloom, downtrodden and very post-second world war as it is, as well as the woman’s attitudes to her small son by tying him up to a mud-scraper contributing to this being one of the darkest, most disarmingly deadpan, openings to a story by a famous mainstream writer I have ever read! Where has this story been, and why has it never been spoken of before in the circles where I spend my time roaming the byways of dark literature?

  2. Pingback: Tangerine Curtains at No. 8 | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  3. Possible spoilers below in my review of the second half of THE ALIBI today…

    3, 4 & 5

    “That’s right, he thought. Stay put. Keep your place. If there was one thing he could not stand it was a woman who argued, a woman who was self-assertive, a woman who nagged, a woman who stood up for her rights. Because of course they were not made for that. They were intended by their Creator to be pliable, and accommodating, and gentle, and meek.”

    No omen-free disappointments here in the level of the depth of this story’s darkness, nor relief from such a depth even by its sense of inadvertent or collateral creativity in so-called alibis of artwork, whether eventually seen as a whole to be daubs of a madman or avant garde experiments of a genius. Simply the inevitable panning-out of what was intended by the artist’s original fell plans or intentions but by different means, while dabbling along the way about women’s low-grade role in the world….as depicted by expressions of art that reveals the woman who put up the tangerine curtains and her small son in the new configured colours of this story and of her own backstory within it — her tied-up parcel of hidden life, too, as thrown away by the man into a public bin.
    I can now see why I was somehow destined to use THIS then irrelevant or gratuitous image of a parcel or bag yesterday honestly before reading about it today in the second half of the story!

  4. THE BLUE LENSES

    Pages 44 – 63

    “There was time enough for colour.”

    I feel like Marda West must have felt — made to feel as mad as Marda, too. Plainly narrated without fear of confusion, I learn that she had been convalescing seemingly for a “subterfuge” of endlessness in a nursing home, recovering from a double-eye operation, ever on the brink of having her bandages removed, and then temporary dark blue lenses inserted for her to see things gradually for the first time since the operation, in order for the full colour to return in due course after that with more permanent lenses. She had developed friendships with various nurses, without having seen them, particularly attached to the night nurse called Nurse Ansel, and I wondered, is it significant that her name is an anagram for ‘a lens’?
    The day eventually arrives and what or whom does she see with understandable reactions? — well I at least understand them. Not exactly nursery rhyme figures as I at first thought, but what she deems as masks, masks that they wear even in the corridors outside, and wherever else they go; then it suddenly dawned on me, about that earlier subterfuge… the striking events also making me wonder why I have not read this story before, a story that surely and seriously should be more well known to the mad and sane alike.
    But that, so far, is only half the story.

    Read up to: “…it came into view over her shoulders, through the looking-glass.”

  5. Pages 63 – 82

    “…what cell linking muscle to imagination.”

    The second half of this proto-Orwellian nightmare, one that seems at first to resolve itself…until it doesn’t.
    Not so much Fether and Tarr, but more something that is insidiously eye-opening with regard to the self and to others.
    One hopes that it is imagination, but knows it isn’t. That looking-glass world again, now not transcending but — as with so-called mankind’s perceptions represented by the lengthier quotation above that I made from the previous story in this book — deadening its dear Alice.
    Self’s cell with others looking in at you.

  6. Pingback: The Blue Lenses | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  7. GANYMEDE

    “Unsavoury is a hideous word. It’s the most hideous word in the dictionary. It conjures up, to my mind, all that is ugly in life, yes, and in death too. The savoury is the joy, the élan, the zest that goes with mind and body working in unison; the unsavoury is the malodorous decay of vegetation, the rotted flesh, the mud beneath the water of the canal. And another thing. The word unsavoury suggests a lack of personal cleanliness: unchanged linen, bed-sheets hanging to dry, the fluff off combs, torn packets in waste-paper baskets.”

    This is a compelling, page-turning, darkly insidious novelette about a man’s trip to Venice, and his obsession — as in ‘Death in Venice’ — with a boy or youthful man. Leading slowly but exponentially to being appropriated by the place and by a man in a white mackintosh and others connected with the boy. A story of paranoia and stalking, and being evicted from a hotel to another smaller place, as in Charles Wilkinson’s Mills of Silence novella (reviewed here) that somehow works in mutual synergy with the du Maurier, involving another, perhaps similar, character who is an innocent abroad in another European city, as based on my shaky memory…
    The slow crescendo of insinuation ironically works up to a speeding boat beyond the canals. Including water skis! And earlier competing orchestras in ‘gay abandon’. (“I could hardly believe it possible that five minutes ago had been gay and crowded, and now wintered gloom.”)
    And there is talk, too, of a previous victim of the white mackintosh man, a victim by the strange name of ‘Sir Johnson’ whom the boy had also baited. The boy whose favourite Britisher, he said, was Winston Churchill. What did all these words mean in 1959 when they were published? Words like unsavoury and smoking brands like du Maurier… Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Shakespeare’ sonnets, Ganymede, Zeus and Poseidon, notwithstanding.

    “…the Venice within ourselves.”

  8. Pingback: Ganymede by Daphne du Maurier | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  9. THE POOL

    “Deborah, still on her knees and crossing her hands once more, edged her way to the brink of the pool and then, crouching there beside it, looked down into the water. Her reflection wavered up at her, and it was not the face she knew, not even the looking-glass face which anyway was false, but a disturbed image, dark-skinned and ghostly. The crossed hands were like the petals of the water-lilies themselves, and the colour was not waxen white but phantom green. The hair too was not the live clump she brushed every day and tied back with ribbon, but a canopy, a shroud. When the image smiled it became more distorted still. Uncrossing her hands, Deborah leant forward, took a twig, and drew a circle three times on the smooth surface. The water shook in ever widening ripples, and her reflection, broken into fragments, heaved and danced, a sort of monster, and the eyes were there no longer, nor the mouth.”

    That ‘looking-glass’ face again of the woman in the Blue Lens, and the Alibi woman, too, reflected in this pool that we meet in a children’s story if not FOR children.
    Deborah being a symbol of these women, now in waiting, and given her chance for an explicitly Christian religious healing, a cleansing epiphany — or a potential grievous subsumption? Otherwise, she is part of a story like Narnia or E. Nesbit or Sarban’s Calmahain or this story’s own “monster tree” to match a more recent book that I happened, as if by destiny, to review a few days ago HERE.
    This is a du Maurier story, however, that seems to be the darkest side of Elizabeth Bowen as blended with some D.H. Lawrence short stories, whereby we now see the garden and its pool explicitly lurking in wait for the children to stay with their grandparents there. Although that sense of the garden’s thus waiting, its sumner house et al, starts off indeed as an idyllic story for children, about Deborah and her brother Roger playing cricket and having a bath together and listening to Grandma read aloud Black Beauty … until the words start to possess Deborah on one of her night visits to the pool and she later petulantly throws a knife at Roger, then there is the heat wave and eventually the storm. And the woman at the turnstile…with a key to a secret world.
    Meanwhile, I wonder who persuaded du Maurier to add the very short ending coda of chapter 4, to soften the blow?
    Some amazingly powerful stylistic writing here. Blew me away. Although some passages as well as the general denouement are arguably inchoate.

    “…this isn’t a dream. And it isn’t death, either. It’s the secret world.”

  10. Pingback: The Pool – Daphne du Maurier | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  11. THE ARCHDUCHESS

    Pages 156 – 178

    “Why ravish a stranger, when my sister is my bride?”

    A Swiftian history of the principality of Ronda, small as Cornwall and in southern Europe, its Monarchic utopia of incestuous intermarriages, its trade in skiing tourism, and in fishbones arched like bra cups for breasts, and Rovlvula flowers as beauty cream, and its spring waters of elixir for eternal life, beautiful Rondese women, too, with intoxicated caresses, and a hint of a means not only to prolong life but also the act of love. ………… An arguably brain-washed utopia inasmuch as two men (who were lame and greedy respectively) eventually seeded Ronda’s easy history of no ambition (that we here read about) with discontent, one of these men a journalist, just as Boris did with the dissatisfaction he insidiously sowed to get Brexit done. The monarchy here is thus moulded inexorably into a republic, leaving the Archduchess as the eternal scarecrow memorial, indeed still living as ‘a dead monument to once ancient hope’ (Google this expression!), after her brother / lover, the Archduke. was removed, with him no longer standing on the balcony every day as an amenable good luck charm of a figurehead. But what was that all about regarding “the balcony, and the “airy-mice”?

    Read up to: “What plots were hatched? What poison brewed?”

  12. Pingback: The Rovlvula of Ronda | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  13. Pages 178 – 199

    “Rumour can make cowards of the most courageous, and sow panic amongst the most serene. Markoi watched the result of his propaganda, keeping aloof himself and merely replying, when questioned, that he was obliged to print public opinion. For himself, he had no views.”

    So typical of Boris when he chose, as a sort of dice throw, to support Brexit.
    I cannot pretend to understand all the machinations in this second half of ‘The Archduchess’, a woman who is a Megan Markle to match the Markoi as his own equivalence to our Boris, but, despite my lack of understanding, it seems to be a miraculously weird prophecy by DDuM, via a ‘blue-lens’ looking-glass, to reflect our British nationalists’ attempts to ‘take back control’., control of the waters of eternal life, the fishing industry of fishbone brassieres, and Rovlvula paste, involving conjured-up sharp divisions in society. “….the slogan of Ronda for the Rondese.” The later mayhem of floods and avalanches as an equivalence to Covid that eventually overlapped the effects of Brexit. There are so many parallels here leading to the Null Immortalis of the ending.

    “The point is, when a people begins to doubt there is no end to it. The doubt splits up into so many altered moods, and nothing is safe any more, no man is true. He who loses faith loses his own soul.”

    Yet, this work, as a disarmingly, if ludicrously, muddled Swiftian novella attempts, by such a muddle, to disguise its message from me … till it is thwarted by its own autonomous urge now to become something exuding eternal truths if not eternal life?

  14. THE MENACE

    “I’ve lost my rib.”

    An alternate world story where a British actor called Barry from Herne Bay grows up to be a very big film star in Hollywood, the archetypal strong and silent type, with a suitably located small facial scar, an inscrutable heartthrob called The Menace — porridge loving, eventually experimenting his fancies successfully with rice pudding, after donating spam to us in Britain during the hard days of the war. Strong and silent, but with his own genuine lack of emotions that suited the parts he played. Until, in 1959, the cinema industry brought out ‘feelies’, with similar teething problems affecting already established actors as had been the case with the earlier invention of ‘talkies’.
    Barry’s ‘feely’ force field turns out to be, perhaps unsurprisingly, extremely low, thus threatening his career. His wife is scuttled off for the weekend while his minders take him to a beach where they trust to stir his loins with “coloured boys and girls”, none of them over 17, provocatively in “nude parade”. When that doesn’t work (he refers to them with the N word), the minders take him to a night club with other provocations for his loins, more stiffeners for his sinews. It is here he meets by chance an old female friend back home from Herne Bay who once failed a film test in Hollywood, now a grey-haired lavatory attendant…one with memories of home and the old days.
    I will not let on the results of this meeting, but I found the ending predictable.
    The story’s moral? Its context with the rest of this book’s gestalt? Your guess is as good as mine. But my guess is that it’s an alibi for another story. Think about it.
    (Or a counterpart for Flannery O’Connor’s 1952 gorilla story?)

  15. THE CHAMOIS

    “All this came true, but something was amiss. There was a flaw – not only the non-appearance of children, but a division of the spirit. The communion of flesh which brought us together was in reality a chasm, and I despised the bridge we made. Perhaps he did as well. I had been endeavouring for ten years to build for my self a ledge of safety.“

    …and that ‘bridge’ between these two Sibelius lovers eventually became a dangerous gap in the Northern wilds of Greece between them, across which the woman narrator tries to rescue her bumptious husband who had by now become like a scared deer in the headlights of a car.
    The husband, with an already well-stocked trophy room, is obsessed with hunting the inscrutably rare chamois about which animal I here learnt a lot. And the goatherd guide called Jesus, so similar to the Menace of Barry with the latter’s lack of emotions and staged inscrutability, yet the goatherd is so different, so unstaged? The description of Jesus’ eyes is unsurpassable. And he is shot by mistake by her husband, if that is not a spoiler the nature of which has now shot the reader! But not a mistake at all? Willed by the narrator when mis-storifying us about it? This is a classic story, no mistake. Another Algernon Blackwood weird tale of deserved note, with something Maurier more. A car’s “chassis” (in assonance with ‘chamois’) steered by a wall-eyed driver that takes them along lethal hairpin bends over chasms towards the perhaps too rare chamois, and the husband, having taken a cloth from his pouch, meaningfully polishes his rifle at the end before he aims and fires it, as if this story in 1959 knew what chamois leather cloths were used for! And perhaps it did. And ‘pork-ham’ to echo Barry’s spam. A cupboard to sleep in. Giddiness and fear outside. Unmissable.

    “, it was as though our last link with sanity had snapped.”

  16. Pingback: Blackwood and More | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  17. Little Ben is shut away in a cupboard, too, at the beginning…. And someone had an ‘evil-smelling cloth to wipe his mouth’, to wipe out any sick.

    THE LORDLY ONES



    “Because of his silence they forgot to explain things to him, arrivals and departures and changes of plan,…”

    The exquisite story of Ben, a neuro-diverse boy, although his parents, like all parents, when this story was published, would never have understood that. The father dealt out cruel corporal punishment to him, instead, and his mother allowed a candle to ‘flounce her figure to a grotesque shape.’
    They took him from the city of Exeter one day, amid confusion and without warning, to a smaller house on the thinly populated moors. With a bedroom where he had not yet worked out its shape and nature before darkness set in.
    Thus moved to the moors, he somehow got mixed up with such moors as people, and indeed so might I have done at his age, not realising that words can mean two different things at once, and he ran away with this roaming clan of what he deemed to be ‘lordly ones making towards the hills’, and to whom he had taken his parents’ own meagre food to help them, and he is now with a beautiful golden-haired woman as his mother who allows him to be breast-fed by herself as she does to her own raggedy son…
    The magic of this story is too beautiful and, yes, equally too hard to bear. And I am in denial about what really eventually happened. As with Deborah’s pool….
    And with whatever else was acceptable to write about in 1959. Far worse than now. While our now is somehow still far worse than their then. Null Immortalis.

    End of The Breaking Point

    ***
    “How beautiful they are, 

    The lordly ones 

    Who dwell in the hills, 

    In the hollow hills.”

    — William Sharp (Fiona Macleod)
    (Used in Rutland Boughton’s 1914 opera, ‘The Immortal Hour’)

  18. Pingback: The Apple Tree by Daphne Du Maurier | THE DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS — The Zeno Zone

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