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The Birds and Other Stories (1952)

de Daphne du Maurier

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'How long he fought with them in the darkness he could not tell, but at last the beating of the wings about him lessened and then withdrew . . . ' A classic of alienation and horror, 'The Birds' was immortalised by Hitchcock in his celebrated film. The five other chilling stories in this collection echo a sense of dislocation and mock man's sense of dominance over the natural world. The mountain paradise of 'Monte Verità' promises immortality, but at a terrible price; a neglected wife haunts her husband in the form of an apple tree; a professional photographer steps out from behind the camera and into his subject's life; a date with a cinema usherette leads to a walk in the cemetery; and a jealous father finds a remedy when three's a crowd . . .… (més)
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Month of October 2022 - Spooky Classics

“The Birds and Other Stories” by Daphne du Maurier (1952 & 1953; 2013 Kindle Edition).

This ebook includes the following short stories:

- “The Birds” p. 12-54
- “Monte Verità, p. 55-135
- “The Apple Tree”, p. 136-186
- “The Little Photographer”, p. 187-237
- “Kiss Me Again, Stranger”, p. 239-266
- “The old Man”, p. 267-279

Currently, I have only read “The Birds” and will come back at a later date to finish this book.

“The Birds (p. 12-54)

Setting: London

3.5 stars rounded up. Not being much of a short story fan, I actually found myself being drawn into Nat Hoken, a farm worker out in the country, some 300 miles from London, and his family’s survival. I felt a bit of urgency of surviving each night and day as the tide shifted and the east wind suddenly started to bring in the hostile and killer seagulls from the sea, and turned all inland birds hostile against humans. I liked how this story focused on the one family’s survival versus a whole country, which, be assured, the birds were attacking everywhere.

There’s no rhyme or reason for the sudden attacks, and there’s, unfortunately, no ending either. The family makes it through another night while the birds are tap, tap, tapping on the boarded up windows of the house. In the morning, the end of the story, the birds are seen out on the ocean horizon waiting for the next tide to come in with the easterly wind. This gave the family roughly 8 hours to run around and get more supplies and take care of boarding up the house better before the next attack. I was disappointed. I wanted more. Maybe that’s the purpose of short stories.

Some believe the birds are symbolic of London being bombarded during World War II. There are only a couple of instances mentioned that might even insinuate this.

PAGE 32: When Nat was talking to his neighbor, trying to come up with a reason why the birds were suddenly attacking, the farmer says, “…Well, what do you make of it? They’re saying in town the Russians have done it. The Russians have poisoned the birds.” LOL! Some things never change.


PAGE 53: Nat’s wife is distraught after the second night of birds and says, “Won’t America do something? They’ve always been our allies, haven’t they? Surely America will do something?”

Some sources say Daphne hated Alfred Hitchcock’s depiction of The Birds in film. Alfred Hitchcock wasn’t really interested in following storylines. He would skim through a story just once and determine if he liked the basic idea. If so, he would produce a movie on the “idea”, not the story. There was new technology just being discovered in filmmaking, and he wanted them to be put to good use. He claimed to not even remember what Daphne du Maurier’s, The Birds, was really about.

In the end, there’s no doubt Alfred Hitchcock’s movie was definitely based more on Daphne du Maurier’s novel, rather than Frank Baker’s. The setting and storyline were a bit different, even from Daphne’s novel:

1. Set in Bodega Bay, California
2. A new “love” interest story with a family, instead of a man, his wife and their child.
3. They didn’t know when the birds would attack. In du Maurier’s novel, the birds always attacked on the incoming tide and an easterly wind.
4. The novel ends with the birds all resting out in the ocean horizon, while the movie ends with the birds surrounding the house of the only survivors on Bodega Bay Island.

In my opinion, not too far off. But, the movie itself? Meh! Sometimes the acting cracked me up


Finished reading other stories:
10/24/2022 - 10/27/2022

Monte Verità (p. 55-135)
Setting: Monte Verità, Europe* and London

mont-ee vuh-ree-tä

*Author prefers not to say whether it’s in Switzerland, France, Spain, Italy or Tyrol.

Spoken in 1st person, a best friend, and mountain climbing buddy, to Victor and his new wife, Anna, of Shropshire.

The top of Monte Verità is considered a spiritual heaven in this novel. Certain random people are drawn to it during their lives, especially girls and women. Their hair is cropped short and they all dress the same in linen dress that comes down to the knees, and bare feet. There is no gender.

They don’t die, they simply disappear. They pray and worship the sun, which they believe gives them light and life. There is no “creed, no savior, and no deity”. (p. 126). Nothing worldly exists there at the top of Monte Verità. It is described to be a lot like Heaven would be, but without God or Jesus.

Anna was called to Monte Verità by the sacerdotesse, spirits high up in the mountain who reside in the monastery, which are never seen, and was, for some reason, deemed the highest deity over all who was there and who were to come. When Anna disappears, Victor spends his life, to his last dying breath in search of her.

The nameless narrator was called to Monte Verità towards the end of the story and was allowed inside the monastery for one last visual visit with Anna. He was to send last words to Victor, before he died, that she really was fine.

The Apple Tree (p. 136-186)

So they lived in two different worlds, their minds not meeting.

After 25 years of marriage, the pessimistic Midge, of course not the man, had developed some very annoying habits. And, when Midge dies of pneumonia, the man is finally free, free, free to do what he pleases.

But, he is reminded of her every time he looked out his window to see the old, miserable, dying apple tree that resembled his wife, Midge. The barbed wire wrapped around the trunk looked like her skirt, and the branches reaching up, then drooping, looked like her slumped, miserable shoulders. He wanted to get rid of it as well.

The man becomes a lonely miserable mess and has pushed away everyone else, including the help around the house, and he ends up alone, his nightly drinks at the bar down the road…because now his house is dark and unfriendly. He is in his own little selfish world, where he will die. Ha!

Unfortunately, the ending fell completely flat for me.

”The Little Photographer” (p. 187-237)

A secret love affair that goes awry between Madame la Marquise and the photographer, Monsieur Paul.

Madame la Marquise had no excitements in her life. Sure, she was married to a very wealthy hard working man and had two beautiful young daughters, but her circle of friends had quick summer romances while on vacationing away from their husbands. She would like to try it.

She meets the little photographer with the club foot. The fling begins, but Monsieur Paul becomes way too attached to her. He says he will sell his business to his sister, who also has a club foot, and will follow her wherever she goes. Suddenly, the secret fun is over for her, and she comes out of her stupor. She’s married for Pete’s sake, and she realizes she’s got to get rid of him. So she did…by pushing him over the cliff of their secret meeting place.

Monsieur Paul’s sister had arrived at the hotel with a few semi-scandalous photos just before Madame la Marquise and the kids were leaving town. The ending insinuates that the beautiful Madame la Marquise will not get away with her secret summertime rendezvous because her husband, who arrived to pick her and the kids up, mentioned how sorry he was for the family, as having a clubfoot was hereditary.

”Kiss Me Again, Stranger” (p. 239-266)

Okay, nice twist at the end of this little short romance. The man who kissed the beautiful stranger from the theater was very lucky he wasn’t in the Air Force, or else the stranger would have killed him instead of the military guy who was sitting at the cafe talking smut about women at 2:00 am in the morning.

“The old Man” (p. 267-279)

Even a short story should make some kind of sense. When an old man and his wife send their children away and then kills their own grown invalid son, who is slow and dependent on them, just so they can be alone together again, the author “tries” to get you to feel sorry for them. The old man and his wife sees the narrator burying their son. They embrace each other, seeing it’s over, and their son is buried, then went to the center of the lake. They each turned into beautiful swans and flew off into the setting sun. It was a beautiful sight…NOT!

⭐️⭐️⭐️ overall average for all stories. ( )
  MissysBookshelf | Aug 27, 2023 |
Rebecca was fine and all, but after this I'm a du Maurier fan for life. Even if she sometimes writes long creepy-pasta and Lovecraftian-eat-pray-loves.

*notes for each one, so I can recall them later on*

The Birds
Wonderfully different from the movie. Reminiscent of the, now, popular, post-apocalyptic narratives. Ends a bit abruptly. Is an analogy for the bombings of the time.

Monte Verita
The most lovecraftian story of du Maurier. Would not be surprised if it had shoggoths of the thing poke through in its final pages. Kinda dissapointed it didn't.

The Apple Tree
Possibly the best story in the collection. Unreliable, unlikable narrator but wonderful narration. It deals with loss.

The Little Photographer
For some reason the title reminds me of the first chapter of one of my favorite books, Myrtos by P. Matesis. It's about a wealthy woman suffering from ennui and lack of compassion that wants some excitement. Du Maurier builds wonderfully her character, but falls short on the surrounding ones. Their reactions feel weird, over-the-top emotional at some cases, and absurdly cold and calculating at others. The premise is so familliar nowadays from crime/mystery shows.

Kiss Me Again, Stranger
The original creepy pasta. I had a great time reading this but it's dated now, at least as far as the horror/shock factor goes.

The Old Man
Daphne you huge old troll you. Shame on you!
( )
  Silenostar | Dec 7, 2022 |

There are six stories in 'The Birds and other stories', the first five of which I liked:

  • The Birds: a piece of speculative fiction about how humans react to a sudden and deadly change in their environment
  • Monte Verità: a story about the pursuit of a life beyond the ordinary
  • The Apple Tree: an unusual ghost story
  • The Little Photographer: a story of indolent self-indulgence leading to violence and grief.
  • Kiss Me Again, Stranger: an encounter with a stranger that changes the life of an otherwise ordinary man

I found each of the fiche stories to be deeply engaging. They're original, character-driven, vivid, surprisingly modern and quite different from one another. I strongly recommend them.

I've reviewed each of the first five stories below. The final story, The Old Man didn't work for me so I haven't reviewed it.

Forget the Hitchcock movie, We're not in California in the 1960s. We're in coastal Cornwall shortly after the war. There's no Tippi Hedren character delivering lovebirds. There's just an observant, self-reliant farmworker, living in an isolated cottage on a peninsula, trying to ensure that his family survive an inexplicable and lethal change in the world.

The original story is forty pages of slowly intensifying threat as what starts out as a shocking aberration, a nighttime incursion into the children's bedroom by apparently desperate small birds, lashing out in terror and confusion, but becomes something more sinister, more deadly and much harder to take in - all the different species of birds working together in an organised way to attack humanity.

'The Birds' is threaded through with threat, made larger by vivid violence and the struggle to accept the inexplicable but undeniable.

The thing that I liked most about the story was the skilful way in which, in a very few pages. Du Maurier turns a 'No, that's not possible' incredible idea into a grim, deadly, hope extinguishing reality. This is largely done by counterpointing the bizarre idea of an organised mass attack on humanity by all the birds working together with the observations and reactions of a very down to earth, uncharismatic farm worker who demonstrates the mental flexibility to accept and adapt to the reality of the threat and the focus and courage to do what can be done to ensure that his family survives. He is a man who understands terror and helplessness and who has no expectation of 'the authorities' doing anything to help him. He lived through the bombing of Plymouth and knows what it is to shelter in fear from an attack by a force you can't defeat or deflect but only endure.

If 'The Birds' has a message, it's that the world is not safe, new threats can emerge at any time and that survival depends on staying vigilant, adapting quickly and spending your energy on doing what you can to protect yourself and your family without waiting for outside help. That's an interesting insight into the mentality of post-war England.

I was fascinated by the contrast between style and content in this story. In tone, it reads like an adventure that might have been written at the end of the nineteenth century or the beginning of the twentieth century - think H Rider Haggard's 'She' or Edgar Rice Burrough's 'Tarzan'; yet the structure is much more modern than that - the narrative starts at the end of the story, sharing an outcome that we lack the context to understand, and then turning back in time to calibrate the loss that the start of the story describes.

The main characters are Englishmen, born to privilege at the start of the twentieth century, one a landowner with a country seat and one an international businessman. Mountain climbing is their shared passion, although one approaches the mountain with caution buttressed by careful planning while the other constantly falls under the spell of the mountains which call to him to climb to higher and more remote places. Their lives change when one of them meets and marries Anna, an extraordinary woman that they both fall in love with and who, eventually disappears into a strange, isolated community at the top of Monte Verità, the mountain of truth.

With its whispers of magic and immortality, the story seems to echo Haggard's 'She' with Anna as a mystical twist on she-who-must-be obeyed; but, when the secret of the sect is finally revealed, the thinking behind it is not something any nineteenth-century mind would have come up with, it is too stripped of romance and too challenging of the values of our day-to-day lives.

The two disruptive ideas behind this story, the ones that mark it as the product of a mid-twentieth century generation that has lived through two world wars that have reshaped the world, are that: serenity is found only by those who hunger for and are prepared to accept the unvarnished truth and that the world hates truth-based serenity and reacts to is with violence, not just because it is beyond their reach but because the existence of such serenity undermines the value of their day-to-day lives, challenges the dream that they choose to live in and calls away their best and brightest.

I found this to be a particularly disturbing ghost story, not because the ghost was so terrifying but because the portrait of the man, haunted by the spirit of the man, haunted by the spirit of his recently deceased wife, is so vivid and so damning.

I had thought that the most challenging thing about this story might be making the idea that a man might be haunted by an old apple tree that has long stood outside his house but which now reminds him, by its abject posture and barrens, of his dead wife. Daphne du Maurier pulled that off easily. The haunting is suggested rather than explicit. No one but the haunted man see anything wrong with the tree or its fruit but he can tolerate neither. Even the way in which the tree brought harm to the man need not be attributed to anything supernatural but the man himself sees nothing but malice in what befalls him.

The most challenging part of the story turned out to be the way in which Daphne du Maurier slowly brought me not only to have no sympathy for the haunted man but rather to despise him. We meet him three months after his wife's death when he notices the apple tree for the first time. We follow his actions as he adjusts to life as a widower and reflects on how it differs from his married life. There is no overt condemnation in the authorial voice. It remains a dispassionate narrator of events and the man's interior reflections and memories. Yet, with each thing I learned about the man, the more real he became to me and the less I liked him.

He is a naturally solitary, mildly hedonistic man who wants nothing of life except to be left alone to enjoy it. He has no need to connect with the people around him. He prefers to swim among them anonymously, while he takes his pleasure. He is the kind of man who does not seem to be temperamentally suited for married life. This, I could have understood and forgiven. Yet he did marry and he had reached the point where he saw his wife as the bane of his existence. The first examples he gives of she brings misery to his life seem convincing enough but bit by bit it becomes clear that he has, for many years, withheld himself from his wife, rejecting and belittling her and making her unhappy.

The details of who this man is and how he thinks and behaves build slowly, like wind-driven leaves piling up in a corner, until my distaste for him was palpable. He was not a monster. Sadly, he is the kind of man it is not at all hard to imagine existing in their thousands. He would see himself as a perfectly reasonable man, burdened with an unsuitable wife, who, now that she's dead, is finally free to live as he pleases.

Which brings me to the haunting.

It's tempting to attribute to this unlikeable man a lack of self-knowledge. I found myself thinking of a question asked in 'All's Well That Ends Well'

"Is it possible he should know what he is, and be that he is?”

It's plausible that he's the kind of man who is so easily comfortable with himself because he never truly sees himself.


Do apple trees really haunt people? Do dead wives, who suffered years of emotional neglect, come back and haunt their husbands?


Does a man who has been suppressing what he knows about himself find his subconscious eating away at him, tainting the lie that his life has become, forcing him to face the truth and change or hold on to the lie and take the consequences?

What I like most about this story is that Daphne du Maurier leaves me to pose the question and to from my own answer to it.

'The Little Photographer' is a character-driven story structured around a crime and its consequences but the power of the piece comes not from the crime but from the portrait of the woman who commits it.

Daphne du Maurier shows us the world as seen by Madame la Marquise as she sojourns at a luxury hotel somewhere on the French Riviera in the company of her two little girls and their English nanny. Her husband has chosen to pay attention to his business affairs rather than join her. She is bored, not just with her life at the hotel but with the monotony of the life that she has married into, surrounded by old things and old people, locked into routines that never vary. The only solace the Marquise finds in her boredom is her own beauty and the admiration that it generates whenever she appears in public.

The story is told at a pace that fits the indolence and ennui of the Marquise as she seeks stimulation and admiration wherever she can find it. Her narcissism dominates her life. She is obsessed with herself to the point where she is incapable of seeing the people around her as real. They exist for her only to the extent that they satisfy or frustrate her desires.

What I liked most about the story was the way, caught up in the dream of her own image, the Marquise falls into an affair with a local photographer with no more agency than if she were sleepwalking. The man has talent but he is poor and has a clubfoot that limits his mobility. The Marquis is interested in him primarily because she sees him as having been instantly enslaved by her beauty. She thinks only of herself. She seeks only to bathe in the admiration of a man besotted by her. She has no awareness of either risks or consequences.

The crime follows when she is violently woken from her dream and made to see the sordid mess she has created and the threat it poses to her privileged life. Her reaction is exactly what I would expect from someone so self-obsessed.

I wondered if Daphne du Maurier was going to let this privileged woman escape the consequences of her crime. I should have realised by now that her answer would be more ambiguous than that. The range of consequences that Marquise will face is only hinted at by the end of the story, with freedom still being a possibility, albeit at a price.

I had wondered why Daphne du Maurier decided that the photographer should have a clubfoot. I couldn't see why that particular disadvantage was necessary. It was the Marquis, who arrived to pick up his wife at the end of the story, who gave me the answer. He explained to his wife that a friend of his had had a clubfoot but that it hadn't hindered him from marrying a beautiful, healthy woman. Yet, when their son was born, he too had a clubfoot. The taint in the blood could not be bred out.

Nothing is made of this remark. The Marquise doesn't seem to register its implications. Her mind is occupied with more pressing matters. I was left wondering whether this signified that there would be at least one consequence from which the Marquise could not escape.

'Kiss Me Again, Stranger' is another character piece but this time the character is a nice but ordinary man who has a close encounter with a beautiful but strange cinema usherette that, through the filters of his innate decency, he fails fully to understand until it is over.

Told as a first-person account of a man looking back on a defining moment of his life, the power of the story comes from the tension between the incidental details that reveal the narrator to be a good man or modest means and ambitions to whom something extraordinary has happened and the growing sense of threat that the reader feels like a too-fast pulse beneath the fingers but which the narrator is completely blind to.

It's a simple story, skilfully told. It delivers a quiet sense of dread while drawing a vivid picture of a quietly contented man who, after being de-mobbed from the Army, has built a new life for himself as a mechanic, only to have the limits and omissions of that life revealed when he meets someone who wakes in him a hunger for something more.
( )
  MikeFinnFiction | Jun 9, 2022 |
The birds --
Monte Verita --
The apple tree --
The little photographer --
Kiss me again, Stranger --
The old man.
  Lemeritus | Nov 18, 2021 |
"The Birds" and "Kiss Me Again, Stranger" are quite atmospheric, but the rest, though well written, are slow, turgid and obvious. ( )
  SChant | Oct 10, 2021 |
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Maurier, Daphne duautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
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Publishing history - 1952, UK, Gollancz "The Apple Tree and Other Stories"; 1963, UK, Pan "The Birds and Other Stories".  This last title is the one that has continued to be used ever since. (As far as i can tell); 

Stories include:

"The Birds",

"Monte Verità",

"The Apple Tree",

"The Little Photographer",

"Kiss Me Again, Stranger", and

"The Old Man"

In 1953 in the US, Doubleday published the stories included in "The Apple Tree..." along with two additional stories ("The Split Second" and "No Motive") as the collection "Kiss Me Again, Stranger"
Editor de l'editorial
Creadors de notes promocionals a la coberta
Llengua original
CDD/SMD canònics
LCC canònic

Referències a aquesta obra en fonts externes.

Wikipedia en anglès (1)

'How long he fought with them in the darkness he could not tell, but at last the beating of the wings about him lessened and then withdrew . . . ' A classic of alienation and horror, 'The Birds' was immortalised by Hitchcock in his celebrated film. The five other chilling stories in this collection echo a sense of dislocation and mock man's sense of dominance over the natural world. The mountain paradise of 'Monte Verità' promises immortality, but at a terrible price; a neglected wife haunts her husband in the form of an apple tree; a professional photographer steps out from behind the camera and into his subject's life; a date with a cinema usherette leads to a walk in the cemetery; and a jealous father finds a remedy when three's a crowd . . .

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