Early work by the author of Rebecca and other bestsellers, some written while du Maurier (1907-1989) was still in her teens, brings back the era when short stories were popular entertainment.

There are no impressionistic mood poems or anything else in the oblique, meticulously crafted style favored by creative-writing workshops in this collection. From the opening story of adultery and murder on a remote island (“East Wind”) to the closing narrative of a woman who sucks the life from everyone she knows, all the while asking “What is it that I do?” (“The Limpet”), du Maurier favors strong plots, overt irony and heavy foreshadowing. When the protagonist of “Nothing Hurts for Long,” waiting eagerly for her husband to return from three months in Berlin, listens to the confidences of a friend whose spouse wants a divorce and learns that the couple has been on the rocks “ever since he came back from America," readers can be quite sure the post-Berlin reunion will not be blissful. And only the narrator of “The Doll” can’t guess before his tale’s final pages the perverted nature of his beloved’s relationship with a life-sized mannequin she calls Julio. They may not be subtle, but all 13 stories are effective and gripping. “And Now to God the Father” is a scathing portrait of a smug, self-satisfied minister who worships nothing but social success. “Piccadilly” and “Mazie” paint a grim picture of a prostitute’s life. Two persuasive chronicles of love affairs going sour strike contrasting notes: one couple breaks up over the course of a grimly funny “Week-End,” while “And His Letters Grew Colder” takes six painful months to trace the downward spiral from a romance’s ardent beginning to the man’s cold-as-ice departure. Du Maurier’s prose style is serviceable, her understanding of human nature basic, but her storytelling gifts are formidable, and a good story is what was demanded by the mass-circulation magazines that published her. On that level, she never disappoints.

Old-fashioned fun.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-208034-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.


One of America’s great novelists (Lost Memory of Skin, 2011, etc.) also writes excellent stories, as his sixth collection reminds readers.

Don’t expect atmospheric mood poems or avant-garde stylistic games in these dozen tales. Banks is a traditionalist, interested in narrative and character development; his simple, flexible prose doesn’t call attention to itself as it serves those aims. The intricate, not necessarily permanent bonds of family are a central concern. The bleak, stoic “Former Marine” depicts an aging father driven to extremes because he’s too proud to admit to his adult sons that he can no longer take care of himself. In the heartbreaking title story, the death of a beloved dog signals the final rupture in a family already rent by divorce. Fraught marriages in all their variety are unsparingly scrutinized in “Christmas Party,” Big Dog” and “The Outer Banks." But as the collection moves along, interactions with strangers begin to occupy center stage. The protagonist of “The Invisible Parrot” transcends the anxieties of his hard-pressed life through an impromptu act of generosity to a junkie. A man waiting in an airport bar is the uneasy recipient of confidences about “Searching for Veronica” from a woman whose truthfulness and motives he begins to suspect, until he flees since “the only safe response is to quarantine yourself.” Lurking menace that erupts into violence features in many Banks novels, and here, it provides jarring climaxes to two otherwise solid stories, “Blue” and “The Green Door.” Yet Banks quietly conveys compassion for even the darkest of his characters. Many of them (like their author) are older, at a point in life where options narrow and the future is uncomfortably close at hand—which is why widowed Isabel’s fearless shucking of her confining past is so exhilarating in “SnowBirds,” albeit counterbalanced by her friend Jane’s bleak acceptance of her own limited prospects.

Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-185765-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet