‘Don’t Look Now’ by Daphne du Maurier

I still remember the effect that last line of this story had on me when I first read it however many years ago. I came to it, like so many, from the movie adaptation, which is something that has had a changing impression on me as I’ve gotten older (as a teen it was the last reels of the movie, and the terrible images as Donald Sutherland finally catches up with his obsession, but as I got older and started a family, it’s the beginning of the film, of course, that sticks). As a study of grief and loneliness, du Maurier is at her best, and Nick Roeg tapped into that for his film. But du Maurier also had this unshakeable darkness – the uncanny, academics like to call it now – this sinisterness bubbling away that is something other than the trauma of the worst life can throw at you. Nick and Laura are struggling in the slow levelling out of grief-into-life after the drowning of their child. Laura becomes entranced by a pair of psychic old lady sisters, and Nick becomes obsessed with a serial killer on the loose in Venice, where they have gone to try and realign. Du Maurier has a marvellous light touch considering all the plates she has spinning in the fifty-odd pages, but it all sets us up for that last sentence, the ellipsis trailing into the space of a fear I didn’t even know I had until she mentioned it…

First published in Not After Midnight, Gollancz/Don’t Look Now, Doubleday, 1971, currently available as a Penguin Modern Classic and NYRB Classic

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