"There comes a moment in the life of every individual when reality must be faced. When this happens, it is as though a link between emotion and reason is stretched to the limit of endurance, and sometimes snaps." -- from the author's note introducing the collection
Eight stories comprise this work, written at a period in her life when Daphne du Maurier, exhausted beyond endurance, waited for that snap. du Maurier came to speak of this collection as a curative, saying that writing these had been as therapy. In each story it's abundantly clear when breaking point has been reached, and I can see the catharsis implicit in the writer's determination of what will come to the characters after crisis: they don't just lie down and die at the snap, she makes them act, they are not allowed to give up. The stories are practiced, and almost uniformly dark and creepy, building a sense of dread and discomfort. They all read like twilight zone episodes, and some of them echoed other stories for me: "Ganymede" is her frightening take on Mann's "Death in Venice", whereas "the Pool" reminded me a lot of Arthur Machen's "the Ceremony". The "Archduchess" is a du Maurier-twisted Shangri-la. The only story where the stakes are high but not crippling, and the breaking point is lighter fare, is one about an actor who struck me as an Humphrey Bogart/Gary Cooper/Cary Grant amalgam, "the Menace". She isn't really breaking new ground here but even working in well trod territory as she is, these stories are spooky and the short form allows her certain stylistic flairs i see less of in her novels (she seems to have developed distinct stylistic approaches to her short and her longer narratives even if she tends to dwell on similar themes in all her works.) I think the most best and most effective are "the Blue Lenses" (this book has also been collected under this name, and other stories) and the last, and shortest, "the Lordly Ones". That one is really bizarre.