BBC Radios 3 and 4, 3-5 May 2011
This selection of recently discovered stories originally published in
newspapers and other periodicials and reissued under the umbrella title The Doll date from the late 1920s, when du
Maurier was beginning her career as a writer, before she made her name with novels such as Rebecca.
They revealed an author perpetually concerned with the seamier side of life lurking
beneath apparently polite societies. The first tale, "East Wind," read by Anna Madeley, told of a drunken revel taking place
by the sea that ended with a young girl being beheaded by her lover, while his friends indulged themselves some way away.
There was a distinct sado-masochistic tinge to this tale: the beheading represented the fuilfilment of the lover's wishes,
but the girl half-acquiesced to her own death. The second story "The Doll," read by Ed Stoppard, recounted the love of
a young man for a violinist, who had developed an unnatural sexual attraction to a doll. Once again the story told of illicit
passions lurking beneath civilized surfaces: the girl had apparently been traught to kiss by the doll, which gave her a perverted
view of life (at least in the young man's opinion). "The Happy Valley," read by Hattie Morahan, told of a young girl's dreams
of an eerie wilderness and a grand old house, reminiscent of Rebecca, but this time involving a strange foreigner
whom she later married. In the final story, "Tame Cat," read by Morven Christie, a young girl returns from a Paris
finishing-school transformed into a woman. Her mother's long-time lover 'Uncle' John (the tame cat of the title) develops
an attraction for her, causing the mother to seethe with jealousy. The action culminates in a New Year's Eve party
where the girl becomes acutely conscious that everyone is watching her apparently making eyes at John, while John himself
whispers to her about the ways their relationship can be continued. Du Maurier suggests how young women in so-called
genteel societies are treated as sex-objects by older and younger men alike; meanwhile older women are put on the shelf like
These four disturbing stories were produced by Lucy Collingwood.