What’s The Apple Tree all about?:
This is the story of a neglected wife who haunts her husband in the form of an apple tree.
What did I think?:
I’m always excited when my Daphne du Maurier short story collection rolls around but I was especially looking forward to it after one of my favourite bloggers, Fiction Fan commented on my Short Stories Challenge 2018 Part One post saying how much she loved The Apple Tree and it was, in her eyes, even better than The Birds. Now I adored The Birds when I read it and gave it five stars so what would I think of The Apple Tree? I have to be honest, when I started reading it I thought it was sheer brilliance of course but probably worth about four stars? However, as I carried on reading and the atmosphere continued to grow I immediately cemented Daphne du Maurier firmly in my mind as a writer back to her usual excellent standards (after my bitter disappointment with Monte Verità ). I think you might be able to guess which star rating I have awarded it in the end?
The Apple Tree is about Buzz and Midge, husband and wife, married for about twenty-five years and established in a rather unhappy and monotonous relationship, particularly from the point of view of Buzz. Not long after our story begins, Midge contracts pneumonia and sadly passes away but you’ve never seen a man so relieved or happy to be rid of his wife as Buzz was! He tells the reader how irritated she made him feel, sometimes merely with her presence which tended to be rather melancholy, anxious and fed up. He recalls how she lived her life as a complete martyr, constantly working around the house, even if he thought it unnecessary and even though she never outwardly reproached him for not helping, there would be a wayward glance, a sigh or a yawn which only served to make him feel more guilty and annoyed.
Now Midge is gone, he is free to live his life exactly how he chooses, although of course he still has a maid to clean, cook his dinner etc so he can smoke, read and drink in his study in the peaceful way that pleases him so much. All things considered, he’s the happiest he’s ever been until one day he notices two apple trees on his land. One is youthful, vibrant and produces a high quality of fruit and the other is bent, rather decrepit, ominous looking and reminds him quite strangely of his wife. Once he notices this, he begins to form quite a vendetta against this particular apple tree and, it seems, the tree also forms a similar dispute with him. He cannot burn any of the wood as not only will it not catch light but the smell when it does burn makes him sick. This is also the case with the small, wizened apples that it produces which taste foul and rotten to him. Is it possible that the spirit of his wife has come back to haunt him in this way as some form of payback? Or is it psychological guilt for the treatment of Midge that is torturing Buzz’s soul?
I cannot recommend this short story enough. It was fairly long, probably about similar size to Monte Verità but unlike that story, I never felt like reading this was a chore. In fact, I was quite disappointed when it ended! Oh my goodness though, WHAT an ending. Daphne du Maurier is a true master of her craft and I think of her almost like a wizard in the way she concocts an atmosphere that builds and builds and gives the reader such a sense of unease and dread, you are almost afraid to turn over the page, worried about what you might find. I also loved that Buzz was such a deplorable character and as the narrative went on, you felt more and more dislike towards him and, I hate to say, I was quite keen for him to get some form of comeuppance. Once again, when writing like this, I think there’s not many people who could beat Daphne du Maurier for execution of a fascinating plot and it’s stories like these that make me so excited that I still have a wealth of books to read from her.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: The Balloon Hoax by Edgar Allan Poe from the collection The Best Short Stories Of Edgar Allan Poe.