The Breaking Point

All posts tagged The Breaking Point

Short Stories Challenge – The Lordly Ones by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Published September 5, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Lordly Ones all about?:

The final story in this collection tells the tale of a young, mute boy who appears to finally get the love and family he so desperately craves.

What did I think?:

I’ve absolutely loved exploring this short story collection by Daphne du Maurier and reading her short fiction has just cemented her forever as one of my favourite authors. There have been only a couple of stories in The Breaking Point that I haven’t been too sure about but in general, I have found this to be a fantastic read that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. The Lordly Ones ended things on a complete high and is just as dark and unsettling as the other stories in the collection, even more so perhaps as it involves a child starved of adequate love from his parents and who appears to be at least emotionally abused (occasionally physically) on a daily basis.

The boy in question is mute and although we are not sure of his age, we know that he is old enough where he should have started communicating. His parents seem to resent the fact that Ben is not like other children and punish him at the drop of a hat which involves locking him in a dark cupboard or smacking him. Their reaction is often in response to a terrible sound that comes from the boy’s mouth when he becomes distressed and is one that he is unable to control. Instead of comforting him, the parents take out their frustration on him emotionally and physically which only leads to him feeling more confused and isolated.

Then the family go through a bit of an upheaval and move house into the countryside by some beautiful moors. The process is quite bewildering for Ben because of his communication difficulties and because his parents make little effort to let him know what is going on. He is somewhat comforted when they arrive at their new house by the gorgeous surroundings and a nice woman who meets them at the property who offers him biscuits and confides in him about some strange visitors that often come at night to try and steal food from the house larder.

Ben is intrigued by the moor visitors but cannot bear to think of them as thieves so kind-heartedly, he takes the remaining food from the larder and leaves it on the green outside the house as a gift for the night callers. However, when his parents discover the missing food, he is beaten until he can hardly move by a rather over-enthusiastic father trying to teach his son a lesson. During the night, he manages to catch a glimpse of the visitors in the garden – a strange, wild family group that have clear mother, father and child relationships and have a strong, loving bond. Overwhelmed by the connection between them all he decides to escape with them into the night where he is instantly accepted, fed and taken care of. The visitors are not all they seem however and the reader gets quite a surprise when their identities are announced leading to an abrupt and rather haunting ending.

One of my favourite things about the stories in this collection is how they all involve characters who seem to be at “the breaking point,” and often explores quite dark and uncomfortable themes. This made some of the stories difficult to read at times, especially The Lordly Ones where child abuse/neglect is the prominent theme but it was undeniably hard to put down. I hated the parents in this story so much and felt so sorry for poor Ben so it tugged on my emotions in a number of ways! Yet again, the author has proved her absolute brilliance in story-telling and I’ll be returning to re-read The Breaking Point in the future for sure.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: Tiger Moth by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

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Short Stories Challenge 2016 – April to June

Published April 1, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Welcome to another three months in my Short Stories Challenge! The first few months of this year have whizzed by and I’ve found some great pieces of short fiction to add to my collection. Here’s the stories that will take me right through to the summer:

Week beginning 4th April

Elephants In Captivity (Part One) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Week beginning 11th April

Space by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 18th April

If It Keeps On Raining by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 25th April

The Lordly Ones by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 2nd May

Tiger Moth by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 9th May

The Shadow Tree by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

Week beginning 16th May

The Unremarkable Heart by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 23rd May

Red Letter Day by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 30th May

Getting It Wrong by Ramsey Campbell from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Week beginning 6th June

The Haunter Of The Dark by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 13th June

Hogmanay Homicide by Edward Marston from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Week beginning 20th June

What We Save by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 27th June

A Convalescent Ego by Richard Yates from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Short Stories Challenge 2015 – October to December

Published October 2, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Image from http://www.slideshare.net/ernella32/teaching-the-short-story

It’s nearly the end of the year and here’s what I’ll be reading short story wise to see out 2015!

Week beginning 5th October

Corrugated Dreaming by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Week beginning 12th October

Beachcombing by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 19th October

A Man And Two Women by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives of Women edited by Victoria Hislop

Week beginning 26th October

The New Veterans by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Week beginning 2nd November

The Adventure Of the Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 9th November

Vuotjärvi by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

Week beginning 16th November

Bibhutibhushan Malik’s Final Storyboard by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Week beginning 23rd November

The Jesus Stories by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 30th November

We Were Just Driving Around by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 7th December

The Chamois by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 14th December

Under The Pylon by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 21st December

A Mighty Horde Of Women In Very Big Hats, Advancing by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Week beginning 28th December

The Mean Time by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Short Stories Challenge – The Menace by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Published September 4, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Menace all about?:

The Menace introduces us to Barry Jeans, a hugely popular Hollywood actor who loses some of his life force (quite literally) after years of being someone he is not.

What did I think?:

I’m a huge fan of Daphne du Maurier and am always excited when this collection rolls around again in my Short Stories Challenge as she is yet to disappoint me. This is another fantastic and quirky tale that I didn’t really appreciate until I could read it again in a quiet place with no distractions. Our main character is British-born actor Barry Jeans otherwise known as The Menace. In the movie world, we are told, this kind of name is given to an actor with certain qualities. This usually involves a brooding presence, a good profile, most probably some kind of facial scar and little dialogue apart from requisite one lined commands like “Scram!.” After a little background into how Barry got to his cult status the author describes how he appeals to both women and men:

“In a matter of months his face was more familiar to women all over the world than that of their own husbands. And the husbands did not mind. In a sense, it was a sort of compliment if a girl married a chap at all. It must mean that the chap they married was a super-Barry.”

However, Barry has eyes for one woman only – his wife May who he has been with for thirty years and defers all decisions to. May is also a forceful presence in his career, she is there in dressing rooms and on set, cooks all his meals, has him on a tough body maintenance plan and chooses his entourage – all male, without question! It is not until his current venture with Gigantic Enterprises Ltd however that the story really kicks off and things come to a head. In the movie world, the latest craze is for “feelies.” This involves the actors having to be wired up to a machine which they power using their own life-force. As Barry is having his test the company are shocked to discover that Barry is only transmitting a Force G which is not sufficient technically for the machine to work. The production staff give Barry’s “boys” twenty-four hours to get Barry’s force up otherwise they will pull the plug on the venture.

Barry’s entourage are terrified, especially for their own jobs but decide the best way to increase his force is to get May out of the way for a night and take Barry to watch the notorious dancers at Poncho Beach and for dinner with a host of beautiful women and artists. Barry is completely bored and disinterested by it all then while making a call to his wife, comes across an old and familiar face. She is Pinkie Brown and he remembers her from when he was seventeen years old, the last time in fact that he felt really alive. He ends up spending the whole evening with her whilst his entourage are going mad trying to find him before the deadline set by the production crew. Barry gets to the set on time a completely changed man but is it enough to increase that vital life force?

To be perfectly honest, I really wasn’t sure what to make of this story at first. The author gives us a lot of background information on our character which I thoroughly enjoyed as it gave a glimpse into the life of an intriguing man. Then it started with the life force and the new technology of “feelies” and I was slightly confused! On a second reading however, this story really comes alive. Only then did I appreciate the quirkiness of the style that often characterises a Daphne du Maurier story and began to feel something of a connection to Barry Jeans. Also, I just love the ending when Barry emerges like a butterfly from the cocoon, finally ready to live his life to the fullest and stand up for himself a bit more. The author uses her talent with words to its fullest with a quick wit and depth to describe the change in a man with no visible emotion to one immensely grateful to be alive. I’ll leave the last words to Daphne as an example of her humour and a short passage from the story that really tickled me:

“He walked into any place with his woman, and he just held up one finger, and everyone seemed to know what he meant. Waiters fell over themselves, guests already seated were told there wasn’t a table, and the Menace sat down with his woman watching him, waved the menu aside, and uttered the one word “Clams.”

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: Candia by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Short Stories Challenge 2015 – July to September

Published July 1, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Welcome to another three months of short stories! This little lot should see me through into the autumn.

Week beginning 6th July

Small Degrees by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 13th July

Airshow by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 20th July

The Menace by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 27th July

Candia by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 3rd August

Medicine by Michel Faber from the collection The

Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Week beginning 10th August

Necessary Women by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 17th August

The Mistletoe Bride by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 24th August

Tell Me I’ll See You Again by Dennis Etchison from the collection A Book of Horrors

Week beginning 31st August

The Whisperer in Darkness by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 7th September

The Rat In The Attic by Brian McGilloway from the collection The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 7

Week beginning 14th September

Care by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 21st September

The Cat That Walked By Himself by Rudyard Kipling from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Week beginning 28th September

The Wedding Gig by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Short Stories Challenge – The Archduchess by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Published April 6, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Archduchess all about?:

The Archduchess is the story of a fictional kingdom called Ronda that appears to have everything one could ever want, including the secret of eternal youth but is brought to revolution and broken apart by two men’s envy and greed.

What did I think?:

Oh my Lord, how much do I love Daphne du Maurier? (Answer: A lot!). This fantastic story which is slightly longer than the other tales so far in this collection is beautifully imagined and had me gripped throughout. The author describes a fictional country called Ronda where the inhabitants go about their day in what can only be described as utter bliss, without being influenced by any external influences, holding no ill-feeling or ambition and respecting/loving their ruler the Archduke without question or worries. This is all they’ve ever known after all. So what is the secret to their joie de vivre? The water which flows through their country is quite magical and when tourists who are visiting drink it they appear to be revitalised:

“easily recognisable, on their return, by the very special bronze on the skin, by the dreamy, almost faraway expression in the eyes, and by the curious attitude to life that nothing mattered. “He who has been in Ronda has seen God,” was the well-known phrase, and indeed the shrug of the shoulder, the careless yawn, the half-smile on the faces of those….suggested some sort of other-world intimacy, a knowledge of secret places denied to those who had remained at home.”

For the royal family, especially the Archduke, the waters combined with a secret formula passed down through generations to each heir, appears to give the monarchs the appearance of eternal youth – after all, which royal subject wants to be placed in their grave with wrinkles and grey hairs? Each night, with remarkable precision, the Archduke would appear on the balcony in front of their adoring nation and curious tourists in a crisp, white uniform to the sounds of the national anthem while bats are released around the monarch. Ronda as a country is all about peace and pleasure, the wine from the Rondian grape is particularly potent, the fish from the magical waters are as rich as you’ve ever tasted and the women are amongst the most beautiful in the world.

The arrival of two men to Ronda changes everything, opening the Rondese eyes which leads to the first murmurs of discontent:

“Here lies the tragedy. Western man is so constituted that he cannot abide contentment. It is the unforgivable sin. He must forever strive towards some unseen goal, whether it be material comfort, a greater and purer God, or some weapon that will make him master of the universe. As he becomes more conscious he becomes more restless, more grasping, forever finding fault with the warm dust from which he sprang and to which he must return, forever desirous of improving and so enslaving his fellow-men. It was this poison of discontent that finally infiltrated to Ronda, bred, alas, by contact with the outside world, and nurtured to maturity by the two revolutionary leaders, Markoi and Grandos.”

The two men are both citizens of Ronda, but for their own different reasons seek to ruin their country. Markoi was born lame with a twisted foot (therefore not as perfect as the usual Rondese offspring) and was determined to hit back at his country because of his deformity. Grandos however was described as being “born greedy.” There were rumours that he was not pure Rondese and his conception was the result of his mother coupling with somebody from across the border. He was blessed with exceptional intelligence that led him to feeling superior to all his other country-men.

Both men after becoming friends, visit other countries then return to Ronda with the intention of sowing the seeds of discontent into the Rondese population. Grandos starts his own business after discovering that the backbone of the Rondese fish can also be used as a breast supporter and that the oil of the same creature can be used as a very successful face cream. Markoi finds work as a journalist in the Ronda News and begins changing minds almost immediately at first by poking fun at the old Rondese customs like treading vines, spearing fish and gathering the Rovivula flower. Grandos in turn, posts advertisements for his breast supporters and face creams in the same newspaper, beguiling women who have never had any need for these material items in the past.

Slowly but surely, the first murmurs of discontent start occurring, mainly amongst the Rondese youth who are transfixed by the information they read in the papers about a new way of life previously alien to them. Soon the Rondese begin to understand how they are viewed from outside their little bubble and are unhappy to be looked upon as fools. The knife is twisted yet further when it is suggested that the Archduke keeps the secret of immortality for himself – what, after all does he use it for? And are the rumours really true that he can control the waters of the country? Could he flood the land and wipe them all out?

The Archduchess is the current Archduke’s sister and only living heir and also has the appearance of eternal youth. Legends have been passed down from Rondese to Rondese about her beauty, wit, intelligence and strength and she becomes beloved to all the people. Just before the riots begin and the monarchy is overthrown, rumours suggest that the “evil” Archduke wants her all to himself instead of letting her marry her cousin, whom she is in love with and that she is being held as a prisoner in her own home. As the people take over, the Archduke is eliminated i.e. brutally killed but he passes on the secret formula to his sister who so far, has refused to give up the secret to the rulers of the new republic. She is now in her eighties yet looks as young and beautiful as a girl and saddest of all, still performs the old dances in the square if some money is thrown her way. Markoi keeps this one member of the monarchy alive “not for purposes of adoration, but as a human scarecrow.” In the end, Ronda becomes a country and a people completely changed through the efforts of two (wicked and greedy) men and once changed in such a drastic fashion, it becomes impossible to return to what was. Don’t they say ignorance is bliss?

There is so much more I could say about this story but I fear I’ve already gone on a bit too long already in this review! I loved that the author told it in the guise of a fairytale/fable and appreciated the clever way in which she went about it, revealing quite succinctly how external influences (like media) can affect our ways of thinking. This is especially true today in our modern times when we think about how we are all influenced by what we read, hear etc. consciously or sub-consciously. Again, the writing is pure genius and I was effortlessly transported to a different world of beauty and happiness. I’ve read a few negative reviews of this story and to be honest, it quite surprised me because I felt I understood exactly what Daphne du Maurier was trying to say and for me personally it was just a wonderful, enriching reading experience.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: The Oversoul by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

 

 

 

Short Stories Challenge 2015 – January to March

Published January 9, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Another year over, and a new year of short stories begins! Here’s what I’m going to be reading each week until the end of March.

Week beginning 5th January

Magpies by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 12th January

A Married Man’s Story by Katherine Mansfield from the collection The Story, Love, Loss & The Lives of Women 100 Great Short Stories chosen by Victoria Hislop

Week beginning 19th January

The Barn At The End Of Our Term by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Week beginning 26th January

The Five Orange Pips by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 1st February

She Murdered Mortal He by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

Week beginning 8th February

Demons by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner

Week beginning 15th February

The Ceiling by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 22nd February

Keeping Watch Over The Sheep by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 1st March

The Archduchess by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 8th March

The Oversoul by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 15th March

The Apple by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: Crimson Petal Stories

Week beginning 22nd March

Martin Misunderstood by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 29th March

Cellists by Kazuo Ishiguro from the collection Nocturnes: Five Stories Of Music and Nightfall