What’s The Pool all about?:
Staying at their grandparents during the holidays are two children, Deborah and Roger, who love to play in the garden of their relatives house. Deborah however is attracted by a pool in the nearby woods which appears to have mystical properties.
What did I think?:
I’m really enjoying this collection of short stories by Daphne du Maurier so far but I have to admit I was slightly disappointed by The Pool. Don’t get me wrong, the writing is still fantastic and the author certainly knows how to weave a tale, but after The Blue Lenses and Ganymede this was somewhat of a let down. It involves two children who are staying at their grandparents house, a ritual they seem to repeat faithfully every summer. They adore the garden and have spent many happy hours playing there but there seems to be a different reason for Deborah to get excited over. While trying to occupy her younger brother i.e. get him out of the way, she enters the woods to find a pool which is incredibly special to her. She goes through certain rituals by the pool, like touching her forehead to the ground three times and offering it a “sacrifice,” of her favourite lucky school pencil. If the waters ripple at a certain point and place, it is a sign that the pool has accepted her offering. One night, as she prepares to “give herself” to the pool she sees a woman at a turnstile and phantoms in the distance. The ritual becomes intensely frightening and the lure of the pool too much for Deborah and she rushes back to the house, shaken but completely intrigued by what may be on the other side.
It is at this point that we learn that Deborah lost her mother when Roger was born (possibly in childbirth?) and the way she treats her poor brother sometimes you could almost believe that she resents him for being alive when her mother is not. Deborah is also fond of silence and disappearing into her own imaginings so perhaps a playful boy that is fond of chatter isn’t really her cup of tea. Deborah also questions the meaning of life, Jesus, Buddha etc a lot and doesn’t really have an outlet to talk about the thoughts accumulating in her head. She is certain that she will find some of the answers she is looking for from the woman at the turnstile so she sets off determinedly the following evening to complete the ritual. I won’t spoil the ending, but the answers that Deborah so desperately craves are perhaps not the ones she has been looking for. Deborah is growing up and becoming a woman, and with that inevitably comes the loss of childhood and possibly even the loss of imagination.
As I mentioned previously, this story is not my favourite in the collection so far and was a bit longer than what I expected, which isn’t a bad thing. The writing is stunning and any fans of Daphne du Maurier will enjoy it as well as those new to her work. I was a bit unprepared for the ending and when it came I was fairly content as I think I know what the author was trying to achieve. I didn’t really warm to Deborah as a character, but did feel sorry for her on a couple of occasions, wondering if resentment had built up inside her from the loss of her mother. She was a girl looking for something amazing but ended up learning things she didn’t need to know. Hey, that’s life.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: Partial Eclipse by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening