Critical Overview

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By the time her short story collection The Apple Tree: A Short Novel and Some Stories (1952), published in America as Kiss Me Again, Stranger (1953) and later as The Birds, and Other Stories (1963) appeared, du Maurier was a well-established commercial success. As Nina Auerbach notes in her article on the author for British Writers, du Maurier did not receive much attention from scholars who deemed her work ‘‘too readable to be literary.’’ The publication of The Apple Tree: A Short Novel and Some Stories in 1952, which contained her masterful short story ‘‘The Birds,’’ however, earned her praise from critics as well as the public. After the publication of Not After Midnight, and Other Stories (1971), republished as Don't Look Now (1971), along with the appearance of Margaret Forster's biography in 1993, du Maurier's literary reputation grew to the point that many scholars now echo Auerbach's assessment that she is ‘‘an author of extraordinary range and frequent brilliance.’’

Sylvia Berkman, in her review of Kiss Me Again, Stranger for the New York Herald Tribune Book Review, singled out ‘‘The Birds’’ in the collection, praising how du Maurier builds up her harrowing account of the birds' attacks ‘‘with intensifying accurate detail.’’ Yet, Berkman insists that the story's references to the Cold War ‘‘dissipate the full impact of a stark and terrifying tale.’’

In his article for The New York Times Book Review, John Barkham notes that du Maurier delights in baffling her readers with ‘‘her mysteries.’’ Barkham calls ‘‘The Birds’’ ‘‘a masterpiece of horror.’’ Richard Kelly, in his overview of du Maurier for the Reference Guide to English Literature, claims that the story, along with Rebecca and Don't Look Now, ‘‘stand out among her works as landmarks in the development of the modern gothic tale.’’

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Essays and Criticism