When Daphne du Maurier wrote the short story ‘‘Don’t Look Now,’’ sometimes referred to as a novella for its length, she was firmly established as a popular writer. However, as Nina Auerbach notes in British Writers, though du Maurier was an immediate success when she first started publishing in the 1930s, she was also immediately ‘‘dismissed by the cultural establishment as too readable to be literary.’’ Her work was criticized as being mere romantic escapism, but this opinion never seemed to dim du Maurier’s efforts, considering she wrote until her last days.
‘‘Don’t Look Now,’’ published in 1970, is a tale of the supernatural involving a British couple vacationing in Venice to escape the pain of their young daughter’s recent death. An encounter with two sisters at a cafe, and the blind one’s claim that she can ‘‘see’’ the deceased child sitting with her parents, launches a series of events that ends violently. The story was made into a suspense movie a few years after it was published and has remained one of du Maurier’s best-known tales.
‘‘Don’t Look Now,’’ opens with John, a British tourist in a small town outside of Venice, noticing two elderly twin sisters sitting at a nearby table. He and Laura, his wife, create wild scenarios to describe the sisters and their possible business in Torcello. The couple joke like this for some time, giving John some hope that his wife is getting over a recent traumatic event. Laura decides to follow one of the sisters into the bathroom to see if she is a woman or a cross-dresser. Meanwhile, John thinks about the recent death of their five-year-old daughter, Christine. Her death was a huge blow to Laura, and John hopes that their vacation will ease her pain.
A few minutes later, Laura emerges from the bathroom looking shocked. She tells John that the sister in the bathroom explained that her twin is a blind psychic. She had been staring at John and Laura because she had ‘‘seen’’ Christine sitting between the couple, laughing and happy. ‘‘You see, she isn’t dead, she’s still with us,’’ explains Laura happily. John is not so pleased at this turn of events. ‘‘It’s what I’ve been dreading. She’s gone off her head,’’ he thinks. John is doubtful and worried but, because Laura seems happy, he grudgingly accepts the incident.
Later at a cathedral, Laura is engrossed with the architecture and art. John suddenly sees the twins, much to his dismay, although Laura does not, and the blind sister’s eyes are fixed on him. He feels ‘‘an impending sense of doom’’ and is unable to move, thinking, ‘‘This is the end, there is no escape, no future.’’ He becomes angry and grabs Laura for a walk along a canal.
Back in Venice, Later That Evening
John and Laura, relaxed and back in their Venetian hotel room, make love and get ready for dinner at a restaurant. They take a walk before dinner but get lost in the tangled back streets of the city. Suddenly, John sees from the corner of his eye a small child, in a cloak with a hood covering her head, running away from someone. Laura has already moved up the street and does not see the incident, and he does not share it with her.
They find a restaurant, but just as they sit at a table and order drinks, John sees the twin sisters being seated, too. He is suspicious that either the sisters are following them or Laura told them where they would be eating that night. Much to John’s dismay, Laura sees the women and goes over to speak to them for a long while.
When Laura returns to their table, John is drunk and angry. Laura tells him that the blind sister has had another vision that Christine is unhappy and that John is in danger and must leave Venice as soon as possible. This talk enrages John, and they fight. Laura also tells John that the blind sister believes that he is psychic but doesn’t know it yet.
When they return to their hotel, there is a telegram waiting for them, stating that their son, Johnnie,...
(The entire section is 1,208 words.)