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The Breakthrough by Daphne du Maurier - Review

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

I bought this Penguin Modern Classic book for a pound in a bookshop in Ironbridge a couple of weeks ago. They had around thirty titles in the shop and I would have liked to buy more, but decided to just stick to this du Maurier short story.

I've read lots of her work over the years. I'm actually named after the novel Rebecca which my mum really liked, and it's one of my favourite books too. I love Jamaica Inn, too, I like how menacing and sinister it is. I've got six of her other books, including short stories which include the short story that became the film The Birds (one of my favourite films, and I share my birthday with Tippi Hedren!). But I hadn't ever read this short story, so I thought I'd buy it.

It's a bit like Frankenstein, it's a science fiction story which is somehow unlike other works by du Maurier I've read and yet very similar. There's definitely a menace to it, definitely a discomfitting undercurrent. The narrator, Stephen, is an engineer and at the beginning he's sent to work at an isolated laboratory in rural Suffolk, at the request of his boss, who is friends with the head scientist there, Mac. Stephen arrives and is immediately cautious. Mac has three computers in his lab, and through them he's managed to create call signals for a dog and for a little girl with Down's syndrome. He is looking to isolate the essence of life, I guess that which could also be called a soul.

The only problem with this book is that it wasn't long enough! I loved it, I thought it was really macabre and creepy. I'm going to make my partner read it!


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