Reading skills · structure · Teaching Ideas

Don’t Look Now

Some people have been asking about the Don’t Look Now extract I used for the structure lesson; here it is:

Don’t Look Now by Daphne Du Maurier

John and Laura Baxter are on holiday in Venice, trying to recover from the death of their young daughter. In this extract, they are taking a night-time stroll through the city streets.

They went out laughing into the warm soft night, and the magic was about them everywhere. ‘Let’s walk,’ he said, ‘let’s walk and work up an appetite for our gigantic meal,’ and inevitably they found themselves by the Molo and the lapping gondolas dancing upon the water, the lights everywhere blending with the darkness. There were other couples strolling for the same sake of aimless enjoyment, backwards, forwards, purposeless, and the inevitable sailors in groups, noisy, gesticulating, and dark-eyed girls whispering, clicking on high heels.

‘The trouble is,’ said Laura, ‘walking in Venice becomes compulsive once you start. Just over the next bridge, you say, and then the next one beckons. I’m sure there are no restaurants down here, we’re almost at those public gardens where they hold the Biennale. Let’s turn back. I know there’s a restaurant somewhere near the church of San Zaccaria, there’s a little alley-way leading to it.’

‘Tell you what,’ said John, ‘if we go down here by the Arsenal, and cross that bridge at the end and head left, we’ll come upon San Zaccaria from the other side. We did it the other morning.’

‘Yes, but it was daylight then. We may lose our way, it’s not very well lit.’

‘Don’t fuss. I have an instinct for these things.’

They turned down the Fondamenta dell’Arsenale and crossed the little bridge short of the Arsenal itself, and so on past the church of San Martino. There were two canals ahead, one bearing right, the other left, with narrow streets beside them. John hesitated. Which one was it they had walked beside the day before?

‘You see,’ protested Laura, ‘we shall be lost, just as I said.’ ‘Nonsense,’ replied John firmly. ‘It’s the left-hand one, I remember the little bridge.’

The canal was narrow, the houses on either side seemed to close in upon it, and in the daytime, with the sun’s reflection on the water and the windows of the houses open, bedding upon the balconies, a canary singing in a cage, there had been an impression of warmth, of secluded shelter. Now, almost in darkness, the windows of the houses shuttered, the water dank, the scene appeared altogether different, neglected, poor, and the long narrow boats moored to the slippery steps of cellar entrances looked like coffins.

‘I swear I don’t remember this bridge,’ said Laura, pausing, and holding on to the rail, ‘and I don’t like the look of that alleyway beyond.’

‘There’s a lamp halfway up,’ John told her. ‘I know exactly where we are, not far from the Greek quarter.’

They crossed the bridge, and were about to plunge into the alley-way when they heard the cry. It came, surely, from one of the houses on the opposite side, but which one it was impossible to say. With the shutters closed each one of them seemed dead. They turned, and stared in the direction from which the sound had come.

Molo, San Zaccaria, Fondamenta dell’Arsenale, San Martino – all areas of Venice

Biennale – a festival

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