My best friend recommended to me Daphne du Maurier’s story “The Apple Tree.” I am ashamed to admit that I had never heard of this author, although I was familiar with her work, unbeknownst to me. Her works Rebecca and “The Birds” were the stories behind Alfred Hitchcock’s movies of the same names, and which are both on my reading list now.
When I began reading “The Apple Tree,” I was expecting it to be something between Johnny Appleseed and Sleepy Hollow — only based on the title. I was very wrong. Instead, it was an engaging tale of a marriage turned sour. Told from the perspective of an old man who only sees what is wrong with his wife, du Maurier pulls you into a sad story of how life can be made harder when there is no love left between a couple.
The image of the apple tree was used very well in the story to represent the bitterness between the protagonist and his wife, and it reminded me of an earlier ghost story from the 19th century by Elia Peattie called “The Crime of Micah Rood.” Similarly, this story was told from the perspective of an old man, but that and the apple tree image are where the similarities end. This story is about poverty, jealousy and greed … and regret.
When I read “The Crime of Micah Rood,” I was struck by the central image of the apple tree. In both this story and “The Apple Tree,” the tree and its fruit act in supernatural ways that reflect the protagonists’ struggles. Peattie’s story is much shorter, but just as satisfying as du Maurier’s. They are good stories to read as companion pieces.
du Maurier, Daphne. “The Apple Tree,” The Birds and Other Stories, Virago, 2004, originally published as The Apple Tree: A Short Novel and Several Long Stories, Gollancz, 1952.
Peattie, Elia. “The Crime of Micah Rood,” Great American Ghost Stories, ed. Bill Bowers, Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.