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Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

November 8, 2009

rebeccaI’ve heard so many good things about this book that by the time I started it, I was certain that it couldn’t be nearly as wonderful as it sounded. But I was wrong. This book is everything it is advertised as: suspenseful, beautifully written, and breathtakingly emotional. I had seen the Hitchcock movie before I read the book, but I saw the movie long enough ago that, while I could remember the mood and general story, I couldn’t remember any details of the plot. (Besides which, I had been told that the ending was slightly different in the movie than in the book.) By the time the suspense reached its peak, I was staying up late into the night reading so that I could learn what happened.

We meet the nameless main character as a young girl acting as a traveling companion for an old American gossip. During that time, I felt mostly sorry for her, because her life seemed so entirely out of her control. In a short amount of time, though, she marries Maxim de Winter and is swept off to live in a huge English country house. Once she arrives at the old house, I began seeing some of her character flaws for the first time. How infuriating it was that she was constantly wringing her gloves, dropping her handkerchief, and hiding behind doorways! I wanted to reach into the book, shake her by the shoulders, and try to instill some sort of confidence into her. That is exactly what du Maurier does so amazingly well in this novel. Her scenes are so vivid and her characters are so realistic that you feel like you’re sitting there with them the entire time. The book’s somber tone and dark mood make it clear that something is not quite right–that something terrible has happened and will happen again. And because you feel like you’re sitting right there, you have a deep sense of unease along with the characters.

As we follow our heroine (?) through the novel, I watched as she developed, and was amazed at how she did nearly everything in exactly the opposite way that I would have done it. I was stunned to read her reaction to the divulging of a terrible secret–her world has become so myopic and focused on her husband and his estate that I momentarily thought that she had perhaps gone a bit mad. That is, of course, until I started rooting right along with her for all sorts of things that I wouldn’t ever think of doing. It was then when I realized that Manderley (and all of the beautiful writing about it) had woven a sort of spell around me while I was reading the book. That is truly the mark of a great novel. I wish that I could read this again for the first time! I can’t wait to read other works by du Maurier.

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6 comments

  1. everytime I read a review of this book, I realize I need to reread it! I remember I read it and couldn’t put it down, but that’s all I remember — and she even has my name! So I really should reread it. Maybe, since I can’t remember much, it would be like reading it for the first time!


    • I know that I nearly entirely forgot the plot in between watching the movie and reading the book. Even if you do remember the plot halfway through, though, the writing is so beautiful and atmospheric that I think it would hold your attention! Highly recommend for dark, cold winter nights. :)


  2. It’s more than 30 years since I first read Rebecca and I’ve lost count of the the number of times I’ve re-read it. It’s my ‘comfort’ book. Maybe try Jamaica Inn next. It’s completely different but still very good. Thanks for recommending Cotillion to me.

    Katrina


    • Thanks, I was trying to decide on another Maurier book. Jamaica Inn sounds like a great mystery.


  3. I also recently reread Rebecca after many years — it was one of my favorites as a teenager and I’ve never forgotten how much I loved it. Amanda at the Zen Leaf reviewed it and so I had to watch the miniseries again (BBC) and then of course I had to read the book. I listened to part of a fantastic audiobook narrated by Anna Massey — she played Mrs. Danvers in a BBC version from the 1970s and she was wonderful, marvelously creepy. Du Maurier also wrote some very famous short stories, including The Birds and Don’t Look Now, which is also the title story in a great collection. Great for a quick read.


    • Those short stories from the “Don’t Look Know” collection are definitely on my wish list. I also want to watch the BBC version of Rebecca– I haven’t seen it yet!



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