Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

(No Series)
Drama, Classic, Gothic

Working as a lady's companion, the heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Her future looks bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Max de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. She accepts, but whisked from glamourous Monte Carlo to the ominous and brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding housekeeper, Mrs Danvers...

Not since Jane Eyre has a heroine faced such difficulty with the Other Woman. An international bestseller that has never gone out of print, Rebecca is the haunting story of a young girl consumed by love and the struggle to find her identity.

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again" 

....A strong opening line that many have heard, even without reading the book.

Rebecca is one of those "classic" novels that no one I know in person has heard of, yet is apparently famous. After reading it, I see there's a good reason it should be so. Sometimes the aged style wilts the book slightly, although it's marvelously gothic. Wicked suspense permeates the second half, with ample emotional wrenching being present in the beginning. The first chapter is the toughest as it primarily deals with just description for many pages, but after this it goes smoother.

Overall the writing is stunning. DeMaurier has a special knack of poetically weaving together dreamy-like sequences. It's easy to relate to the cloud-climbing protagonist simply because your own head finds its easier to seek this mindset after enough flowing of the author's words. It's a unique style that stands out and takes the breath away some. When action is fierce I at times wish some of the rambling fantasizing would cease, but for the most part it's absent when it should be. I'm curious on reading more with this author, she really was quite talented.

As for the plot, it's purely gothic. The protagonist is not a typical headstrong individual, but rather a more submissive, inexperienced young woman, unsure of her confidences. Rather than having a stunning beauty, she is plain and unadorned, not caring for hair fashions and clothing. It's alluded to the fact of how plain she is, and how she minds this, but it is not a stumbling block for long. The ending of the novel is a cliffhanger of sorts, even if we can surmise what has happened from the opening chapters. It is a hectic, frantic rush of an ending in the last paragraphs, leaving off with an ominous and unsettled feeling, which pretty much sums up this entire book.

I dug Maxim, at times he was aloof and cold but I found him intriguing. The infamous Mrs. Danvers was mad and dominating without the author having to put too much obviousness into play. Really, the maids presence does not take up too much page time, but still manages to be present somehow in the mind of the protagonist and readers, nice. Supporting characters are sympathetic and enjoyable props to the heroine's trials.

Anxious to read the sequel and hope it's just as good. This is a classic that you shouldn't pass up, especially if you are into the gothic trend.

Interesting Notes:

  • Some have noted parallels with the novel Jane Eyre.
  • DuMaurier has stated that few saw the real purpose of the book, the exploration of a relationship between a man who was powerful and a woman who was not.
  • One edition of the book was used during WWII Germany as a code source.
  • Mrs. Danvers became a famous literary villain - to be used in many references, including Stephen King, Danielle Steele's Vanished, The Sopranos, and various music including The Pet Shop Boys.
  • The gothic show Dark Shadows may have been influenced by the novel Rebecca.
  • Rebecca has been adapted for theater, musicals, and television.

   Book Quotes:

“If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.” 

 “Happiness is not a possession to be prized, it is a quality of thought, a state of mind.” 

“I suppose sooner or later in the life of everyone comes a moment of trial. We all of us have our particular devil who rides us and torments us, and we must give battle in the end.” 

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