Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Published by Little, Brown, and Company on December 17, 2013 (originally 1938)
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg: 4.22 (as of 2019-10-05)
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…
The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady’s maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives–presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.
First published in 1938, this classic gothic novel is such a compelling read that it won the Anthony Award for Best Novel of the Century.
I’ve been intending to read Rebecca for quite some time now and after some insistence by, well, pretty much everyone around me, I finally did it! I found it to be quite intriguing and thought it would make for a really interesting study had I read it in school. And I almost wish I had, since there was so much I’m sure I didn’t pick up on. At its core, it’s the story of a woman who falls in love with a widower, only to find herself in the shadow of the late Rebecca.
No, I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool.
It’s clear from the start that our narrator can’t hold a candle to Rebecca herself — she speaks explicitly of it, but also implies it by leaving herself nameless. She obsesses over every difference between them, both real and perceived, down to the fact that the narrator must call Mr. de Winter “Maxim” while Rebecca called him “Max.” As she settles into her new life as Mrs. de Winter, she must adjust to others’ expectations of her as well. Instead of making her time her own, she adheres to the schedules and habits previously exhibited by Rebecca. Yet she still can tell that she is always being held to a standard she cannot meet.
Rebecca, always Rebecca. I should never be rid of Rebecca.
The dichotomy between the two women is the main focus of the book. Where Rebecca was boisterous and well-loved, the young bride is cautious and shy. Where Rebecca was tall, dark, and beautiful, our narrator is small, plain, and compliant. It’s easy to hate the main character as much as she hates herself; as a reader, I wanted her to buck up and make an effort instead of tiptoeing around everything. It’s difficult not to agree with her that Rebecca was better in every way.
I knew now the reason for my sense of foreboding. It was not the stranded ship that was sinister, nor the crying gulls, nor the thin black funnel pointing to the shore. It was the stillness of the black water, and the unknown things that lay beneath.
I can’t get much deeper into the plot without spoiling the mystery, but there is truly mystery abound here. There are slow bits, but once things creep up on you, you’ll find yourself flying through the pages to get to the end. And the end itself is quite shocking. Honestly, my only complaints really are those slower pieces (honestly, just cutting a bit out would have cured this) as well as the lack of spine in the main character. She’s quite boring at times, but it also serves a purpose for her to be the way she is.
It doesn’t make for sanity, does it, living with the devil.
Overall, I’m quite glad I ended up reading this. It was an interesting book and great for those who love gothic reads.