Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Also reviewed by Kari.

Summary: One of the most famous and well-loved gothic novels of the 20th century, Rebecca is a novel of mystery and passion, a dark psychological tale of secrets and betrayal, dead loves and an estate called Manderley that is as much a presence as the humans who inhabit it: "when the leaves rustle, they sound very much like the stealthy movement of a woman in evening dress, and when they shiver suddenly and fall, and scatter away along the ground, they might be the pitter, patter of a woman's hurrying footsteps, and the mark in the gravel the imprint of a high-heeled satin shoe." Manderley is filled with memories of the elegant and flamboyant Rebecca, the first Mrs. DeWinter; with the obsessive love of her housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, who observes the young, timid second Mrs. DeWinter with sullen hostility; and with the oppressive silences of a secretive husband, Maxim. Rebecca may be physically dead, but she is a force to contend with, and the housekeeper's evil matches that of her former mistress as a purveyor of the emotional horror thrust on the innocent Mrs. DeWinter. The tension builds as the new Mrs. DeWinter slowly grows and asserts herself, surviving the wicked deceptions of Mrs. Danvers and the silent deceits of her husband, to emerge triumphant in the midst of a surprise ending that leaves the reader with a sense of haunting justice.

My Review: I did not realize this was a classic novel published in 1938 when I first picked up the book (I know, where have I been!). Therefore I was a little annoyed at the writing style. It was making me crazy that there was no letter "z" in the book ( realise instead of realize and apologise instead of apologize). It is also very detailed, almost to the point of being painful in the beginning. I find this true with many books written in this era.

I can now understand why this book would be considered a classic. The writing style is one that allows the reader to be immersed in the story. I thoroughly enjoyed how the author told the story in the first person. I also liked that the narrator character is never given a first name, leaving the reader to wonder.

Included within this novel is a wonderful combination of characters. First there is the narrator who begins as a shy, innocent girl and develops through the story into a women with confidence to run this elaborate household. You have the mean, nasty ,vengeful head housekeeper. Every good story needs a villain. There is also the handsome widow and owner of Manderley, whom weds the narrator early in the novel. As well as a good mix of quirky towns people.

The plot is a little on the dark side and centers around secrets. I found myself immersed in the book, as long as I skimmed over some of the elaborate details. Though at times the plot was rather predictable, I must admit that the ending turned out to be an unexpected twist. I found "Rebecca" be thoroughly enjoyable.

My Rating: 4 Stars, I feel that this is one of those books I would enjoy more the second time through.

If I could sum this book up in one sentence it would be: A classic that one should read at least once.


MindySue said...

I've always wondered about this one. I've heard people talk about it,, but never tried it myself. Sounds like I should...

Sweet Em said...

My book club read this years ago (before my time) and it remains one of the favorites of those who read it.

Lori Johnston said...

This is one of my favorite books - - so very well written and exactly what a gothic romance should be.

And I do think it improves upon each successiv reading.

N.A.D.I.A said...

Ha! that's funny how you mention the 'no z's' the english and their nations (I guess) use s's in place of z's and being from NZ and Australia it annoys me to no end that z's always are replaced when typing when it auto-corrects hehe. It's good to know that the other way around annoys our American friends too :)


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