Saturday, 10 September 2011

'Rebecca' by Daphne du Maurier (1938)

Synopsis: the unnamed heroine is working as a lady's companion to a snobbish American woman in Monte Carlo. She then meets Maxim de Winter, a handsome and wealthy widower. The heroine is swept off her feet by him and, after a very brief two week courtship, Maxim proposes marriage. The heroine accepts. After their wedding and Italian honeymoon, Maxim then takes her back to his ancestral family mansion in the West Country which is called Manderley. The unnamed heroine lacks self-confidence and feels overwhelmed by her new life as the lady of the estate. It doesn't help that Maxim has become brooding and withdrawn and that the housekeeper Mrs Danvers keeps comparing her to Rebecca, Maxim's late wife. Rebecca was a charming, beautiful and talented woman and was apparently loved by all. The narrator is always aware of Rebecca's presence in the house and her inability to live up to her predecessor.

Rebecca is Daphne du Maurier's magnum opus and a masterpiece of gothic literature. It's an amazing book! It's just so beautifully-written and it has such an eerie and haunting gothic atmosphere. It really is a work of genius. I must admit though that I do find its first couple of chapters to be a bit boring and draggy but the book gets sooo much better after that! I love this book so much and I always use it as an example of why you should never give up on a book just because you don't like it straight away. 

Rebecca is dark and suspenseful and it's full of mystery and drama. The book is sometimes classed as a romance but I really don't think it should be. Oh, sure the book has got romance in it but Rebecca is really part brooding, psychological thriller and part gothic-mystery novel. That might make the book sound depressing but it's not. The book is dark but deliciously so.

Another great thing about the book that I haven't already mentioned would be du Maurier's characters. All of the characters are interesting and multi-dimensional but it's the anonymous heroine that I genuinely loved and felt the most compassion for. She's an incredibly easy character to empathise with despite the fact that you never learn her real name. Her anonymity is actually quite misleading because you do know exactly what she's thinking and why she feels the way she does. You can really feel her loneliness and her fear and her longing. Part of the reason that makes her so sympathetic is that we've all been her at some stage in our lives. The heroine is a shy, insecure, naive, clumsy and very innocent young girl. I think we've all been like that at some point in our lives and I felt really sorry for her. Whenever I read this book I just want to give her a mug of hot chocolate and a blanket! I love her character so much and I think she's very brave even in her cowardice. The character of Rebecca herself is also especially interesting because - despite the fact that she's actually dead - her presence and figurative ghost is always there. The book really does show how much power a dead person can have over the lives of the people left behind. Rebecca is a fantastic book and I'd recommend it to just about anyone. The Hitchcock film is brilliant as well.

Rating: 5/5

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