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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Expect a mystery novel, but not answers
I read Sally Beauman's Rebecca's Tale after it was reissued in trade paperback under the Harper-Collins "History" imprint. This line of books has sought to capitalize on the recent renaissance of "revisionist" fiction and sequels to popular and classic works alike, from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (Janet Aylmer's "Darcy's Story") to Bronte's Jane Eyre (Emma...
Published on March 18, 2007 by N.

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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Let her rest in peace
Several attempts to revive the mystery around "Rebecca" and free-ride on her posthumous fame have failed, see "Mrs. de Winter" by Susan Hill or "The Other Rebecca" by the otherwise eclectic author/translator Maureen Freely. I, too, accounted for the numerous non-buyers of these works, mainly to spare myself the disappointment of an artificial lighting of an intentionally...
Published on September 5, 2007 by Dragana Djordjevic-Laky


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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Expect a mystery novel, but not answers, March 18, 2007
This review is from: Rebecca's Tale (Paperback)
I read Sally Beauman's Rebecca's Tale after it was reissued in trade paperback under the Harper-Collins "History" imprint. This line of books has sought to capitalize on the recent renaissance of "revisionist" fiction and sequels to popular and classic works alike, from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (Janet Aylmer's "Darcy's Story") to Bronte's Jane Eyre (Emma Tennant's "Thornfield Hall"). I understand publishers' interest in such works: they revisit the characters and plotlines of well-loved books that have proven themselves worldwide bestsellers; from a business perspective, a re-working of any Austen, Bronte, or Du Maurier novel is, to borrow the phraseology of an 80's teen flick, a "sure thing." Both publishers and potential readers of this type of novel should be aware that there is a good chance many readers will find literary reworkings of classic novels at best unsatisfactory and, at worst, sacrilegious. It's analogous to screen adaptations of classic and/or bestselling novels--potential viewership is high, but so is the chance that those viewers will object strenuously to perceived inaccuracies or misrepresentations of the original author's work.

One might think that Sally Beauman has a better chance for success, considering that the main character of her novel is one who was developed in Du Maurier's original work only through hearsay and piecemeal deductions strung together by a third-party narrator. Yet readers have conjured up their own vision of what Rebecca de Winter would have been like had Du Maurier introduced her to us in the proverbial flesh, and Beauman's characterization may or may not be what they had in mind. Interestingly, Bauman does NOT introduce us to Rebecca, either--in fact, RT makes use of the same oblique characterization techniques as Du Maurier's novel, offering insight into Rebecca via the "off-scene" media of journal entries and third party personal testimonies.

RT is a piece of detective fiction. Since I am not a frequent reader of mysteries, I can't say whether the novel fulfills all the expectations of that genre, however, RT certainly pulls at the reader with the intensity of a "who-done-it," and at many points comes close to succeeding. The writer deluges us with hundreds, indeed potentially thousands of details--of family lineages and ancestry, of affairs hinted at or revealed outright, of paternity disputes, childhood traumas, "mysterious" would-be suicides, and dozens of personal testimonies, each potentially unreliable or tainted by natural human bias. Much of this information is compelling enough to draw the reader along, producing a "page-turner" of sorts; I don't use this in the conventional sense of a thrilling or wildly entertaining novel but, rather, in a more literal fashion. The reader has invested a bit of time and effort in wading through all these details, so it's only natural that we should feel compelled to get to the "good part," the natural denouement that imparts a feeling of tied-up ends and narrative coherency. And it is a relief when we learn anything concrete at all--for example, Terence Gray's origins and motivations.

Trouble is, as some have already noted, the ending is something of an anti-climax, and it is not at all clear that the aforementioned legions of details have resolved themselves enough for the book to end.

(**SEMI-SPOILER*) It's difficult for me to pin down why the ending feels so tacked-on; on the Rebecca mystery front, it may have something to do with incomplete journal entries and unconvincing and faintly ludicrous interviews with a character introduced (or at least brought forward) at the last minute. A character who has (understandably) been obsessed with Rebecca's family ancestry abruptly gives up the hunt and shrugs his shoulders over the whole thing. On the Julyan family front (relating to those characters Beauman has made up), professions of love seems to come "out of left field" and appear thrown in just to elicit one narrator's life epiphanies.

(*Semi-SPOILER over now*)

In terms of characterization, Beauman's Rebecca is sufficiently arresting; I think the reader gets an idea of why Du Maurier's other characters would have had such strong reactions to her. Rebecca's journal entries are written in a style completely different from the detective-procedural, straightforward, nit-picky details of the other three narrators' sections. Rebecca's journals include the most self-consciously "literary" language, with the most artful arrangements of phrases, and the most powerful. The only thing I dodn't buy was that a woman who had had no formal education could write so eloquently, although the influence of Shakespeare cannot be underestimated, I suppose.

I think you will learn nothing about Maxim de Winter that will contribute to your understanding of either Du Maurier's character or Beauman's version. Beauman does, however, subvert expectations of the second Mrs. de Winter in way that is sure to displease literal-minded readers who viewed the original novel's character as a reliable and an emotionally transparent (thus, sympathetic) narrator.

The homosexuality plotlines should surprise no one who has read any nonfiction work of or about Du Maurier, who was herself actively bisexual. No, Beauman has done well to weave the subject into her characters' lives, however, she does so to an unnecessary degree; I believe having four homosexual and bisexual characters overemphasizes the Du Maurier autobiographical connection, and detracts from the one character whose bisexuality actually contributes to our understanding of the de Winter mystery-tragedy.

Beauman has an easy, able style that is largely unobtrusive during Colonel Julyan's, Terence Gray's, and Ellie Julyan's narrative sections. The bulk of evidence to be got through is too large--some might say unwieldy--to allow for any authorial flourishes, most of which Beauman saves for Rebecca's section. Beauman or her editor is a bit too enamored of parentheses as a stylistic quirk. And, rather exasperatingly, Beauman's narrators preface almost every event of import with statements such as "of course, I wasn't to know that yet," or "I would later find out how significant this was, but at first I had no idea; let's go back to when I had no idea."

In all, RT is an engrossing mystery, and will certainly keep you awake nights (or night) trying to string together the trails of evidence presented. But I think you may find yourself, as I have, nursing an uneasy conviction that we have still not gotten the whole story. Perhaps this is what Beauman wishes--for the ambivalence surrounding Rebecca's life and death to continue, even after all the evidence has been weighed and all the testifiers have had their say.

Note: The Harper-Collins trade edition includes a critical essay by author Sally Beauman.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Let her rest in peace, September 5, 2007
This review is from: Rebecca's Tale (Paperback)
Several attempts to revive the mystery around "Rebecca" and free-ride on her posthumous fame have failed, see "Mrs. de Winter" by Susan Hill or "The Other Rebecca" by the otherwise eclectic author/translator Maureen Freely. I, too, accounted for the numerous non-buyers of these works, mainly to spare myself the disappointment of an artificial lighting of an intentionally dim novel, one of my youth's favorites. But Beauman's résumé and her selection by the Du Maurier estate sounded promising. Her book was not to be a mere infusion or even a sequel to the old Rebecca, but a differentiated look at her life story. She made good on that promise, though to a bigger extent than I bargained for.

The book is divided into four parts, each of which represents memories of Rebecca and dealings with her death 20 years earlier by differently affected individuals, taking the reader on a scavenger hunt that is only moderately exciting. As a surprise, Rebecca gets the chance to voice herself in the third part, based on a previously found journal written in the form of a letter to a figure which I won't reveal for spoiler reasons. There she dishes about her adolescence and her irrepressible ascent to A-list socialite. Silly as it all is, this chapter occupies the first place on the quality scale of Beauman's writing chops, as demonstrated in this book. Over-the-top emotions aside, the language is fresh without being too flowery and offers a rare, relatively engrossing glimpse into the state of mind and heart of the legendary beauty. That's right, she had feelings, too, but those got hurt early on, so that she spent the rest of her brief life brewing a complicated mix of revenge and true love, independence and married wealth (Scarlett O'Hara sends her best).

The other three chapters describe the obsessive research, or rather long obituaries, by two minor and one non-existent character from the original book. This was as boring as it sounds, since Beauman, instead of at least crafting a good (as in less verbose) crime story out of it, spins what little those folks had to say into endless loops and reflections, which presumably should have familiarized the reader with the English countryside nobility, but just felt like work. It was cumbersome to filter out the few clues relevant to the story because, like some more needlessly added characters, they could not leave absolutely anything unsaid. What was left to the reader's imagination in the original had created a phantom figure; dismantling it now, and in such a predictable fashion, only created a cardboard. Rebecca was not only unbelievably beautiful and desired by everyone between six and 106, now we learn what she looked like. With that admitted curiosity quenched, one could have let her be, but oh no, she was also naturally fluent in French, wore Chanel, was a connoisseur of wine and fine cuisine, while of course slim as a deer, and remains as enigmatic as a tabloid fixture. And I'm not even getting into the degrees of kinship and sexual orientations Beauman imposes; let's just say that they would give both a genealogist and a TV soap producer migraines.

In sharp contrast to the gabbiness of minor characters, the famously nameless heroine of the original story was dismissed within a few pages as a plain Jane whom no one remembers anyway. Betraying the style and class of the original so early on, this pathetic portrayal should have alerted me to invest my time elsewhere, but principle alone kept me from quitting. An intriguing path to a reunion with crazy ol' Mrs. Danvers, Rebecca's mean governess with a crush on her, ends in anticlimax as well. At the end of a long book one is none the smarter, as far as Rebecca is concerned, except for one confirmed truth: making a new fable out of old ones is an easy temptation which, like so many others, should be resisted.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars terrible, December 20, 2007
By 
Raven tales (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Rebecca's Tale (Paperback)
Rebecca was a wonderfully, haunting gothic tale. Rebecca's tale is not. It's not even a decent detective story. Rebecca is a vivid character, a character that colours the lives of everyone in the original work, you are left to wonder at her. She is accomplished, beautiful and everyone desires her, yet.. It is made clear in the original story that she is manipulative, a liar and she had numerous affairs (confirmed by Flavell and Danvers).

However, Miss Beauman decides that clearly Rebecca is a modern heroine who must be praised for cuckolding her husband. After all she was being emotionally oppressed by the man apparently so everything her character does is justified. It is a very modern approach to the character and pushed so throroughly that we have to hate the timid original narrator. Indeed when Mrs De Winter appears, she does not seem to have aged, in fact, she seems as dreamy and timid as from the first book.

Rebecca's Tale does not give us a true picture of Rebecca, it gives us a rosy, sympathetic view. She is portrayed as this ultimate feminist, obviously wonderful because she doesn't settle into a 'wifely' role and perfectly entitled to cheat on her husband, because he doesn't stoke her fire enough. Rebecca in the original is ambivalent, she's a strong woman, yet deceitful; accomplished yet her likeability is a façade, she is a bright star that burns. Her truth can be seen through many of the characters in Rebecca, not just Max. Mrs Danvers confirms that she hates the men in her life and that she slept around, that Maxim was tricked into marriage. Yes Rebecca is a vivid character, yet this obsession to turn her into a modern heroine who is railing against traditional constraints is terrible and doesn't work.

Maxim is also terribly dealt with, once again, the depths of the character are ignored and Miss Beauman focuses on the 'evilness' of being a man unwilling to endure scandal. Maxim always struck me as a troubled character, one driven to the ultimate act of revenge, struck by guilt and his attention to duty. Yet Max De Winter is ignobly killed off.

I found Rebecca's tale unsatisfying as it seemed determined to push modern attitudes on the main characters and ignoring the many facets of the original cast. There was a determination to push Rebecca as a victim of terrible men and really, there was more to the character than that.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a bad tale, to be sure, but it is certainly not Rebecca's..., July 15, 2008
This review is from: Rebecca's Tale (Paperback)
England, 1950s. It has been almost thirty years since Manderley, one of the most beautiful and oldest English estates, burned down under mysterious circumstances. The owners, Mr. and Mrs. de Winter, moved on to a somewhat pedantic life, forever victims of the things that went on at the estate after Max de Winter's first wife, Rebecca, was murdered. What had happened to Rebecca and to Manderley? We all know Max's version -- but is there another untold story out there? Terence Gray, a young scholar who is fascinated with the old tale, wants to reopen the case, if only to write about it. And so, he seeks the help of Colonel Julyan, a distant member of the de Winters. Terence wants nothing more than to uncover hidden secrets, so he schemes his way into the colonel's life -- using Julyan's daughter, Ellie, as the perfect means for his ends. Where will all of this research lead? Is there indeed an untold story regarding Rebecca and her somewhat enigmatic life and death? Manderley may be long gone, but its legend still lives...

Sally Beauman wrote a fascinating gothic mystery that would have been great in its own right had it not used one of the greatest gothic tales as a backup. I have read numerous sequels based on classics, and most of them fall very short to the original work. Rebecca's Tale, while well written and compelling, is nothing to Daphne du Maurier's most popular novel. This book has four points of view, which is fine, but a little too intricate in some parts. It is not quite as vivid in narrative and dialogue as Rebecca, and the added characters and mysteries surrounding Rebecca felt more like taking too much artistic license on a wonderful book, which, to me, was fine the way it had been. And so, I'd recommend this as a separate entity to the original novel. To me, Rebecca -- the character as well as the story -- is untouchable. Beauman has (or had, not sure if she's still writing) potential as a standalone writer though. Perhaps I'll give her other works a whirl in the future.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting read, March 24, 2007
This review is from: Rebecca's Tale (Paperback)
I should first say that I'm not a diehard fan of Rebecca (though I do quite like it), so my response to Rebecca's Tale may be different from truly devoted fans of the original novel.

The novel is divided into 4 parts, each with a different narrator (I won't name them here in case that counts as a spoiler!). Beauman does a good job of giving each character his / her own distinct voice; some writers attempt to narrate with different characters, but everyone sounds the same-- that's not the case here. Chalk one up for Beauman's style.

I think what I liked most about Beauman's novel was the themes she chose to pick up and elaborate on from Rebecca: death sealed in persons (along with sterility), the life in nature, the notion of place (and breaking away from it), and a few others. Explorations of sexuality are also more explicit in this novel; even nature becomes almost overwhelmingly fecund. The novel still hovers at the question of who Rebecca was in life, but it also tries to pick apart who and what she has become in death.

I should emphasize that this is NOT a retelling of Rebecca but a "further-telling" of, perhaps, Manderly itself and the lives of all it touches. It's not a remake, and it's overall not an attempt to explain (its weakest moments are, in fact, when it DOES try to explain, and that's why I give it 4 stars, along with the fact that it can be rather obvious in its "mysteries" at some points).

Recommended, especially after rereading Rebecca.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Can't match Rebecca. Doesn't really try, fortunately., April 4, 2013
By 
Seth in SF (San Francisco, Ca) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Rebecca's Tale (Paperback)
The theme of Rebecca's Tale is recovering from lost love, both departed and unrequited. It's a great theme. Sally Beauman tells the story of Rebecca's life through two characters who are researching her history: Tom Gray, a Scottish scholar with hidden obsessions and a hidden life, and Ellie Julian, the daughter of Colonel Julyan, and a significant minor character in the first book.

It sounds like a great setup: use uncovering Rebecca's past to throw an ongoing love-story into relief, ensure the man has hidden motives and dark secrets, and paint Rebecca has a larger-than-life character the woman feels she can never match. It worked for Daphne Du Maurier, after all.

It also tries to be a coming-of-age story about Ellie, but that storyline fails to work.

The story of Rebecca's life isn't really the focus, though. Learning about Rebecca, and the perspective her life provides, changes Ellie and Tom; their relationship, prickly at first, changes as well.

Don't expect too much though. This is a book about losing love, not finding it.

Unfortunately, the book falls down on execution. It's at its worst when Ellie is the viewpoint, giving in to cheap, breathless foreshadowing every few pages and slogging through 1950's proto-feminism with an unsophistication that doesn't match its more-modern handling of homosexuality and infidelity. Rebecca continues to shock readers because it places us firmly in the time and beliefs of its setting; by losing sense of the era, Rebecca's Tale muddles what is supposed to be shocking and what is supposed to be surprisingly unshocking.

Ellie is torn between taking care of her father, her growing interest in Tom Gray, attention from new doctor in town, returning to college, and her obsession with a type of independence she believes Rebecca stood for. The book never convinces the reader that Ellie truly wants any of these, however, or that they matter to the story, or that they are truly exclusive. So Ellie comes across as a lifeless sponge obsessing over the woman her father was silently in love with. She believes that she has intuitive insight into Rebecca's personality, but she never draws strength from it nor gains insight into Rebecca or herself.

There is some attempt, largely in the last chapter, to turn Ellie's story into a coming-of-age story. Unfortunately, we don't get any actual change.

Rebecca herself speaks in a large section of the book through a diary-letter she kept. It is an odd reading of Rebecca's personality and one which didn't match my expectations: Rebecca as histrionic man-hating feminist is a reasonable read, but pages on end of lines like "beware men bearing gifts" is horrible. The story of Rebecca's childhood is interesting and plausible and it does lead to reinterpretation of Rebecca. However, the person of Rebecca is stronger in Du Maurier than in this book. By spending almost 1/3 of the book with her, we lose the sense of her as a character sketch and we don't have enough variety of epistolary material to create nuance.

The book is at its best with Tom Gray. He is the only character with any mystery and he's a character with strong needs and obsessions. The major mystery of the book--why he is obsessed with Rebecca and what it means to him--is resolved early, right at the half-way point. After that, he moves into the background until the very end, where a mjaor development is revealed. Sadly, his major character development occurs between those two points and entirely off-stage. We are deprived of the process.

All in all, if you haven't read Rebecca, this might make for a good, light read if you want a light, soppy story. It is certainly almost always painless to read. If you have read Rebecca, however, you're better off sticking to another Du Maurier. I'm pretty sure you haven't read them all.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good companion to Rebecca, April 8, 2007
This review is from: Rebecca's Tale (Paperback)
I randomly came across "Rebecca" in my amazon recommendations one day, and went to the library to find it. I absolutely loved the book, and wanted more. I came back to amazon and found "Rebecca's Tale", which I then borrowed from the library, and read it immediately after "Rebecca."

I feel that this novel stands on its own two feet - it tells a story in and of itself, and I wonder how I might have reacted to it had I never read "Rebecca." I probably would have run out and read it.

The writing in the book is very strong, and each character is quite distinctive. I must say I did not like the second Mrs. de Winter much in this novel, when I felt sympathy for her in the original. The voices of the book are clear, though, and I spent quite a bit of time guessing at who was hiding what.

This book will not give you answers to the questions that are left upon reading the original. I found that somewhat frustrating as I yearn for closure, even though I know the author didn't want to spoil the wonderful mystery that du Maurier has spun. I, personally, would love to see a quality prequel written, perhaps by Diane Setterfield, but that of course would provide the reader with a real framework of who Rebecca was.

While the novel is well-written, it does seem to drag on in some places. I found myself skimming paragraphs occasionally, trying to get to the "good part" that I knew was coming. The author has a good grasp of literary misdirection, and she will lead you one way, then pull a u-turn and lead you somewhere completely different, much like du Maurier.

Overall I think it is a very good book, but I strongly suggest reading it immediately after reading "Rebecca" to truly grasp all of the small details that you might otherwise miss.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The suspense of Rebecca's Tale left me wanting more, February 15, 2008
This review is from: Rebecca's Tale (Paperback)
I found it hard to put this book down! Its a detective's tale, that involves four characters that are trying to find out who killed Rebecca, they are all connected to her in some way, some very mysteriously. But it seems that Rebecca is just beyond they're grasp at all times. Although its a long way into the story before you get to really know her, I began to get drawn into finding out about her. And once I did find her, I was shocked and awed at what was found!
Although the story was wonderful, it left me wanting. There were several leads that weren't followed through. So much so, that when I put down the book, I felt as if it wasn't finished.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Take My Hat Off to Miss Beauman, September 2, 2013
By 
Janet Swanborn "virtualcleo" (Homewood, IL United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Rebecca's Tale (Paperback)
I love the original novel and was disappointed in Susan Hill's "Mrs. de Winter." This novel blew me away. I did not think any positive view of the title character was possible. Beauman turns du Maurier's novel inside out, takes it to bits and sews it into another garment. I don't want to offer spoilers, so I'll say just bear in mind that the du Maurier book was only one character's view. Beauman accounts for virtually every assertion in the original and the result is "original," too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great sequel, February 25, 2013
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This review is from: Rebecca's Tale (Kindle Edition)
This gave "Rebecca" a closure and the original classic came full circle. This was a well written, well-conceived book. An enjoyable read.
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Rebecca's Tale
Rebecca's Tale by Sally Beauman (Paperback - January 30, 2007)
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