Rebecca Hardcover – July 30, 2002
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(1) It takes away a lot of the suspense because you will know a few things about what happens in the end. Big shocks are watered down in what is supposed to be a suspenseful book.
(2) It takes a lot longer to get into the book. I started to read and put down a few times, and it took a few months to get passed the first two chapters because it was all descriptions of a place I didn't care about (yet).
(3) The book ends rather abruptly and it needs an epilogue. Myself, I went back to re-read the first two chapters for a sense of finality -- and then they meant something to me as a reader because I did care.
(4) Because it needs an epilogue, the publisher of the paperback provides an old, draft version of one in the back. Not realizing that this was never part of the book, I read it with confusion. A character's name was different, plot points were different, the implied future was in conflict with the ending I had just read, and large chunks of text were the exact same as in the first two chapters (as they were originally meant to be that missing epilogue after all). After reading this draft, I wondered why they moved the final epilogue to the beginning in the first place. And why give us a conflicting and confusing draft? ...
So, hope this helps if you are eager to read this classic. Skip ahead to chapter 3 (or the last paragraph at the end of chapter 2) and save the rest for a much-needed epilogue after an abrupt ending.
All this aside, the book isn't for everyone. If you're not already a fan, this checklist may help you decide whether or not to add Rebecca to your own secret treat shelf:
1. Do you like gothic fiction?
Although it was first published in 1938, Rebecca ages exquisitely and i's not hard for a modern reader to fall deeply in love with it. The style and turns of phrase are no barrier--it's the genre itself that will either draw you in or leave you cold. I loved Jane Eyre as a child, and this love abetted my love of Rebecca, which is famously derivative of Jane Eyre's general plot: woman falls in love with a man haunted in mysterious ways by his former wife. If the idea of women wandering windswept grounds of great houses, plagued by mysterious barriers to love, sometimes in the form of the ghost (literal or figurative) of another woman sounds cozy to you, if you loved Catherine and Heathcliff or Darcy and Elizabeth, and you fancy dark psychological acrobatics, give Rebecca a shot.
2. Does a warm bath, a hot drink, and a new sweater sound good to you right now?
Rebecca is a fall read, hands down. It's rainy, it's morose, it's the dominating presence of a grand old mansion in a remote location.
3. Have you seen the movie Rebecca (1940), did you like it, do you like old movies at all?
The movie does not follow the plot exactly, but having loved the movie for a long time and now having read the book, the tone of the movie feels authentic and true to the novel. Once every few years, I go on an autumn binge and watch The Uninvited (1944), Vertigo (1958), Rebecca, and to end on a lighter note, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947).
4. Are you a feminist?
Old fashioned gender roles in Rebecca's setting will definitely irk some readers. As a feminist, I was less annoyed than interested. The mirroring of the protagonist (shy, inexperienced, subservient) and the dead Rebecca (domineering, brave, selfish, accomplished) added a great sociological layer to the experience of reading. Sally Beauman's excellent Afterword offers a wonderful explanation of the gendered forces at work in Rebecca, and also addresses several misinterpretations of the novel at the time of its publication.
If you've answered yes to any of the questions above, I absolutely recommend that you read the first 30 pages at least. Get past the description of Manderly in the dream, and begin to read about when the protagonist first meets widower Maxim de Winter, and if you're liking it by then, you'll love the rest.
Top international reviews
One thing that annoyed me a little and I don't think it was the fault of the seller. The book was put inside a box without any protection along with another none book related item I had bought another seller and as I am a collector, I am glad that through some miracle nothing was damaged. I would have expected a bit more consideration when packing, as this book is after all not some cheap paperback. The fact that it mentions "80th Anniversary Edition" should have been a good enough give-away. Therefore only 3 out 5 stars and this is simply due to the way Amazon packed this rare book of the future.
There is v little point me reviewing the novel itself here, given it's a classic and a must read...
But for this edition itself, the gold foil (like thread running through the fabric) is delicately done. Lovely! My friend was thrilled.
It's riveting, haunting and chilling at the same time. Mrs Danvers has got to be one of the most creepiest housekeepers I've ever read about in any book. The story is about a young orphan girl who works as a companion to an unbearable lady Mrs Van Hopper and while they are in Monte Carlo she catches the eye of Maxim De Winter a wealthy widower. Although twice her age he takes her off and marries her and brings her to his home Manderley. When she arrives she finds she is completely out of her element and her shyness and inexperience works against her. She finds everyone compares her to Maxim's first wife as she is completely unlike her in every respect. She feels inadequate and not worthy. Rebecca is rarely mentioned between Maxim and the second Mrs De Winter and so she draws her own conclusions however wrongly.
When the truth is finally uncovered and no matter how shocking it is you do still feel some sympathy towards the person who commits the crime. The second Mrs De Winter is changed forever by it and it's the point where she finally grows up. I felt alot of warmth for her and was very sympathetic of her situation as the second wife/other woman living in the shadow of the first one who outshone her it seemed in every way to start off with. I even felt myself getting upset for her and really wanted her to pull through and win over Rebecca. Although in the end she does , Rebecca's ghost will always haunt the marriage even while the current Mrs De Winter and Maxim are in exile.
Very sad and haunting book, worthy of being a Hitchcock Classic!
"I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets may say. They are not brave, the days when we are twenty-one. They are full of little cowardices, little fears without foundation, and one is so easily bruised, so swiftly wounded, one falls to the first barbed word."
"Men are simpler than you imagine my sweet child. But what goes on in the twisted, tortuous minds of women would baffle anyone."
There are many motifs that at first led me to believe the book might be just as I'd always thought it would be; a sort of Jane Eyre brought forward to the age of the motorcar, but I read on. I'm not a great fan of Jane Eyre but I read on and from chapter 7 onwards, a sinister chill began to set in and didn't stop.
Writing in the first person, Du Maurier uses the perspective to its best, capturing the paranoia, mistrust, isolation and fear of the heroine perfectly whilst at the same time allowing the readers to know that she is not at all paranoid and something very dark is in fact going on.
In many ways Rebecca is a psychological thriller and comparable to Collins' The Woman in White. This is no insult from me; I also could not put that book down. It is not about the romance although romance there is. It is very much about the unravelling of secrets, nerves and plots, the shattering of illusions and the events that conspire to test a personality in what amounts to a tense but beautiful read.
I could put this book down neither physically nor pejoratively. There is something for everyone within those pages. I'm glad I bought the book which will no doubt become well-thumbed in years to come.
Sally Beauman skilfully continued the story in her book, Rebecca’s tale. As a follow on from Rebecca I thoroughly enjoyed this book so I heartily recommend them both. It’s time to dream of Manderley again!
Initially, you do not notice the date of its first publication. So, you expect the book to be a super-duper, or a fast page-turner, bla bla and so on.
The style of writing seems a bit old-fashioned. The language is good (as is usually the case with old books). The pace of the story seems to be too slow. That is how you may feel.
If you do feel so, do not give up. Keep on reading. Once you cross the half stage, the story begins to gradually get a grip on you. And then you cannot put down the book! The tension escalates and at times seems to be unbearable. The prose and the descriptive part are handled very efficiently and artistically too. There is an unexpected ending too.
Not for nothing has the book been popular all these years. The author has done a splendid job.
An interesting tit bit. As far as my little reading goes, this is the only book where you do not know the (original) name of the main character (heroine) of the story – even after you have completed reading the book!
Highly recommended. Add it to your TBR list.
I have seen the Alfred Hitchcock film Rebecca and I vaguely remember it being about a woman who meets an older man in Monte Carlo while working as a paid 'companion' for an insufferable old woman. This man turns out to be Mr de Winter and after a very short romance they marry before going back to his house in Cornwall, England. The young girl is expected to act and be the mistress to this house named Manderley and its many servants. There is however a third person in the marriage, Rebecca, who was Mr de Winter's first wife who drowned in a nearby bay about a year previously. Rebecca seemed to have been loved by everyone none more than the stern housekeeper who seems intent on driving the new Mrs de Winter insane.
The above mentioned was in the book but there was also a lot more. I don't want to give away anymore of the plot in case you haven't read it but I was constantly surprised throughout and some of the twists and turns had me reading with my mouth open. This was a book filled with so much suspense and mystery that even with 20 pages to go I still didn't know how it was going to end.
One of the stars of the book is undoubtedly Manderley itself with his long corridors and its two wings, one facing the sea and the other the rose garden. The morning room filled with the most expensive things in the house, the warm fire in the library and afternoon tea served at half past four. The house and its rooms are used as a plot device a few times during the book and is used in giving us a sense of how lost and out of her depth the new Mrs de Winter feels in not just the house but in her new role as mistress.
I am also surprised that many people see this as a love story, I was therefore expecting one. I am not convinced that Mr de Winter ever really loved his second wife. For a lot of the book he is indifferent to her feelings and only tells her he loves her for the first time at a time when he desperately needs her on his side. If he did love her then it seems to be for her childlike manner in which she gives in to his wishes and lives only to please him. Her name is not given once during the book further adding to her invisibility as a character. For an upcoming fancy dress party to be held at the house Mr de Winter preferred choice of costume for his new wife is an Alice in wonderland dress which I think was significant in how at that time he viewed her. During a evening of revelations Mrs de Winter matures suddenly and Mr de Winter notices;
'It's gone forever. That funny, Young, lost look that I loved. It won't come back again.'
The new Mrs de Winter revels in all this, she seems to genuinely want nothing more than for her new husband to be happy and for her to live for that.
This is in complete contrast to Rebecca who while alive did how she pleased and seemed to live only for her pleasure alone - or did she? We will never know if she was put in a more unfavourable light by Mr de Winter for not conforming to his perfect idea of a doting wife as society expected her to be. Or maybe she really was so cruel and manipulative that Mr de Winter craved someone who was the complete polar opposite to his first wife.
I'm not sure this book would have been quite so gripping had I prior knowledge of the book but nonetheless the characters and the dark undertones are enough to make me wonder and want to discuss this for a long time to come. Aside from a couple of places when I think I had to suspend disbelieve slightly I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was surprised by it in a very good way.