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Rebecca Paperback – 1997
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From Library Journal
Surely no audiobook collection should be without some version of this timeless classic, arguably the most famous and well-loved gothic novel of the 20th century, and this production would be an excellent choice. Read in wonderfully British cadences by Anna Massey, all the mysterious and oppressive nuances are made immediate and chilling. We even feel some sympathy for the absurdly timid and cowering heroine; it is, after all, easy to imagine feeling woefully inferior to the predecessor and desperately eager to please. Of course the story requires great leaps of credulity... Forget the movie; it makes mincemeat of the actual tale. A wise seven-year-old once told me, "The book is always betterDit goes right into your head." This is a prime exampleDlisten again; it gets even better. Highly recommended.DHarriet Edwards, East Meadow P.L., NY
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
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. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Vickie Sears --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
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Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again". This version skips the first chapter entirely and starts around chapter 3. It is an insult to a wonderful book. Don't make a mistake and get it. You will miss the real depth of the book.
Not only is the book edited but there are so many typos and errors.
This is terrible, do not buy.
Edit: after buying the $9.99 version of Rebecca, I now know this version is barely similar to the 'real' story. The famous opening line 'I dreamt again of Manderley.....’ doesn't even appear and the book seems to be a very poorly condensed edit or...something....?? I'm asking for a refund. The publisher should be ashamed!
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.