Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review: REBECCA, by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier. This edition published 1971 by Avon Mass Market. Fiction.

How can you review a book like Rebecca? First of all, it's an essential of modern literature; there are so many allusions made to it in other books, not to mention television and movies, that reading it is now a basic component of cultural literacy. Secondly, it's just a stunner of a book.

Think of it as the anti-Jane Eyre. A poor girl, obscure and friendless (and nameless throughout the book), falls passionately in love with an older, wealthy man, who dotes on her and whisks her away to wed. He takes her to his home, the lavish estate of Manderley, where little by little the charmed life he has offered her shows itself to be cursed. Maxim de Winter, the owner of Manderley, was married before, to the gorgeous and charismatic Rebecca, now dead. Everyone worshipped Rebecca, or so it seems, especially the preternaturally creepy housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, who goes to outrageously sadistic lengths to undermine the new Mrs. de Winter. Maxim has a secret about his dead wife, one that will come to light, whatever the cost.

This novel absolutely blew me away. The writing is lush and dense, deeply descriptive and highly charged. No Jane, Mrs. de Winter is so insecure and timid that she allows the house and the staff to treat her like another piece of furniture, and an unwanted one at that.  The house is like a living creature; the gardens and ocean and beach and trees and lawns close us, and the narrator, in like a box. The result is claustrophobia; we have nowhere to hide, just like Mrs. de Winter has nowhere to hide from the memory of Rebecca.

I found the book to be riveting, as well as deeply disturbing. Max de Winter is not a reliable historian of his marriage and it was shocking to me that the narrator was willing to accommodate him as she does. But the book wouldn't be as powerful, in a way, if she were not so weak, and her character is an essential component of the narrative. So there. So anyway, if you haven't read Rebecca, you really, really need to. It won't take long, because you won't be able to put it down.

I reviewed the 1940 Hitchcock adaptation here on my film blog. Spoiler alert- it's awesome!

Rating: BUY, OMG BUY!

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.

17 comments:

Amy said...

aw, I love this book too. When I read it for the first time a couple of years ago I read it in one sitting.

Care said...

Love your rating. Sounds like you had a good time with this one.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Loved the book and the movie --glad u had a chance to experience them and loved them as well.

Happy Holidays Marie.

Anna said...

Glad I pulled this off my shelf the other day and put it in my pile of must-reads for the new year!

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Have read a review of this book somewhere on the blogopshere. Perhaps have skipped it several times in bookshops. I know the cover will not entice me. But, you've dispel that repulsion. Thanks for this review

JoAnn said...

I loved this book, too! My book club discussed it a few years ago, then the following week we got together and watched the Hitchcock adaptation. It worked out so well that we want to have an annual book/movie event. Just hasn't happened yet ...

bermudaonion said...

I thought this book was pure romance until I started reading reviews on blogs. Now, I think it's a book I must read!!

Col (Col Reads) said...

I really enjoyed this when I finally read it myself this year. Glad you enjoyed it!

Zibilee said...

I have TWO copies of this one, so there is no excuse for me not to read it in the new year. After having a bit of a misstep with The Doll, and hearing everyone say that this was a book I needed to read, I have been dually convinced that this one will make it on to my list for January. Fantastic and enticing review, Marie! You make a very strong case for this book!

jpetroroy said...

One of my favorites of all time.

Marce said...

Wow, I am totally sold now. Your review has been one of my favourites on this. Rebecca is on my Wishlist, a definite to read next year.

caite said...

It has been a long time since I read it..maybe time to reread it I think!

HKatz said...

Mrs. Danvers - what a nightmare figure. In some ways she's my favorite character in the book, not because I particularly like her, but because she's so creepy and menacing.

Bellezza said...

Love this book. Love, love, love it. I've read it at least three times in my life, and while the ending surprise only comes once, it is delightful every time. So glad you enjoyed it!

Sandra said...

I didn't read Rebecca until I was well into my adult years because I thought it was a romance. It's a lot more than that and it's always fun to hear how much someone enjoyed it. Welcome to the club.

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I read this for the first time this year as well, and oh boy, did I love this book. I can't believe that I let that cover frighten me away from reading it my whole life. I always thought it was a romance novel, like a Harlequin. Never, never judge a book by its cover is what I learned.

Have a safe and Happy New Year, Marie!

Kathleen said...

This is one of my all time favorite reads. I have reread it several times and have been interested to see how my attitude towards the narrator and Maxim have changed over the last 30 years or so since I first read it. Glad you enjoyed it so much!