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{Review} Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca has haunted me since I was 16, which is the first time I saw the title. It was on the list of “100 books you must read before you finish sixth-form”. For some reason I never managed to get round to reading it. I think it was because I committed the cardinal sin of judging the book by its title and deciding that it was early 20th century chick-lit and, as such, something I could get around to reading later. (Later being when I had grey hair and needed a walking stick).

Years passed and friends mentioned it more and more frequently at dinner parties or in passing. I smiled, nodded and moved the conversation on to another topic as politely as possible. Then today I saw it in the English book section of the local library and thought that I’d ease myself into my (still un-named) forthcoming reading challenge with an English classic.

Blurb
A shy, self-conscious and socially awkward young woman of 21 marries a recently widowed Mr. de Winter, whom she has known for under a month. Upon their arrival at his family home, Manderley, she is still treated as the impoverished lower-class citizen that she was before she met her husband.

It quickly becomes apparent that she can never truly become mistress of the house for as long as Rebecca, her husband’s first wife is remembered. But can the ghost of her predecessor ever be exorcised when Rebecca’s name seems intertwined with Manderley? And why is her husband so keen to avoid every mention of the first Mrs. De Winter?

Review
This book really is ‘a classic’: it embraces elements from different genres without being sucked into any one in particular. It is the story of a young woman having to fit into a new world and struggling to become the mistress of a great house. It is a gothic-tinged tale of secrets and ghosts of whispers that echo around Manderley and the first Mrs. de Winter. Each of these threads weave together to makes the story a richer experience.

The character of Rebecca was introduced beautifully and gradually took over the tale even though she never appeared in it. We only ever see her through hastily snatched conversations with people who were in awe of her. I didn’t just recognise the second Mrs. de Winter’s desperation to discover what sort of person Rebecca was; I too became equally desperate to understand what made her such a notable woman in others’ eyes.

The other character I really who never got to speak for themselves but influenced the story was Manderley. It may sound clichéd, but that estate spoke volumes about its past mistress. It is portrayed as a husk now that Rebecca, the heart that made it so full of life, is gone. Du Maurier leads the reader straight into what feels like a shrine to Rebecca and awes them with its stillness and secrets.

The one point that really got my goat and stops the book from being an all-out win (in my eyes) is Mr. de Winter’s treatment of his second wife. He calls her an ‘ignorant… little fool’ on numerous occasions and treats her as a child for the majority of the story. I’m pretty certain (slight spoiler) that his suggestion that she dress as Alice in Wonderland for the costume ball (/end slight spoiler) emphasises the ‘young girl who’s fallen down the metaphorical rabbit hole and is wondering where she is’ aspect that lingers unpleasantly in the middle third of the book.

Overall
Rebecca is the sort of book that keeps you on your toes throughout and rewards you with stunning revelations at the end. It also reminds me of To the Lighthouse and Jane Eyre at times, so if you liked either (or both) of these books then you may like this one too.

WNI’s Verdict? Wavering towards… WIN!

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Top Ten Tuesday – Books worth skiving for

Spring Fever: Top Ten Books I’d Play Hooky With
as hosted by The Broke and The Bookish


I would skive university with all the books below… even if I have already done so. 😉

1)      North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell
This is my favourite spring, summer, autumn and winter re-read. It’s not as famous as Pride and Prejudice, but it has a power to it that always makes me smile. Plus it has an extract of one of Tennyson’s poems in it.

2)      The Water Room – Christopher Fowler
I miss London from time to time. Not just the big, modern, shiny, superficial place, but the history behind it. Christopher Fowler’s way of writing about my favourite capital makes me fall in love with it all over again. Plus, he makes encyclopaedic knowledge cool.

3)      To the Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf
Spring and sad poetry are always linked in my mind (blame Ted Hughes and Webster ‘much possessed by death’ 😉 ) and the middle section with its description of WWI and nervous breakdowns is oddly poetic.

4)      Any book of poetry by Paul Celan
One author wrote that Celan and Baudelaire were visionaries who put all the shattered realities that they had lived through into the most powerful poetry he’d ever read. Celan’s work is almost always a punch in the guts, especially Todesfuge, but this Spring I’d like to re-read his earlier Romanian work

5)      The Guardians of Ga’Hoole (Series) – K. Lasky
Is this bad? I’ve just finished book 15 and I want to re-read it already. Slightly repetitive in places, but the story makes me feel like the wonder I did when I was a little girl.

6)      Plus tard, tu comprendras – Jerome Clément
I started reading this earlier in the week and all I want to do is finish it… sadly I can’t skive to be with this book as I have a grammar test next week. Would that exams weren’t important!

7)      Terre Noire (Series) – M. Honaker
YA book set in the dying days of the Russian Empire (when they still had a Tsar). The lyricism of the prose and the exciting main characters make this a series to read.

8)      The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Brian Selznick
I first heard of this one on The Lupine Librarian both the film and book look good. I’m not actively searching for the book yet as I don’t know if there’s an English language copy to be had in the region and I really want to read it in my mother tongue.

9)      Murder at Mansfield Park– Lynn Shepherd
I’m still waiting for this one to come through! It looks so, so good though that I have already ‘booked’ time off writing my thesis for reading it when it arrives.

10)  Complete Works of T.S. Eliot
I miss hearing the proper RP English accents that I grew up with. Although Eliot was American, I grew up hearing his poetry recited and read with an English accent and became accustomed to it. I would totally skive to speak British-English with someone but, as I can’t, Eliot’s exceptional way with words and rhythm will just have to do.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2012 in Books

 

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