Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Sometimes when you read a book, there is something so special about one conversation or one bit of writing that even if the book, in its entirety, isn’t good that piece makes it worth your effort. In this case, the entire book is fabulous, but there are a couple of parts that are extraordinary. To me, the first chapter is a gothic masterpiece. You know that you are in for a treat right from the beginning. As a whole, the book is superbly written, but there are several sections of pros that stand out. There is a bit about growing older in chapter 15 that is particularly poignant. I loved the confrontation at the window’s ledge in chapter 18.
There is something about this book that reminds me of Dostoyevsky. Du Maurier’s and Dostoyevsky’s styles are completely different. The similarity is probably in the way that the narrator, in Rebecca,has longwinded conversations with herself and that everyone is a little crazy and self-absorbed, but they are completely clueless to their narcissism.
The comparison with this book to Jane Eyre is obvious. In my opinion, du Maurier is a better writer than Bronte, but Jane Eyre is a superior book. I love Jane. Rebecca’s narrator is weak and pitiful most of the time. I was attracted to the superb writing, the plot and the mystery in Rebecca, but I didn’t care about the main character. She was appealing to me at first, in Monte Carlo, but after she became Mrs. De Winter, she was just mostly pathetic; so that limited my emotional connection to her. (view spoiler)[When the narrator began her life at Manderley, after an adjustment period, I wanted to see her comb her hair, claim her man, fire her housekeeper, and get on with it. She was content to sit around and ponder her misery—boring. Even during Max’s confession to our narrator, Mrs. De Winter was portrayed as narcissistic to the point of ridiculousness. Max confessed to the cold blooded murder of his wife and her unborn child, and all that she could think of was the state of her love affair. (hide spoiler)] All of her whining and obsessions with herself and Rebecca was uninteresting and unrealistic. This is easily a five star book, but I think it could have been even better with a stronger protagonist.
What I love about this book is that it painstakingly follows the gothic formula. There is a castle, a mystery to be solved and portents of doom. There is heroine overwrought with emotional destress. It seems like it would be “over the top” or even silly, but du Maurier pulls it off perfectly. I was fully engaged, telling off Mrs. Danvers and wanting to slap some sense into Mrs. De Winter.
I was really obsessed with this book. I couldn’t put it down, and I didn’t want it to end. Reading this kind of book is what the classics challenge is all about.
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