REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier
Originally published by Victor Gollancz in 1938
My copy was published by Doubleday & Company in 1961
Format: bound novel & audiobook
Intended Audience: Adult
Genre: Gothic romance with a dash of mystery thrown in
Themes: self-doubt, self-discovery, jealousy, loyalty, love, hate
Rating: 3-1/2 out of 5 stars
Our unnamed narrator marries Maxim de Winter, a widower. Though she loves him, she feels he will never truly love her because she cannot measure up to his former wife and true love, Rebecca. She constantly lives in Rebecca's shadow.
First Line: Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.
I was a good way into the book before I felt invested in the story and characters. The pacing at the beginning is very slow, although it does use the time well by establishing the setting and our narrator's character. She's full of self-doubt before she marries Maxim, a man many years her senior and in a much higher station in life. Entering his world only magnifies her feelings of inferiority and unworthiness, although to be fair to her, she doesn't have a support system. She is almost entirely alone.
As soon as she moves into Manderley (his estate), she knows she'll never be the real mistress of the house because it is still Rebecca's. The servants loved Rebecca and were devoted to her, especially Mrs. Danvers, who takes it upon herself to feed the new Mrs. de Winter's insecurities.
I felt I really knew who Mrs. de Winter and Mrs. Danvers were. I understood their motivations and thoughts, even if they both got on my nerves in their own ways. I would've liked Maxim's character to have been developed more fully in the beginning since he's rarely seen in the middle section, although I suppose it was necessary in order for the ending to be revealed. But I wanted to experience them fall in love, and I feel robbed that I didn't. I understand why his new bride felt he didn't love her.
Once the plot finally picks up, it takes a hold of you and doesn't let you know until the end. About the ending...WOW. I did not see that coming. This is definitely a different book the second time you read it. Your perspective is completely different. While I understand the end, I would not have made some of the same choices.
Do I recommend this book? Yes. Will I read it again? Yes, maybe once or twice in a few years. Why only 3-1/2 stars? Because the beginning was so slow (an odd complaint from someone whose favorite book is Pride & Prejudice). I kept stopping and starting. I finally switched to an audio version so I couldn't stop reading by putting the book down.
Do you want another opinion? You can read this review and many others at goodreads.com.
The TwentyEleven Challenge from Bart's Bookshelf (Category: Way Back When)