Thursday, February 26, 2015

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

I read this book several years ago and quite enjoyed it.  It was a selection for my book club for our February meeting, so I thought I'd just flip through it before the meeting.  But when I opened it, I realized I remembered very little about the story so I ended up doing a complete re-read of the book.

Rebecca is the story of a shy, young, unnamed woman who meets and falls in love with Maxim de Winter a handsome widower.  His wife, Rebecca, had tragically drowned a year ago.  After he proposes to our heroine, she moves with him to Manderley, his expansive English estate.

The problem is, she feels the shadow of Rebecca everywhere she turns.  Rebecca's favourite flowers are still placed in the house every day.  Rebecca's favourite meals are still served.  The new Mrs de Winter is constantly being told that she is, "nothing like Rebecca".  Maxim seems distracted and sad.  She feels he regrets marrying her and that he wants Rebecca back.

Her youth and shyness prevent her from talking to anyone about it and she becomes tortured with thoughts of Rebecca's presence.  Added to her insecurity is the presence of Mrs Danvers, the housekeeper who had been Rebecca's personal maid.  She has kept Rebecca's room perfectly preserved since the night of her accident and clearly has no interest in having a new Mrs de Winter in the house.

The book starts off fairly slowly, but really picks up in the second half.  An elaborate costume ball, a shipwreck and a gruesome discovery add to the excitement.

As our book club discussed this book on Sunday evening we talked about our frustration with not knowing Mrs de Winter's first name.  I understand that it was left out to emphasize how unimportant she felt and how she didn't feel like a woman when compared to the perfect Rebecca, but it is still frustrating.  Even writing this post has been difficult without a name to use.  It's an interesting device.
It's a great book, I highly recommend it.  If you liked Jane Eyre, you'll like this one.  It's got a similar feel to it,with the mysterious first wife and the big English estate.  In fact as I was re-reading this one, I was confusing the story with Jane Eyre in my mind.

Apparently Alfred Hitchcock made this into a movie.  I think I might check it out.

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