Monday, October 20, 2008

Book Review "Rebecca"

*The quiz doesn't really apply to my blog readers I realize since I added the picture of the first edition of this book, but below is the newspaper version.

Quiz question #1 what haunting tale of suspense begins with: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again”? Now try it with an English accent. Oh come on! If you haven’t read the book I am sure you saw the Hitchcock movie version at least ten times on late night cable classics. You finally got it – “Rebecca”. If the newspaper editor put the title in huge type above this paragraph you get no points for getting it right.

Concluding the October celebration of monsters human and imaginary, I just finished reading the Daphne du Maurier 1938 masterpiece of suspense curled up by a warm fire listening to the soft background music of rain beating against my window. I was magically transported to the Manderley estate on the grey Cornwall sea coast, surrounded by thick woods behind a tall iron gate. The magnificent stone mansion is in fact one of the main characters in the novel. Rebecca, also a main character is deceased but haunts the present in its rooms and gardens. A sinister specter, her brilliant personality still dominates those who live at Manderley after her death, and casts a shadow over the young woman who replaces her as Max de Winter’s wife and is the narrator of the story.

Du Maurier curiously chooses to leave her narrator nameless. This unusual technique further emphasizes the contrast between Rebecca and the narrator. The narrator is so insignificant that she is not entitled to a name. The deceased Rebecca however was extraordinarily beautiful, supremely capable as a wife and hostess, and apparently perfect in every way. A mere mortal second wife cannot compete with a first wife who was a goddess. Max tries to reassure his second wife that she is troubled over nothing and in fact she brings him comfort and happiness. He has never told her that he loves her despite her earnest declarations, but rather pats her absently in the same manner he shows affection to his dog. The eerie house, the isolated location, the silent servants, and an emotionally distant husband create an atmosphere of foreboding.

The tension builds as the narrator becomes clumsier, more miserable and more fearful living in the dark shadow of Rebecca’s ghost. To add to the suspense, the menacing housekeeper Mrs. Danvers lurks around every dark corner hoping to further destroy any hope of happiness for the new mistress of Manderley. As readers we begin to worry that not only is the marriage in peril but the second Mrs. de Winter may be in mortal danger. The tragic ending is classic Du Maurier and does not disappoint the reader even if you have seen the movie. I hate to see four weeks of monster book fest end but “Rebecca” makes the farewell hauntingly memorable.

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