Book Review: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

02 May 2012

There are many intriguing books out there, where the writer obviously knows what she's doing. She pulls you in with every satin-smooth word, and before you know it, you're hooked. Hours, days, even years could pass, and you would not put this book down until you know what is going to happen in the end. Unfortunately, once you've ridden the wave and your feet are safely planted back on the shores of Reality, you reflect back on the story and realize that there was very little real value to it. Sure, it was interesting, but is our time merely to be spent in constant amusement? That seems to err a bit too closely to the concept of "bread and circuses" for my comfort, thank you very much.

You probably already knew that Rebecca was going to be one of these books.

Rebecca
By Daphne du Maurier
*Summary from Goodreads.com

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again".

With these words, the reader is ushered into an isolated gray stone mansion on the windswept Cornish coast, as the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter recalls the chilling events that transpired as she began her new life as the young bride of a husband she barely knew. For in every corner of every room were phantoms of a time dead but not forgotten a past devotedly preserved by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers: a suite immaculate and untouched, clothing laid out and ready to be worn, but not by any of the great house's current occupants. With an eerie presentiment of evil tightening her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter walked in the shadow of her mysterious predecessor, determined to uncover the darkest secrets and shattering truths about Maxim's first wife the late and hauntingly beautiful Rebecca.

My Thoughts: A previously stated, this book drew me in. I couldn't put it down, and it hardly seemed like "required" reading. The characters are chilling and intriguing at the same time, the setting is romantic in a ghostly way, and it's set near the sea . . . what's not to love?

*cough* Right.

I had my suspicions when I first began Rebecca and the sandy beaches of Reality were still very much in sight (translation: my head was still attached properly). But once you are riding the wave called Reverie, it is increasingly difficult to be pulled back down to Reality. And I fell for Miss du Maurier's ploys hook, line, and sinker. 

She's a wonderful writer, I will give her that. In fact, her writing style was one of my favorite parts about the book. It was hardly like reading a book, and more like watching a film. I could see Manderly and the ghostly shores in my head perfectly. The main character got on my nerves a bit — she was a bit clueless at times — but I sympathized with her greatly. The second Mrs. de Winter (no other name than that is given in the entirety of the text) is thrown into a situation about which she knows little, married to a man old enough to be her father, and all the while the servants are wanting nothing more than to send her back to the Land of the Financially Lacking from whence she came. 

But all pity aside. I could not stand the ending. Mrs. de Winter's standards of morality are sadly lacking, and her response to one character admitting he commited murder (it's a gothic novel — you knew there was going to be murder involved somehow) was disappointing at best. I can't say any more than that, for the sake of those who have not read it, but I will say that I was vastly disappointed.

Pros: Daphne du Maurier is a good writer. An incredible writer. Period. The story is told almost poetically, and it captures your attention from the start. The characters are always interesting, and reading Rebecca can never be called a dull experience. This thrilling ride does not stop before the end and continues right down to the last page, which leaves you practically gasping for air, as if suddenly rescued from the depths.

Cons: Besides the aforementioned low morality standards, there are innumberable uses of the words "h--l", "d--n" (sometimes paired with the Lord's name), and other profanities. The characters seem to think nothing of spicing their dialogue with (often unnecessary) cursing. I do not normally mind one or two swear words if it would be unrealistic for a specific antagonist's dialogue to be without it, but in this case, it was just over the top. There is also repeated mention of an adulterous woman who often has men stay the night just for the fun of it.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Suggested for ages 14+.

A Bit O' Reading for the Day:
“I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets may say.” — Rebecca

2 epistles:

  1. Exactly my thoughts, Elizabeth! Daphne du Marier *is* a stunning writer and she *does* know how to capture one, but all the same I was so angry by the end, I had violent ideas of throwing the book across the room. :P

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  2. True, true. I agree with you on all your points. You are very good at reviewing (and YOUR writing is lovely ;). I must say, I would have to give three or four stars, personally, just because I think the writing is so excellent. And the story is very well done.

    So, yeah, I really agree with your review and I'm not sure if I would recommend it to too many people, but I did like it personally.

    Great review, and once again, your writing is so, so lovely. Truly. ;)

    I love reading your stuff. And I think the fact that you're getting a book published is THE GREATEST THING IN THE WORLD!!! And so very inspiring.

    Love,
    Rebekah

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