After reading Daphe Du Maurier’s short stories in Kiss Me Again, Stranger, I knew I wanted to read more of her works. When a copy of Rebecca floated across my desk, I felt it was an omen. I have seen the movie several times but, with my memory, the story is somewhat hazy…as is Du Maurier’s description of Manderley, I might add. And we all know that many times the similarities between the movie and the book are merely co-incidental (take The Birds by Vera Caspary as an example).
So it was with excitement that I finally took Rebecca off my night table and started to read. I’ll admit that it was a slow read in the beginning, describing our narrator meeting Max de Winter in Monte Carlo, falling in love and getting married almost on a whim. It was a wonderful read, but a slow one. As the couple moves to Manderley and Ms. de Winter constantly feels that she is in the shadow of the former Ms. de Winter, Rebecca, the reader understands the thought processes, the insecurities, the nerves as they unwind. Du Maurier lovingly describes Manderley’s grounds and grandeur, knowingly discusses the overgrowth of the rhododendrun as they blot out the sky, tells one of the sound of the sea, one moment calm and calming, the next roaring white caps shrouded in mist.
I previously compared the writing of Du Maurier and Caspary, contemporaries. They both evoke this ethereal feeling as you read their books. I come away visualizing Manderley, the rooms and grounds reflecting the sure hand and tastes of Rebecca, the thoughts of staff and neighbors as they compare the two Ms. de Winters, wondering whether the latter will equal the former.
I was not prepared at all for the course the book takes, I will tell you now. Not even my hazy memory of the movie prepared me (although I did remember certain snippets from the movie as I progressed in the book). I’m a hundred pages from the end and can’t wait to get back to it.
I’m not a fan of current day ‘psychological thrillers’, but this is how I would categorize Rebecca. Nowadays, we’re too graphic, too in your face. I prefer the slow build up, the long winding road (like that of the drive up to Manderley) with twists and turns and divergences. I like the subtleties, the descriptions, the flashbacks, the inner thoughts. I get all that in Rebecca.
I’m not going to tell you how it ends because that would just spoil it. I will tell you that reading Rebecca is worth every minute you spend on it.