Monday, March 10, 2014

Rebecca - Book review

 "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again... I came upon it suddenly; the approach masked by the unnatural growth of a vast shrub that spread in all directions... There was Manderley, our Manderley, secretive and silent as it had always been, the gray stone shining in the moonlight of my dream, the mullioned windows reflecting the green lawns and terrace. Time could not wreck the perfect symmetry of those walls, nor the site itself, a jewel in the hollow of a hand." 
The opening lines of Rebecca.

If you've never read Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, can I suggest it as a fantastic read, guaranteed to blow you out of the water?

The story is an unusual one, although in some ways it’s a simple remake of the Cinderella story at the start. But if you take the Cinderella story through, into its next phase, how do you think a girl who had acted as a servant all her life might behave when she marries a prince and takes over the running of the castle? Do you think that will go smoothly for her, or will there be bumps and obstacles along her way?

The end of the Cinderella story is where Rebecca starts. Our protagonist is an orphan, of so little consequence that she doesn't even have a name in the book. She must make a living for herself in the world, so she acts as companion to one Mrs Van Hopper, a selfish nasty woman who treats our heroine like a slave girl. We meet the unlikely pair in Monte Carlo, where Mrs Van Hopper is having a holiday. Monte, they find is quite dead, although Mrs. Van Hopper spots Maximilian De Winter, a famous widower grieving the loss of his wife.

When Mrs Van Hopper becomes ill, our protagonist is taken driving by Max (as he has now asked her to call him) or the course of the week, seeing the couple fall in love. When Max does propose it is almost on the spur of the moment, because Mrs Van Hopper wants to leave Monte and her companion must go with her. The departure is changed and Mrs Van Hopper goes off alone, while the new Mrs De Winter and Max marry in Monte and go on a brief happy honeymoon.

However everything changes when they go to Manderley, his stately family home. The new Mrs De Winter is expected to run a household that the very young woman has no qualification for, and is in fact nervous and afraid of everything. Worse than this, is the specter of the first wife, whom Mrs De Winter believes her husband loved to distraction (as she is repeatedly told by everyone) hovers over this new world, her monograms, her clothing, her managerial style is in everything and the new Mrs De Winter can’t compete with the stylish, supremely confident Rebecca even though she’s dead.

As if all of this isn't enough, the house keeper, Mrs Danvers, was Rebecca's personal maid and a woman who arrived with Rebecca when she married Max. In the book she is matronly, protective of the memory of Rebecca who was like a child to her.

One of the few changes Hitchcock made to the script was to make Mrs Danvers younger and more mysterious, abandoning the maternal overtones for lesbian ones, the implication being there was some sort of affair between she and Rebecca. This is more in line with who Daphne Du Maurier was, a bi-sexual woman forced to keep her sexuality under wraps. Hitchcock's clever changes make Mrs Danvers that much more mysterious and terrifying as she seeks to further undermine the confidence of the new Mrs De Winter.

As if all this suspense and thrill seeking isn't enough, Rebecca contains one of the greatest Hollywood twists at the end of the novel, one of those stunning story moments when revelation upon revelation round out the book and casts a new light on the plot points. Rebecca is a thrillingly suspenseful novel, one that surely only a master of suspense could appropriately translate into film.

If you have’t read Rebecca, you simply must get your hands on a copy. It's one of those books that it for everyone, it’s a romance, a thriller, a mystery and against it all is some very creepy scenes that turn into a horror book at the end. It is timeless  and gripping. You won’t be able to put it down.

Please note - These images have been collected from various websites to show the novel's cover changes through the years, with an intention to encourage people to read the novel. If you see an image here that you believe has been inappropriately used for whatever reason, please feel free to contact the author to have the image removed. 

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