Well we’re almost at the end of October again, how fast has this year gone in?! Anyway I did mention that I would be re-reading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier again and writing about my thoughts on it around now. I re-read Jamaica Inn a wee while ago and it was interesting to compare the two, Rebecca is a much better book I think, the writing is smoother making it an easier read.
I’ve no idea how many times I’ve read Rebecca over the years, it has been one of my favourites since I first read it, probably when I was about 12 or 13. But it must be about 10 years since I have read it and I was interested to see what I felt about it now – ahem – over 40 years since I first read it.
I’m going to assume that most people will have read the book or at least seen a film of it and so already know the story, so I’m just going to chat about some of the problems that people sometimes have with it nowadays.
I know that some people have had a problem with the book in recent times because they have so little sympathy with the narrator. I doubt if this was ever a problem when the book was first published way back in 1938. Of course although the narrator eventually becomes the second Mrs de Winter that’s as close as we get to her name. Du Maurier teases us with hints about her name: “You have a very lovely and unusual name.” says Maxim de Winter to the young companion of the ghastly Mrs Van Hopper, but that’s as much as we know about her name.
She’s 21 years old, and that was a surprise to me because in my mind she was always younger, in fact when I was 12 or 13 I really identified with her as I know I would have behaved in a very similar way to her. Crippled with shyness and lacking in confidence exacerbated by being thrown into the company of very rich people, the narrator is an orphan with no family or friends to support her so it would have been unusual if she had been a brash confident type, there was just too much against her at a time when young people were expected to know their place in society, unless they were rich. So I don’t have a problem with the meekness and nerves which she is dogged by.
I suspect that the second wives of most widowers can’t help feeling that their husband is constantly comparing them with their first wife, and when that first wife is a Rebecca type, apparently adored by everyone, it would be soul destroying for all but the most confident of women. So the second Mrs de Winter is a completely believeable and likeable character for me.
She’s under the impression that she’s a disappointment as a wife to Maxim but the reader knows differently as the clues are there. Mrs de W has just missed them. “I wish I was a woman of about thirty-six dressed in black satin with a string of pearls.” she says. But Maxim wouldn’t have been interested in her if she had been dressed like that, because that was Rebecca’s style.
Famously the book begins: Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.
It was a real house which inspired the beginning of the book, but I’ll talk about that in my next blogpost. If you’ve read Rebecca recently or even ages ago and want to link to a post on the book, leave a link in the comments or just leave a comment.