Since writing my first Rebecca blogpost we’ve had a quick dash up to the Aberdeen area, for one night only, but more of that later in the week.
Back to Daphne du Maurier‘s Rebecca, and I had mentioned that the second Mrs de Winter was mistakenly under the impression that her husband’s first marriage had been a success, so she compared herself with his first wife, always coming up wanting and knocking her own confidence.
Unknown to her Rebecca was in fact one of those women who should really have had a rubber stamp across her forehead DANGEROUS TO MANKIND because in reality she was a manipulative bitch who was only interested in herself and obtaining everything she wanted, whether it was her sister-in-law’s husband, estate workers or just random men she had met on her frequent sojourns in London. Which brings me to my thoughts on Maxim himself and my reaction to his actions.
A while ago I read a very dismissive comment on another blog about Maxim, describing him as ‘that murderer’ which I suppose he was, but for me it wasn’t that black and white because Maxim was the soul of patience and endurance where Rebecca was concerned. He had put up with so much outrageous behaviour over the years, and I would definitely have cracked up long before he did. Of course, Rebecca manipulated him to the end, telling him that she was pregnant and obviously the child was not his, his precious Manderley would be passed on to some nameless man’s child and Maxim would just have to grin and bear it.
Within five days of their marriage Rebecca had told Maxim things about herself which he could never repeat to a living soul. She frightened him and as they were up on a high precipice in the hills above Monte Carlo at the time, he was tempted to do her in then but he didn’t, too much of a gentleman maybe, or too shocked at the time.
Had I been in Maxim’s situation once I had got over the shock I would have taken Rebecca up to a very high cliff, to see the beautiful view of course – and firmly nudged her over the edge and I would have regarded it as a blessed relief because she was a poisonous menace to society, but then there would have been no story at all.
But you haven’t mentioned Mrs Danvers – I hear you say. Well I see her as a sort of reflection of Rebecca, her representative on earth, each of them manipulative, wicked and arrogant, safely at the top of their respective societies. Danvers is a horror.
I suppose every reader has their own image of Manderley impressed on their mind, I have to say that although I adore books which feature houses in the storyline I was never drawn to Manderley as a house of dreams. It was more like a place of nightmares, certainly not a home for the second Mrs de Winter and probably the sort of place which would only be loved by those brought up in it. But Daphne du Maurier was obsessed with Menabilly in Cornwall, which was the name of the house which she based Manderley on. On her first visit to the house the blood red rhododendrons which grew around it were in bloom, she well and truly wrote them into Rebecca. Years after she had first seen the house, and also years after she had written Rebecca, she did manage to rent Menabilly on a long lease of 25 years, it could never be sold as it was entailed and had to be handed on to the next in line for it. Interestingly, du Maurier’s children were not nearly so enthralled with the house. They were interviewed on TV some years ago and I think they felt that Menabilly was more important to their mother than they were. They just remembered how cold and uncomfortable it was.
Rebecca is of course du Maurier’s updated Jane Eyre. She was a bit of a Bronte fan I believe. The main elements are there, a grand house, wealth, a duped husband, a mousey young woman who eventually marries the wealthy homeowner and a devastating fire. However that didn’t stop a Brazilian author Carolina Nabuco from acccusing Daphne of plagiarising her book The Successor which was published in 1934.
As usual, I thoroughly enjoyed my re-read of Rebecca and I expect I’ll be reading it yet again in the future. It’s a toss up between Rebecca and To Kill a Mockingbird as to which of them is my favourite book.
You can read what I thought about The Rebecca Notebook when I read it in 2012 here.
Below is a photo of Daphne and her family with Menabilly/Manderley in the background.