British,  Crime fiction

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

Rebecca has been in my TBR list for a long time now. I never watched the movie, so all I knew about the plot was basically mistaken (my mom told me Rebecca was locked in a room, I think she was thinking about Jane Eyre). However, I enjoyed this book more than I though I would!

Summary from BookDepository:

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again …Working as a lady’s companion, the heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Life begins to look very bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. She accepts, but whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to the ominous and brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding Mrs Danvers …Not since Jane Eyre has a heroine faced such difficulty with the Other Woman. An international bestseller that has never gone out of print, Rebecca is the haunting story of a young girl consumed by love and the struggle to find her identity.

The first chapters were a little bit slow, but as soon as the nameless narrator marries Mr. de Winter, Manderley becomes her rival both as the other and as a stronger character. Her constant doubts and fears seemed a little bit tiring but never boring: I knew she was terrified and almost on the verge of tears every now and then. Also, due to a horrible and luckily quick, teenage personal experience, I could relate to fighting the other and struggling to find my own place.  So, the plot focuses on the narrator’s feelings and struggles which fit the Gothic and typically Romantic atmosphere of Manderley. Her fears are also highlighted by the presence of Mrs. Danvers, the house maid who became the most famous character of the novel thanks to Hitchcock’s adaptation of the novel.

My edition also had a post-word, very academic, by Sally Beauman in which she explains the whole novel. What I liked the most about it, was her highlighting Manderley as male character (Man-derley) but also a typically male setting where the female narrator could not feel at home. Beauman also paid attention to Mr. de Winter and how he embodies the perfect emotional manipulator and even batterer. Even nowadays the world if full of Mr. de Winters socially respected but abussive of their wives at home.

Also, I would like to point out that I felt attracted to the character of Rebecca more than to any other character in the novel. She is far more interesting (and strong, heroic and emotionally disturbed) than the narrator and I wished I got to know her. The perfect hostess, the perfect actress who managed to live the life she wante to, at that time: that of a man.

To sum up, Rebecca was a great book. It took me one week to get through it despite how addicted I was to it… I will only read one more chapter. It also reminded me how much I love Gothic and Romantic novels and psychological thrillers. But what I loved the most was the presence of the other, how haunting memories can become and how hard to fight. Just wonderful.

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