07 July, 2010

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

I had forgotten how much like a whirlpool this book can be. This is my third time through it; the first time was in print and the other two in audiobook, and I have loved it more every time.

Our heroine is a young, mousy girl who is being trained as a companion for world-jaunting women of a Certain Age and Status. Then Maximillian de Winter appears in Monte Carlo, and a convenient bout of flu leaves Our Girl on her own. De Winter’s first wife, the titular character Rebecca, has recently died, and all the world knows he is completely wrecked about it. But life must go on, and de Winter forms at least a passing fancy for Our Girl, sweeping her away from the vulgar Mrs. Van Hopper and into the role of the Lady of Manderly, de Winter’s ancestral home.

But Manderly is not all it seems, my precioussesssss. The servants laugh at our Fresh Young Heroine, who is a bit of a Country Bumpkin and has NO idea how to run a great house. The housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, might be one of the most insidious villains in the history of novels, and is absolutely the template on which the despicable Nurse Ratchett was founded. She’s just that creepy.

To say more about the plot would begin to tell the story (plot and story being two distinctly different things, pets), and if you have not read this book I refuse to spoil it for you. Suffice to say that it’s kind of like Space Mountain; even my jaded, too-many-movies 21st century self is still surprised by the dark and twisty turnings. The tidbit of fact that du Maurier was fascinated by Brontë’s Jane Eyre (both book and heroine) makes Rebecca that much better - it is at times in direct contrast to the paragon of Jane, at times meshes seamlessly, and sometimes - dare I say - surpasses the original.

Three things I adore about this book:
1. The heroine is never named. She is only ever called “Mrs. de Winter” after her marriage to Maxim.
2. The title is, therefore, not about the person telling the story, but about the first Mrs. de Winter: Rebecca.
3. The descriptions of conversations, places, and people are brilliant, and despite remaining nameless, the New Mrs. de Winter is fully realized as a thinking, interesting person.

10 of 11 yellows, because it’s not as much of a rush the third time around as it was before I knew the Secret.

P.S. - For those of you who like Jasper Fforde as much as I do (is that even possible?), he is also a big fan of Rebecca. Yay!