Friday, January 31, 2014

18 of 1001 Books: Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca

I remember seeing Rebecca in my middle school library when I was a kid, but I am now reading the book at 25. I might have never read the book had I not found it on my list. Why Rebecca was in a library for kids 12-14 I don't know. It's a great book, but I certainly don't believe I would have been compelled by it at that age. What's interesting about Maurier is that she also wrote the short story The Birds, which is what the Alfred Hitchcock movie would be based on when he filmed it in the 60's. Rebecca takes a bit to get interesting, but once the book gets rolling it's a riveting suspense.

Summary: The unnamed lead character takes us inside Manderly. She narrates the story, and we are introduced to her as a companion for a wealthy woman, Ms. Van Hooper. When the mysterious Maxim De Winter catchers her eye she begins to fall for him, and marries him, and is able to leave her life as a companion. Once arriving to Manderly she is welcomed by servants like Frank, but others like Ms. Danvers seem to be uninviting to her appearance so soon after the death of Rebecca, Maxim's first wife. The longer she is married to Maxim the more she sees how Rebecca's is still very much alive at Manderly despite having been dead a year.

Characters: The lead character who never has a name is very easy to relate to, probably particularly for women. I think many women feel the pressures and insecurities that she does at the beginning of the story, and I love how the power she is able to grab within herself by the end begins to happen. Maxim is the love interest in the story, and I thought he was very well developed. I feel he was everything Heathcliff tried to be in Wuthering Heights. There are also other little characters like Ms. Danvers and Frank. They are very well established but bring a lot of mystery to the story as well. The character that will most leave anyone reading and intrigued is Rebecca though. She is dead all throughout the novel, but just as the lead character can't get away from neither can the reader. It's a beautiful mystery built around one woman that we get just as interested in figuring out the secrets to as the characters do.

Writing: Maurier's writing is absolutely beautiful. The British accent is prominent, but it doesn't detract from the novel. It makes the dialogue and the narrative flow very well. Maurier also provided one of the most memorable opening lines of a novel in existence today. The book sets up the whole scenery within the first few pages. Instead of getting to know the characters you're going to spend a lot of time setting up the atmosphere of the world that these people live in within Manderly. It's well written, but it did take the story a long time to take hold of me. It was a little over halfway through the book that I began to have a hard time putting it down.

Plot: I can see what there is to love about the book. Compelling characters and a well written book. The story itself though doesn't seem overly spectacular. It revolves around a mystery no stunning than what you might read in another mystery. What is impressive and what garnishes it's popularity readers still has to be the way the characters just jump off the page. Everyone from Rebecca, who we know nothing about, to Favell, who becomes the most unlikable character in recent memory, all have such well defined personalities that you feel what the reader's are feeling within that moment while reacting to the circumstances.

Rebecca is a classic that I'm shocked isn't taught more in schools. I don't even remember any of my literary teachers mentioning this book even though it sat in our libraries. The book is easy to read yet there is a complexity to the writing that also does keep it intelligent. What I did love most about this book was the ease of reading. I didn't feel myself becoming too overwhelmed at any point with wording and syntax as I normally do with classics.

Rating 8.5 of 10.

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