Rebecca, a review by Tanya

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Rebecca Nov 7  2 stars
By Daphne du Maurier

538 pages
Published (original August 1938) December 2013 by Little, Brown and Company

Caution – Spoiler Alert! I WILL say things you will not want to see if you haven’t already read this book.

‘Gothic’ genre books sound so fantastic to me.  Moody, dark, brooding – yeah, I have times where I’m all about being lost in that kind of book for a while. Recently though, the titles I’ve read in this genre have left me feeling flat.  Mexican Gothic was such a let-down for me.  I had hoped that Rebecca would revive my interest in this genre.

The descriptions of Manderley were beautifully written.  I could picture it perfectly in my mind and felt as though it were a place I could go visit tomorrow, if I choose to.  I loved the Happy Valley, the smell of the blooming gardens, the cottage down by the sea.  All of it so lovely and mysterious!  The house itself was written as both beautiful and creepy.  Loved that as well.

The time spent in the first few chapters talking about how the main character spent her time as a lady’s maid was soooo boring to me.  It almost made me DNF!  I knew there was a mystery to be solved though and so I kept reading.

Once they reached the house, the creepiness seeped into the story.  It was what I was looking forward to but unfortunately, it was on such a small scale that it made me keep reading faster, hoping for more.  It just never came.

The story itself was decent, the mystery was interesting.  And the writing style was very beautiful.  This was a long book with long, full paragraphs. Not much time spent on conversations where you can cruise through pages pretty quickly.  In Rebecca, each page is FULL of long paragraphs.  It’s definitely some work

The writing style is not where my problems lie. There are 3 main issues I have with this book.

First of all, the main character never has a name!  No name!  A woman with no name!  Only referenced as her husband’s name.  I almost forgot that this was written in the 1930’s and so I have to breathe and remember that times were different back then.  But throughout the story it was Rebecca this and Rebecca that so clearly, women did have a place and worth, even if it was not equal to a man.  There were obviously ulterior motives for leaving her nameless, perhaps as a replacement Rebecca she didn’t need a name (but that doesn’t track with the rest of the story) or based on her lowly station she would have been viewed as a servant (lady’s maid to wife #2). I’m not sure. But truly, this doesn’t bother anyone? I’ve not seen anyone mention this in their reviews.

Secondly, Maxim proposes to her, marries her, shows her a grand time on their honeymoon, brings her back to his home and barely speaks to her, doesn’t spend time with her, doesn’t show her the house or how it’s run, doesn’t explain anything about his past, doesn’t care that his new wife feels intimidated, afraid and left out.  And as the reader we are supposed to find that attractive? And root for the no-name character’s strong feelings of love towards him, when clearly she is a young, impressionable woman who is being taken advantage of?  Really? Is that what we are calling romantic? Still? In 2020?

And then we find out that he killed Rebecca.  Killed her! Shot her dead! In a jealous rage!  Couldn’t divorce her, oh no. She would cause too many problems. It would ruin his reputation. Murder is definitely the answer, that’s how we clean up all our problems, right?  And the story was written in such a way that as the reader you are rooting for him not to be found out.  That way the murderer and his nameless wife could go on living their rich lives in their fancy house and not be bothered with the laws of the land that hold them accountable for their actions. Let me add here that even though Rebecca was a horrible person, as a woman, her life/death just simply didn’t matter.  She was in his way and so he dealt with her.

Again, it was written in the 1930’s and so I know that logically, I need to be wearing a different hat when I read this.  And I tried, I really did.  When thinking about it from that perspective I would probably rate this as a 3 or 3.5 stars as there was still a lot of atmospheric creepiness left out. 

But reading it from a woman’s perspective in 2020 – Ugh. I just could not get past these big red flags. 2 stars and I’m still confused why it’s still so highly regarded and rated by readers today.




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