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I don't review books I don't like!
*****= An all-time favorite
by Daphne du Maurier
Reviewed February 11, 2002.
A Sonderbooks' Best Book of 2002 (#3, Fiction Rereads)
Many different editions are available. Originally written in 1938. 357 pages.
This book is a masterpiece! This is only the second time I’ve read it, and this time it was a delight to watch the author at work, setting the mood and setting up surprises to come.
I can’t say much about the plot, as I don’t want to give anything away. I will only say that I first read Rebecca as part of The Treasury of Great Mysteries, edited by Howard Haycraft. There does end up being a mystery, but it doesn’t start out that way. It begins as a simple story of the second Mrs. de Winter. She tells how she met, fell in love with, and married the mysterious, charming, and considerably older Maxim de Winter.
Does every young, new wife feel insecure? I first read this book when I was newly married. I had insecurities and fears that my husband would discover I wasn’t the capable, assured woman I pretended to be, that he’d realize I wasn’t capable of running a household.
If I was insecure, imagine what it was like for Mrs. de Winter. Her husband’s first wife was Rebecca, whom everyone seemed to acknowledge was the Perfect Wife. And Mrs. de Winter must live with her husband at Manderley, a stately home that Rebecca has turned into a Showplace of England. Not only that, but she must manage an army of servants, including the capable housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, who was devoted to Rebecca. A lovely bit of symbolism is that we are never told our narrator’s first name. She is only a shadow when compared with Rebecca.
Oh, how I feel for poor Mrs. de Winter! She is a delightful narrator, prone to daydreaming. Over and over again, she imagines little scenes in great detail, involving the people around her. Of course, imagining what it must have been like for her husband and Rebecca only adds to her insecurity. These flights of imagination are managed delightfully and beautifully by the author.
The fact that Howard Haycraft called Rebecca one of the great mysteries of all time and that Alfred Hitchcock made it into a movie suggests that this isn’t a book only for women. A truly great book. Definitely worth tracking down a copy.
Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund. All