Rebecca is probably Daphne du Maurier’s most well known and well loved work – it’s the first of hers I’ve read, but it won’t be the last. I had heard of her ability in creating atmosphere especially – the gothic tone to her stories, and my expectations for atmosphere was met. What I didn’t know before was how utterly beautiful her prose is, obviously this is rather a subjective thing but for me her writing really had the melody of poetry, sentence by sentence. It was also one of the reasons my reading pace was rather slow at first, because I kept reading the book from “the outside” – being very aware of the words chosen to convey the story, before I was able to “disappear” as it were, and become part of the story. Any way you look at this novel, it’s wonderful – it’s clearly well written, it’s very atmospheric and beautiful and in that sense has quality to it, but it’s also rather ‘fun’ to read.
The novel follows a young woman who has joined a lady she works for, Mrs van Hoper, to Monte Carlo – as sort of an assistant I suppose. There she meets Max de Winter – a man who has lost his wife about a year prior to death and seems yet to be in mourning. The two of them become found of each other, leading to a marriage after an acquaintance of only a couple of weeks, and after some time spent on their honeymoon, Mr de Winter brings his new wife home to Manderely. And therein starts the trouble, first creeping up on you, eventually turning to quite the thrilling chase in more than one way.
When it comes to the atmosphere of the novel, Manderley is key. Of course, even the setting and atmosphere before the couple actually gets there shows promise but it’s the creation of Manderely as a place and the air of the place, the fragrance of the rose garden and the ocean, of the slightly suffocating feeling of the house – the places were she has been and is no longer. It’s clear quite early on that the place is haunted, not in a literal sense but still with consequences on all of the people involved in the estate. The new Mrs de Winter’s feeling within the house, with the staff of the estate, feeling out of place and like she is filling up someone else’s place, is so strongly described and evoked that I sometimes found this book claustrophobic. This is especially the case early on in their marriage when Mrs de Winter and Mr de Winter isn’t communicating much, and she as a newly moved in and with a personality that is easily influenced and swayed, feels trapped but can do, will do, nothing to change anything. It’s so uncomfortable to read at times, and yet the reason for it is really the strength of Maurier’s writing, and even though Mrs de Winter’s actions are at times incredibly frustrating to read – I could also sympathise with much of her feelings of being out of place and how one acts in such places, how to deal with that discomfort.
This is such a thrilling story too, because of the sense of mystery – it’s not hard to see there will be twists and turns coming right from the start of the book, and some of the twists are not entirely surprising either – but the best part is that even though they are not always surprising, the way to them are such fun to read. It really is like walking straight into disaster, and at one and the same time it’s a feeling of foreboding, dread, and thrill that keeps one moving forward to that coming disaster.
I feel like often, when reading suspensful books, one just wants to get to the “good parts” but in this book – the process, the journey to that final destination Are the good parts. Because most of the story is actually told in a very slowed down pace, without hinting too much in advance, much of the book it’s not that easy to see where the story is going to go. As I said earlier it’s not that difficult to see something bad will happen, but what that bad thing is is less clear. Or how it will happen. Because it’s actually rather “methodical”, I think this will be such a fun rereading experience – returning to this book actually knowing what will happen. I feel like, again, often with mysteries this is just the problem – when you know what’s going to happen they lose all of their spark. But not so with Maurier’s writing. I can’t wait to reread this, and seeing what else becomes visible with the knowledge of the end.
So dramatic, so much fun! I am looking forward to reading more of Maurier’s work in the future.
Until next time, happy reading!