Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Book Review: "Rebecca" by Daphne du Maurier (All Lady July)
I remembered watching this movie with my Mom a long time ago. It's a Hitchcock, so it's fabulous. I remember thinking that the movie was amazing but I could only remember bits and snatches of the plot and that there was a big twist ending. Well then here comes All Lady July and a great opportunity to revisit the story and to see if it is as awesome of a book as it was a movie. Oh was it ever.
Our narrator (she never tells her name) is a poor 21 year old who has the uneviable job of being a lady's traveling companion. She has no family and not much for education so this job enables her to go places and see things but also have to wait hand on foot on an insufferable older woman. At the hotel they are staying at in Monte Carlo our narrator meets the mysterious Mr de Winter. She knows him by reputation, as does almost everyone, as the owner of Manderley, a grand English estate that sits right on the sea. She spends more and more time with him (as her lady companion is bed ridden for a little while and therefore has no need of her). They spend the days in his car motoring in the countryside and picnicking. She is drawn to him, but he's a little bit older (about 39) and has a sad/mysterious past that she is to afraid to ask him about. He likes her even though she is shy and awkward and really nothing like the other women that he knows, with noble legacies and rich families.
Disaster strikes when suddenly she and her old lady companion are supposed to go to New York very suddenly. She barely has time to find Max and tell him what happened. She is desperate to not go to New York, and he doesn't want her to go. So he proposes. And after a few weeks of knowing each other they are married, vacation for a time in Italy and then start making their way back to England. Our narrator is nervous; she knows Manderley is an icon in the area and she has no experience running a household of that magnitude. Max tries to put her at rest by explaining that there is a whole fleet of servants and the place run the place.
The new Mrs de Winter is confronted almost immediately with the ghost of the first Mrs de Winter, Rebecca. Not the actual ghost (like chains and eyes cut out of sheets and whatever) but the influence that she has even though she's dead. All the new Mrs de Winter hears about his how lovely/wonderful/friendly/gracious/social Rebecca was and she feels cowered by the pressure to be like this woman.Rebecca had died in a boating accident the year before and it was all very sudden an unexpected and horrible and it seems like everyone is still reeling from it, especially Mrs Danvers. Mrs Danvers is the head of all of the servants and she rules the rest of the staff with an iron fist. Mrs Danvers was devoted to Rebecca and she is disdainful towards the new Mrs de Winter and seems to always be criticizing her even if she doesn't say so in words.Its mostly just deep sighs and glaring.
The de Winters decide to throw their annual costume ball as a kind of coming out party for the new Mrs de Winter and thats pretty much when the wagon's wheels wall off, through no fault of the new Mrs de Winter and then all the crazy twists and turns happen....When I got to the big twist at the end I was like "I can't believe I forgot that, it was so good!"
It's scary and surprising and keeps you guessing and tense and all kinds of things that make a book wonderful. I give it a 4 out of 5. A lot of people give this book flack because they think it's too close to Jane Eyre. I think Jane Eyre is wonderful too. Do we not have enough shelf on our collective world literary bookshelf that we can't have multiple books about rambling English estates and mysterious men? Sign me up for that!