**spoiler alert** I don't think this is as good as it's predecessors, Petals on the Wind and Flowers in the Attic but it does have some strengths. Bar...more**spoiler alert** I don't think this is as good as it's predecessors, Petals on the Wind and Flowers in the Attic but it does have some strengths. Bart is a frustrating character and so hateful (for me anyway) that he makes an interesting antagonist. If I was meant to feel any sympathy for him, well, I didn't. Jory was an interesting read as it answers the question of how Julian might have been, had he been raised differently. (I'm still of the opinion Julian probably would never have been a nice, happy-go-lucky person no mater the upbringing however). It will be interesting to see how Lifetime deals with this in their upcoming (?) TV movie. (less)
This book is a trainwreck that one can't look away from. Having seen the recent TV movie that came out first I had expectations for certain events......moreThis book is a trainwreck that one can't look away from. Having seen the recent TV movie that came out first I had expectations for certain events... and was warned by a friend that the book was vastly different.
She wasn't kidding.
So I spent my time reading wishing Cathy would and could make different choices than the ones she made. I felt sorry for Chris because he is such a good person and therefore I want him to get what he wants... Even though I really shouldn't. I was equally repulsed by the way in which all Julian, Bart and Paul (especially you Paul--between you and Anne Rice's Mayfair Witches novels I'm starting to wonder about the gentlemen of the South) went about wooing (or being wooed by) Cathy. Where I want to almost say I feel the books gave the gents a few more "redeemable" qualities, I still don't think any of them were very good people. (Well, Paul, you do still get points for taking them in off the streets and supporting them I guess...) But I still can't help feeling I just read a book on the extreme repercussions of child abuse. (Thanks Mo Hayder, your books have made me hypersensitive to any spot of pedophilia)
The book itself is an easy, quick read. VC Andrews writes very fluidly and while some "I-Novels" can bother me, this one (like the last) did not. I think of this like a modern gothic tale and I'll probably finish reading the series, if only to have something else to discuss with my friend who read these books when she was growing up.(less)
Ugh. Such a struggle to get through which is such a pity as I desperately wanted to like this book (and potentially the series). I think the only thin...moreUgh. Such a struggle to get through which is such a pity as I desperately wanted to like this book (and potentially the series). I think the only thing I liked about this was the fact that it dealt with the World Fair in Paris.
I didn't like a single character. The writing was a little stilted but I will give the authors the benefit of the doubt and therefore lay the blame at the translator's feet. There was no suspense, no mystery. I just felt purely and utterly bored. The only reason why I didn't chuck this back into the library drop-off box (I'm counting my lucky stars I didn't purchase this) is because I'm a.) a compulsive reader and b.) I'm behind on my book challenge due to my busy work schedule.
So, Monsieur Legris, please stick to being a book-seller and leave the detective work to others.(less)
Boy, this was a tough read in terms of subject matter. This author takes a crime scenario (this time pedophilia which is terrible in and of itself) an...moreBoy, this was a tough read in terms of subject matter. This author takes a crime scenario (this time pedophilia which is terrible in and of itself) and then manages to turn the knife and make a bad situation much, much worse. Not only does she write physical cruelty and brutality but also psychological brutality--there is no dressing up or sugar coating the awful situations. The author seems to like getting across that the worst part may not be the murder itself but usually is the terror and suffering inflicted beforehand.
Leading man Jack Caffery is a bit of a hard pill to swallow as well as he has more faults than he does redeeming qualities.... I find I want to like him but then he'll say/do something that has me becoming that irate individual shaking the book. I felt more frustrated with him this time around than I did in the first.
I don't really know that, for me, this is the sort of series I could recommend around as it seems this author is trying to keep this as "realistic" as possible--there are no white knight shining moments, no happy endings. I feel I'm left frowning at the end of the book, feeling uncomfortable and largely unsatisfied with a bitter taste in my mouth.
However, I do want to read the 6th installment which means I'll have to get through the rest of the books. Yikes. Wish me luck.(less)
**spoiler alert** I want to start off by saying there are spoilers everywhere in this review. If you've somehow managed to get through life thus far w...more**spoiler alert** I want to start off by saying there are spoilers everywhere in this review. If you've somehow managed to get through life thus far without reading the book, seeing any of the film/tv renditions and missing out on the musical (which can be found in German, Korean, Japanese and quite a few other languages... there's also a English subtitled version floating around on Youtube).... Read the book! Be taken unawares and live the surprise with the narrator.
Consider yourself duly warned. In a lot of ways I will say it was unfortunate that I read this book long after I had seen the 1940 Hitchcock film a few times over and more recently watched the German musical rendition. When one knows the ending, it's a matter of reading the pages and waiting for various (favorite? Climatic? Signature?) moments to happen. Also, knowing the plot already from the film and the musical, there was no surprise when it turns out that Rebecca was not quite the hallowed saint the narrator initially imagined her to be which I think is perhaps one of the bigger turning points. I simply waited for the penny to drop for the narrator.
I thought this when I recently watched the German musical but the narrator is so obnoxious (though I adored her "Last Night I Dreamt of Manderley" song). I thought to myself maybe I simply don't like the girl playing the lead? So I tried not to carry these feelings with me as I approached the book... only to discover that actually being inside the narrator's head-space was much, much worse. The actress wasn't the problem at all--she'd done a bang up job portraying the character. The narrator is simply annoying.
Still I wanted to be fair so I made up a few more excuses to give her some leeway while I hoped for some development. She's young, inexperienced, "innocent" at the age of 21 in the way we no longer are in the 21st century.
She's also neurotic, obsessive, spineless, needy and so childish to the point of being obnoxious that I wanted to slap her. Throughout the book. I just couldn't feel any sympathy for her. Despite being a companion to a wealthy American it seems she refused to pick up anything about society. Granted Mrs. Van Hopper was a bit of a social parasite so perhaps she wasn't learning from the best but there were a few instances where some skills on offer would've stood her in good stead. The opportunities for conversation, practice at playing bridge, practice at playing tennis and yes, while she dabbled at them all she seemed more preoccupied with clinging to her ignorance. She preferred to hide behind the excuse that she was no good at any of those things so she need not apply herself. One would think that if one were penniless (and not living in a day and age where getting a "job" was acceptable or even possible for someone of her upbringing and experience) she would exert herself a little. It was her livelihood on the line.
Instead she hops at the chance to marry Maxim, having already fallen into a headlong infatuation with him. Here it was the thought of "ball and chain" kept coming to mind. For she depends upon Maxim emotionally, mentally and I think if the situation hadn't barreled down into its inevitable conclusion, Maxim might've begun to find the weight of her need crippling. He is her happiness, her father, brother, son (let's pause and think about how unromantic that is--and those were her words, not mine) but also does acknowledge her obsession when he is away, saying that now the focus of her obsession was gone she didn't have to spend her time wondering if he was happy, what he was thinking about. Not very healthy relationship, if one were to ask me.
Maxim, you sure know how to pick 'em.
Not that Maxim is much of a gem himself (manslaughter would be the kinder conviction but if you bring a gun to the cottage with the intent of "surprising" Rebecca, I think of that as premeditated murder. Just saying.)
The narrator also spends far too much time in her own head-space, dreaming up hypothetical situations. An example would be when Maxim drives up to London, leaving her alone in Manderley and in that space of time she imagines him getting into a car accident, how she would visit him in the hospital, see how frail and weak he looked, to the next "logical" conclusion of attending his funeral with herself leaning on Frank Crawley's arm for support. Next the phone rings and a message is put through--Maxim arrived safely at his London club. If it only happened occasionally it would be one thing, perhaps, but it happened all throughout the book. I could've probably subtracted a 100 pages on her wild hypothetical fantasies alone.
Another unattractive quality was her moments of petty superiority over people she felt beneath her. One would think that if she were suffering agonies over believing others were better than her (ahem, *Rebecca*), that everyone was assessing her like she was a mare taken to market, that she would cast out an olive branch and try to be different herself. Nope. She feels superior over Ben "the idiot" (I really wished the author wouldn't keep writing "his sly squinting idiot eyes" but again that's just how times have changed) and at times over Frank Crawley as well, pitying him and his bachelor state from her lofty position of newlywed.
Let's also talk about her unwillingness to try to break her shell of shyness. I'm shy, it's hard, it's sometimes unpleasant but one does what one has to depending upon the circumstances. What does she do? She runs, she hides behind doors, she hides in shadows in hallways, peeping through the bannister. I expect that behavior out of a recalcitrant 10 year old, maybe I'll stretch to a moody 15 year old but let's remember, she's 21. Her idea of making an attempt is monosyllable answers that do not make a conversation or when she does come alive in conversation it is to ask inappropriate questions about her predecessor, Rebecca. All the while simultaneously claiming she doesn't want to know, she doesn't care to know... yet hungers after more answers. She day dreams her way through these encounters of how Rebecca would've done it better (and I believe she would've because, narrator, you're not even trying).
While I wished for (longed for) the ghost of Rebecca to walk whispering through the halls we quickly find out that Rebecca, namesake of the book and the haunting specter of Rebecca, is all in the narrator's mind (and in Mrs Danvers but she's getting her own paragraph later). It is the narrator's fear of being inadequate, unable to come abreast, let alone be on par with Rebecca that works her up into such a jealousy. It is her own vivid, rampant imagination that gives us these detailed descriptions of what Rebecca would do. (Maybe that should've been an alternative title What Would Rebecca Do? though likely that would be as told by Mrs Danvers and Frith) It is not Rebecca herself haunting the narrator or even the house but what the narrator has built her up to be. There are no photographs of Rebecca, only her things and only the snippets of description about the late Mrs. de Winter as told by the servants, Mrs. Danvers, Beatrice (the sister-in-law), Grandmother (who perhaps had the beginnings of dementia or Alzheimer's) and a handful of men who were in varying degrees in love/awe of the late mistress of Manderley. We have nothing of Rebecca herself beyond examples of her hand-writing in a dedication in a poetry book, her writing on pigeon holes in a desk, a diary of appointments and a brief note penned to her cousin Favell.
Which, after all that grousing about the unnamed narrator, brings me to what I liked about the book. I find I quite like the character of Rebecca. She keeps me thinking, keeps me wondering who she was, really. Her whole character is based entirely on people's opinions which is entirely subjective. We have accounts of her from the obsessed Mrs Danvers who to be fair, was still struggling with her own grief and disbelief and anger at her late mistress's rather sudden demise. We have accounts from cousin Favell who is generally drunk and perhaps not a reliable source. Maxim, being her murderer, of course is the least reliable source and the one from whom we get the most background information from (but of course he would try to justify his actions--murderers almost always have reasons for why they did it, usually trying to make themselves into the victims to draw sympathy).
There was actually an anecdote as described by Mrs Danvers of what she saw of Rebecca and Maxim, revolving him brushing out her hair in the early days of their marriage. They were both laughing and I wonder--did Mrs Danvers make that up in order to drive the narrator even further to jealousy? Or did that actually happen and if so--why would they be play-acting in front of Mrs Danvers? If she was as trusted by Rebecca as everyone said, wouldn't Mrs Danvers have been privy to their agreement? Or was the farce carried on even to that degree? Presuming it did happen--wasn't there a time when he was in love with her? She might've made the match based on the fact that it was the best one to make, perhaps the best on offer. Still I wonder.
Then there's the question of the unspeakable things she did. To mind, they're probably unspeakable to a man who was likely born in the late 1800s... so the late Victorian/Edwardian period and less so to the modern reader. Promiscuity perhaps. Cruelty to animals definitely (or at least, unruly stallions as the dogs seem to keep looking for her which means she wasn't atrocious towards them as they're not cowering with the memory of her). I mean, short of murdering people or perhaps some weird kinks, I can't help wonder what Rebecca did that was so unforgivable? Beyond cuckolding her husband? Clearly he felt it was worth murdering her for the notion that she would try to raise a baby born on the wrong side of the sheets to eventually inherit Manderley. (Granted that wasn't the case at all, but if she had been pregnant, as he believed her to be, that meant he killed the child in cold blood as well)
However, that means I'm growing into the narrator by dallying in hypothetical situations that do not exist. Funny how that wasn't enough to make the narrator bat an eyelash. He tells her he murdered a pregnant woman and all she can exult in is the idea that he never loved Rebecca, only her.
Quite frankly I feel that Mrs Danvers and the Narrator are not so different--only that their obsessions revolve around the opposite members of the previous marriage. Mrs Danvers, loves Rebecca (whether maternally or sexually is I suppose up to the reader's interpretation) and the Narrator loves Maxim de Winter. Maxim, being, well, alive, is the rock she can cling to whereas Mrs Danvers is at sea--Rebecca is gone, no matter how hard she tries to keep the memory of her alive by enshrining her bedroom, by following the groundwork for the running of the household as laid out by her late mistress.
Actually, I think the musical and the movie make Mrs Danvers out to be way more unhinged and obsessed than the book actually portrays her. I was forever expecting a dark shadow of a force of Mrs Danvers memory of Rebecca... and was a little disappointed. It wasn't as great as I expected. The Narrator seems to fear her more for her skeleton-like appearance than for her regard for Rebecca.
Yes, rather than set the house on fire and go down in flames with it (which is perhaps one of the more iconic moments in the film/musical, the moment one is waiting for, even) it's much more satisfying to me to think that Mrs Danvers packed up her things, sent them on to the train station and as a leaving touch set the house on fire. In the book she wasn't simply a woman deranged by grief and love, she was a woman getting her revenge for her mistress--and what an ultimate revenge that was against Maxim, to burn his beloved Manderley to the ground as it was arguably, the one thing he treasured above all else. To my mind, she probably didn't simply take her own things but likely some of Rebecca's things as well (I do believe she would be obsessed enough to at least take the nightgown and slippers or brushes or something as a keepsake). After all, the law was on Maxim's side. There was no justice for Rebecca's cold-blooded murder so its unsurprising to me that Mrs. Danvers took matters into her own hands and what a spectacular finish.
So, despite my waffling paragraphs of semi-ranting regarding all that I disliked... I did enjoy the book. Not the narrator, perhaps, but I love, as I mentioned before, the intrigue of Rebecca. How even as the narrator is an open book, so too is Rebecca open to interpretation. We know she was stunningly beautiful, tall, slim with a cloud of dark hair. She was charismatic and indomitable, she was courageous and fearless (except in the face of disease and old age). Maybe she was cruel too, perhaps without sense of remorse or sympathy, she made fun of those she entertained behind their backs, perhaps to entertain Mrs Danvers (perhaps to assuage Mrs Danvers own sense of jealousy?) We'll never know. This isn't to say I imagine Rebecca a sympathetic character--she might've been a raging bitch. I just don't think that makes her any less fascinating. I'll take her any day over the Narrator, who the author couldn't even be bothered to give a name. Mrs Danvers, I will always feel sorry for. She may be touch crazy-cakes but honestly, isn't that what makes her interesting? Whether we revile her, fear her or celebrate her even as she celebrates Rebecca?
Maybe once I get my hands on the Hitchcock film and some of the TV dramas floating around I'll watch them again and then revisit the book for a second time to see if any of my opinions change.
Perhaps I read too many murder mysteries/follow too many murder cases not to feel a little indignant on Rebecca's behalf. Still, this is a great gothic novel and I can see why it's considered a classic. It's atmospheric to the point of being claustrophobic the deeper one gets into the story. It may be a little slow to start (but that could've been my impatience to get to Manderley) but once the mystery starts unraveling... it's like a snowball down a mountain. If you like gothic mysteries, if you like the indistinct 1920s-1930s England, if you like creepy housekeepers and psychological drama... I would give this book a read.(less)
When I try to think about how I would like to describe this book, the first word that pops into my mind is "cute". I feel like the author had a very i...moreWhen I try to think about how I would like to describe this book, the first word that pops into my mind is "cute". I feel like the author had a very intriguing premise and her take on magic in the early years of the French Revolution and I wish she had taken more time to go deeper. It could be that this is aimed at children and I was hoping for something with the finesse of a historical/fantasy aimed for an older audience... As I was reading this I felt that the potential was there but that she somehow missed going that extra step to make it truly engaging and in-depth. (less)