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Alena

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3.26  ·  Rating details ·  1,208 ratings  ·  268 reviews
In an inspired restaging of Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca, a young curator finds herself haunted by the legacy of her predecessor.
At the Venice Biennale, an aspiring assistant curator from the Midwest meets Bernard Augustin, the wealthy, enigmatic founder of the Nauk, a cutting-edge art museum on Cape Cod. It’s been two years since the tragic death of the Nauk’s chie
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Hardcover, 320 pages
Published January 23rd 2014 by Riverhead Books (first published January 1st 2014)
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Lisa Mitchell I like his complexity. He was not your stereotypical gay man, but more than this, I could feel his deep love for and fascination with Alena. She was…moreI like his complexity. He was not your stereotypical gay man, but more than this, I could feel his deep love for and fascination with Alena. She was wildly complex and she fed into his own yearnings for living on the edge. He lived vicariously through her, even though he balked at her antics.(less)

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Jeffrey Keeten
Nov 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
”Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again".

”Last night I dreamed of Nauquasset again.”


If you feel the electricity of a déjà vu moment from reading those lines, it is because you have just heard an echo that has been sent down the cavernous halls of a deep passage, and the words, in the course of travelling back to you, have been elongated into something slightly different.

This book was written as a homage to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, a book considered by many to be a masterpiece. Th
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Barbara
Mar 02, 2017 rated it liked it

This book, an homage to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, follows an arc that's very similar to the original story.

At the beginning of "Alena" the unnamed narrator, a young woman working as a curatorial assistant at the Midwestern Museum of Art, is attending the Venice Biennale (contemporary art show) with her demanding employer. The narrator catches the eye of a refined, fiftyish, gay gentleman named Bernard Augustin, who runs a private museum called Nauquasset (The Nauk) on the Cape Cod coast.

Ber
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Madeline
"Last night I dreamt of Nauquasset again."

Wait, what?

To be completely fair to Rachel Pastan, I don't know how else she was supposed to open a novel that's an updated version/homage/restaging of Daphne du Maurier's (masterpiece) Rebecca. I mean, you have to do the line, right?

But "Manderley" is vaguely poetic, mysterious, slightly sinister, and rolls easily off the tongue. "Nauquasset" sounds kind of like the noise you make when hocking a particularly stubborn loogie, and that comparison pretty
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Zoeytron
Dec 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I say "Brava!" to the author for tackling a revisitation to the beloved classic Rebecca. Parallels are there, to be sure, but Rachel Pastan has certainly made this story her own. Bursting with color, the prose is lovely. Although the sense of dread is still there, it is not quite as imposing.

The author borrows freely from the animal kingdom in her characterizations. 'A blonde oppossum-nosed woman', 'a man with a bright terrier face', an artist 'with a scorpion nature', 'a tall red headed ostrich
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Diane S ☔
Jul 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Well I thought I would either love or hate this book, no middle ground, and I was wrong. I usually dislike current books made from classic and dislike when publishers trying to push a book will make those comparisons. In this case though, it is definitely the author who herself made the comparison with ""Last night I dreamed of Nauquasset again." No other way to take that. Rebecca it is.

Modern day, Cape Cod, Alena a curator at a private, small museum disappears. No one seems to know what happene
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B the BookAddict
Nov 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: Jeffrey Keeten

In an inspired restaging of Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca, a young curator finds herself haunted by the legacy of her predecessor.

Rachel Pastan invokes an exquisite, enigmatic storyline along with characters so surely reminiscent of those remembered by all lovers of the Du Maurier original. I felt a literary homecoming when I read the first line:

"Last night I dreamed of Nauquasset again"

I shivered in memory of Mrs Danvers as the author introduces Agnes, felt the naivety of the nameless n
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switterbug (Betsey)
Feb 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
ALENA is a reinvention or homage to du Maurier’s REBECCA, which was a restaging of Charlotte Brontë’s JANE EYRE. However, I never read REBECCA. I think that it was the reason I enjoyed ALENA more than readers who hold REBECCA in such high esteem. But, how many readers of JANE EYRE were negatively critical of REBECCA, if they read Brontë’s book first? I mention these considerations, as it may be a factor in a reader’s potential engagement with ALENA.

The Midwestern narrator, a young and naïve aspi
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Bonnie Brody
Mar 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Alena is a novel about the art world and the people who inhabit it. It is said to be an homage to du Maurier's Rebecca. However, not having read Rebecca in no way took anything away from my love of this novel. This novel stands on its own and I loved it.

The novel gets its name from the first curator of The Nauk, a private museum on the Cape in Massachusetts. For fifteen years, Alena held this position and gained a reputation of being bigger than life. She was headstrong, other-worldly, manipulat
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Jill
Feb 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Reimaging the well-known and much loved classic Rebecca is a dicey proposition, especially when the author sets up expectations from the very first line: “Last night I dreamed of Nauquasset again.” The question is: does she succeed?

The answer is yes. And no. Rachel Pastan’s debut book, Alena, is actually less of a reimaging and more of a recasting of the du Maurier’s masterpiece. Think of Shakespeare production updates: Henry V with flak jackets and video screens, for example. In this case, the
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Roger Brunyate
May 31, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: art, mysteries-kinda
A Pointless Tribute

"Last night I dreamed of Nauquasset again." With her first sentence, Rachel Pastan pins her colors to the mast: this novel will be a tribute to Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, starting with this echo of her famous opening: "Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again." It doesn't quite have the ring, does it? Reading the next four or five pages of lush prose, I began to feel slightly nauseous. I put it down to a sense of déjà vu, the half-remembered echoes of du Maurier's Corn
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Dorothy
"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again" is the sentence with which Daphne du Maurier began her iconic novel Rebecca. For me, that is one of the three most memorable beginnings of all the books I have ever read. The other two?

"Call me Ishmael." (Moby Dick)

And, of course, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." (The Hobbit)

But those two are very different kinds of novels, and the beginning of Rebecca, I think, is the most memorable for me.

When I was a teenager, I was under the spel
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Julie
Apr 13, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: mystery
I think I would have been happier if I had tossed this book aside at some point. It was, by turns, frustrating and annoying. Neither of these is (to my mind) a good thing in a book.

It is, as everyone notes, a retelling of Rebecca. I've read that fairly recently and so had it in mind. I think the new setting here is quite problematic. First off, it's modern--or close to it. (The time frame is a little unclear--like Rebecca the narrator is looking back at events in the past. I think the present--
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Lauren
Nov 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: artandartists
Very engaging readable novel about an inexperienced curator at a contemporary art museum on Cape Cod. It's not totally dependent on your knowing Rebecca, although since I practically have that book memorized, it certainly added to the entertainment value.

Pastan writes beautifully about art, contemporary art in particular. It's a pleasure to read a novel where modern art isn't the butt of a joke.
Allison
Sep 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
So...this book. Where to begin, where to begin...

I have to be upfront; I love Du Maurier's Rebecca. As in, it's on my top ten books of all time kind of love Rebecca. So I had tempered expectations going into the book; there's no way I was going to love it at much as Rebecca.

And, well...I didn't.

Not because it's worthless though, in it's own way it's a decent read. But honestly, I think it's finest quality is the fact that it's a reload of a classic. And I don't mean that as a bash, I think it wa
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Karyl
Jan 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Last month I read Rebecca, thanks to quite a few of my friends who have read it and loved it. I did enjoy it, especially as it's a very well-written gothic romance of the modern age. So when I saw this book advertised in a reader's catalog as an update to Rebecca, I had to check it out and see how it measured up.

Let me encourage you to read Rebecca first. I do believe this book stands beautifully on its own, but if one reads it with the knowledge of its forebear, it becomes even richer. Somehow
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Kay
Apr 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I was well and truly hooked by the time I got to p. 54, when our heroine is rescued from her dragon of a boss and transported to the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua to see Giotto's frescoes. If I could revisit just one place in all of Italy, the Scrovegni would be my choice.

Yes, I know the attraction of this book for most readers is the way it parallels Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca. Our unnamed (of course) heroine is an art major from a small Wisconsin town and was never able to study abroad. Neverthele
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Oswego Public Library District
A chilling psychological gothic novel that is in many ways a contemporary retelling of "Rebecca" by Daphne Du Maurier. A very young and intelligent woman find herself in the unique position of curator of a small, but innovative New England art gallery. Alena, dead or missing, was her predecessor, adored by literally everyone the young curator meets. The curator seems to meet judgment and disapproval at every step, with constant comparison to Alena, but all is not as it seems. Readers will learn ...more
Jeanette
Feb 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
As a hard marker, I am shocked that I gave this book 4 stars and that I actually considered a 5. It is definitely not in my favorite genre, time period, nor are the characters the kind I would meet any present day. It was hard to get into, for me. And I had begun to think, "Oh! Another pretentious art world soap opera."

Well, I am glad I stuck with it. No spoilers. But the attempts to parallel "Rebecca" did not distract in the end. And the intensity of influence dominated by the dead title chara
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Bam
Mar 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Equal parts, fascinating and disappointing. It's hard to remake a beloved gothic mystery classic like REBECCA and do it justice. The clumsy renaming of the original opening line, "Last night I dreamed of Nauquasset again," gives fair warning. At least she didn't use 'the Nauk'!
On the other hand, Rachel Pastan has done such beautiful descriptive writing in this book, that alone makes it worthwhile reading, if you don't mind knowing in advance pretty much what's going to happen with the plot--assu
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Carole Cornell
Mar 05, 2014 rated it liked it
I have such a mixed reaction to this book. On the one hand, I didn't put it down - I read the whole thing last night. So the story did keep me going. However, in the morning, I wasn't sure that it was a good book. Kind of like eating pie for breakfast - it seems like a good idea while you're eating it, but later you realize that it really wasn't good for you. Guess I have pie on my mind.

There are parts that I think are very well-written, nice turn-of-a-phrase sort of things. There also are sente
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Sophie
Mar 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
I enjoyed this book--I can usually appreciate a re-imagined classic if it's done well--but ultimately found it a little disappointing. I liked how the author kept the framework of Rebecca but added a fresh twist to it; I liked that the story is set in the contemporary art world and the amount of insight the author gives into that world; and I appreciated the settings of the story, Venice and Nauquasset, and how the author brought them to life. What I didn't like was the ending. It felt unfinishe ...more
Susan Merrell
Nov 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I thought this reinvention of one of my favorite novels, Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca, was absolutely brilliant. Pastan is a terrific and careful writer, who pays attention to all the most important details with a straightforward, elegant eye. I highly recommend.
Kate Schiffman
Alena by Rachel Pastan was a very clear reboot of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. As someone who always loved that story, I was hooked. The book is centered around the art industry and the a specific museum. The scandal and drama is real. The characters are spicy and vindictive in a way that only could be told in fiction, but also seem to leap from the page. The backdrop is perfect for a reboot of Rebecca.... read more on https://bythecoverreview.com/2017/07/...
Jana Washington
Feb 12, 2014 rated it liked it
I won this book from Goodreads.

I've finished it, but I'm not sure whether I liked it or not. The story was intriguing enough that I wanted to know what happened, but not so interesting that I couldn't put it down. The language was beautiful-artistic-in a way that not much writing is done today.

Alena is a modern retelling of Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier. The storylines are similar, in this retelling, the narrator dreams of being a curator and Bernard, a gay rich man, owns a museum. He invites h
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Cathy
Jan 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
So, I didn't remember the opening line for Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca upon which this is based (probably because I read Rebecca maybe 20 years ago....), which I guess is important to the story since Alena opens with the same line. This could have been a lot better than it was. It wasn't that suspenseful, and the weakness of the main character (unnamed) drove me nuts and the cast of secondary characters just didn't come togther for me. The main character has been appointed the curator at an art ...more
Terri
Nov 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Finding your place in the art world can be a series of missteps, but to follow in the footsteps of a ghost can be a life-altering experience. The main character in Alena does just that--while working for a curator of a Midwestern museum, she meets Bernard Augustin at the Biennale in Venice. After seeing her eye for art, he quickly hires her to be the curator at his museum, the Nauk, on the Cape. The drawback, however, is that is has been closed since the disappearance of his last curator and fri ...more
Julie
Apr 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Another occasion when I wish I could give 3.5 stars. A modern-day retelling of Rebecca, with a nameless narrator who finds herself hired as the curator of a Cape Cod art museum after the previous curator has mysteriously disappeared, presumed drowned. All the parallels are there, from the nasty employer the protagonist is taken away from, to the Mrs. Danvers-like figure at the museum, to the mysterious nature of the epynomous Alena, to the beginning: "last night I dreamed I went again..."

I don't
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Crystal
Jul 04, 2016 rated it liked it
This book was a slow starter for me. The reason I picked it up was because it was advertised as a modern retelling of "Rebecca." I loved Rebecca. This book would not have held my attention at the beginning if it had not been that I was looking for those elements that mirrored the same from one of my all-time favorites. I am glad that I pushed on through because this book did wind up being an enjoyable one and I enjoyed the setting of the modern art world and the brooding characters. There are a ...more
Ann D
Mar 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a modern retelling of the novel Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. There are important deviations - the male "hero" is gay rather than the widowed husband of the dead Rebecca/Alena character. The focus of the setting is a contemporary art museum on Cape Cod, rather than the forbidding estate of Manderley.

Much as I liked Rebecca, I could only remember some of the main outlines, which probably helped my enjoyment of the story. It certainly held my interest, except for a few times in the middle
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lixy
Apr 12, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
Clever idea to re-create DuMaurier's Rebecca, but if one knows the latter, you know exactly where this is going, so it sometimes feels too slavish an imitation. And it's missing the final twist in the story. The writing is adequate but not great;
Audio reader is adequate, she pronounces all the modern artists correctly, but her cadences are a bit odd. On that point, I've noticed many audio book readers suffer from this--and since these things often credit a "director", I often wonder what the he
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“Wasn’t the leap from the farm or the small town to the college campus enough cultural dislocation? Wasn’t college education itself enough of a voyage?” 0 likes
“Without artists, would this heritage have descended to us? Would the words and deeds—the revelation—have survived the arduous journey into the present without the painters, the mosaic workers, the storytellers, the stone carvers, the poets, the singers, the workers in stained glass? Wasn’t it art, I thought—as I watched Bernard open a handsome black wallet and remove a handful of lire—that had been the carrier of the divine? Popes had understood that. The Emperor Constantine. Monks in damp Irish monasteries illuminating the Word.” 0 likes
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