Maia B.'s Reviews > Rebecca

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
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Feb 10, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: best-books-ever, love-it, practically-perfect, favorites, my-best-beloved, broke-my-heart

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. That's one of the most evocative first lines ever, up to and including Once upon a time. It trumps "It is a truth universally acknowledged," and it definitely, that's definitely, beats "There was no possibility of taking a walk that day," an intensely bland opener which comes from a very famous novel, one which somehow people have been reading for a hundred and forty years despite the incorrigible dullness of its first sentence.

So from the very first sentence you know that "Rebecca" is one of those books cheesily called "classics of romantic suspense," "hauntingly romantic," "lyrically beautiful," "disconcertingly well-written," "a masterpiece," et cetera, et cetera. But here's the remarkable thing about these silly remarks.

They're all true.

That's right. "Rebecca" IS a classic of romantic suspense. It IS hauntingly romantic, lyrically beautiful, and disconcertingly well-written. It IS a masterpiece, and it IS deserving of all the sweeping accolades it has acquired in its seventy-odd years. It is written so well that at times I can smell the flowers in the Happy Valley and the salt in the air. And somehow Daphne du Maurier captivates us so fully that when The Truth comes out, we condone it. We let Maxim go. In 90% of the books I've read in which a supposedly sympathetic character commits murder, I condemn them at once, and usually lose all interest in the book. Often I don't even finish it.

But who can condemn Maxim? And who can think that the loss of Rebecca is actually a loss? She's a monster. A witch. An evil, twisted person without a heart. She's like the rhododendrons: scarlet, clinging, impossibly vital and alive, but wilted and dead because she was not good. Maxim's second wife is trapped by Rebecca because of the mark she left, but it's not a mark like a suntan or a feeling; it's a burn.

There has been so much discussion on the namelessness of the narrator that there is nothing else to say about it. Rebecca is brought into the foreground and the narrator fades into the back, undefined, so that Rebecca's presence is even more strong. She's not a ghost, but she haunts Manderley like one. Unfortunately, having a narrator without a name makes things very difficult when you try to discuss her. Normally I just call her Mouse.

Mouse is the direct opposite of Rebecca - she's shy and doesn't take well to strangers. She doesn't quite know how to act and she often says or does the wrong thing in her anxiety to get it right. She isn't very pretty or very plain. She is quiet, not especially fascinating, without very much strength of substance. She is much better than Rebecca - like a daffodil instead of a rhododendron. If she did have a name, it would be something exquisite and lovely, like Ava.

Books like these spoil you for reading books like those other ones. "Rebecca" is haunting, beautiful, and lyrical - when someone tries to convince you that all of these cliches are accurate, believe me: They are.
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