Scott Smithson's Reviews > Rebecca

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
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's review
Jul 18, 2011

really liked it
Read from July 18 to 22, 2011

A few weeks ago, when I had decided that I had read everything from a certain list that I was going to read, ‘Rebecca’ was one I had decided to skip. I had seen (and loved) the movie. But a friend of mine insisted that I read ‘Rebecca’. So I bought it, and it had been on the ponderous pile of books for a month or so.

I talk in my sleep. It’s true. And, sometimes I remember what I say. Last weekend I started another book, one by Saul Bellow. I don’t remember any details about it, except that there were no details to remember. The night after I started it, I woke up in a start, dreaming about ‘Rebecca’ and said out loud ‘Last Night I Dreamt I Went to Manderley Again’. I knew it was time.

‘Rebecca’ takes the reader on a lovely, florid (but not too florid) ride. It’s a gothic novel with a Jane Austen twist. The heroine isn’t a bit Fanny Price combined with Jane Eyre. She’s not actually named, but I think Carol Burnett had it right and I shall call her ‘Phoebe’. It’s over-the-top sometimes but it IS a gothic novel. If you can picture it all done by Hitchcock, it’s just the right book.

I don’t regret having seen the movie first. Even though I knew the story, the language is perfect. ‘Phoebe’ transforms herself into more than just a simpering, helpless Alice in Wonderland. Granted, I still confounds my post modern sensibility to read women describing their subsidiary place next to a man, but DuMaurier really does show Max as weak at times, bitter and, well, cuckolded.
Twenty more years and ‘Rebecca’ would have been the hero of the story, with the climax being Max trying to kill her desire to be free by murdering her and casting her off in a boat. Her cancer possesses his soul and he would have been the one to jump off into the fog. ‘Phoebe’ would have been just a picture on the wall of a past-ideal woman in white.

Instead we get ‘Rebecca’ who is more deliciously evil and ‘Phoebe’ who is more deliciously feminine, but becoming strong. And, frankly, it’s much more interesting this way.
YOU should come to Manderley too.

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