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Rebecca - Title #6

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message 1: by Chris (new)

Chris Jones | 75 comments Mod
What to say about Rebecca? It was a chameleon of a novel for me. The central characters, the setting and the contorted human relationships certainly did evoke memories of classic novels. There are obvious comparisons with Jane Eyre and also Wuthering Heights, but I’d be joining a very long line of people making that observation. I liked that it did though.

At times the unnamed heroine drove me crazy with her pliability and yet I found her fascinating and sympathetic (and pathetic).

Maxim is portrayed through so many eyes as being a good and generous man. Maybe he was, at that, and it was Rebecca’s fault that he changed … but he did commit a murder (or even a double one) and then lied about it.
Rebecca emerges as a truly amoral and selfish creature, and yet she is the most talented and, an in a curious way, the most easy to admire. You get the sense that Du Maurier had time for Rebecca.

There are descriptive passages that dwell on the trivialities of life and ‘good form’, that should seem dull, and yet they so beautifully capture that world that the dullness entrances.

Why does the heroine bear no name and her protagonist get the novel named after her?

At times the novel seemed to drift along and then at others it dragged me along at breakneck pace.

And then there is the confounding Mrs Danvers. Agent of destruction, brutal tormentor of the heroine and yet, in so many ways, pathetic, broken and lost. No exactly worthy of sympathy and yet …

I can’t fully agree with the observations by Sally Beauman in the afterword. I do agreed that the novel operated at a deeper level and that Maxim deserved closer scrutiny of his own morality. And components of the novel clearly did relate to gender roles and gender place. I also found it fascinating that Maxim de Winter could be seen as a name meaning rule of conduct and coldness. It is curious that Du Maurier chose such a name. But I could not go so far as Beauman did in believing that Du Maurier's sympathies lay with Rebecca.

That’s why it was a chameleon for me. For a novel with black and white characters there was a remarkable amount of grey.

And I really enjoyed it.

message 2: by Bev (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bev | 22 comments I read this book in two days. I just couldn’t put it down. Then to find later that it is 75 years old yet has never been out of print or lost its popularity, well – that doesn’t surprise me at all.

What strikes me most in this great romantic mystery is the way Du Maurier depicts the contrasting personalities of the characters, especially the two wives. The two Mrs de Winters are direct opposites; the second ‘Lacks confidence, grace, beauty and intelligence’ but shows ‘kindness and sincerity and …modesty’ (p148). She’s shy. She bites her nails. She is immature and innocent. She has “that funny, young, lost look” (p336). She is the antithesis of Rebecca. As Chris has already stated, even the title contrasts the fact that our heroine is herself nameless. If a name is of such value deserving of a book title, then the narrator’s worth lay only in the fact that she was just the second wife – socially and literally; a nameless heroine as opposed to the imposing name and character of the protagonist.

The other characters too were contrasted. Maxim and Mrs Danvers responded so differently to Rebecca’s death. Maxim wants to forget her (for so many reasons). He wants to turn away from the past, turn away from the sea, turn away from the West wing. He wants to replace her with another. Mrs Danvers, on the other hand, wants to keep her memory alive, maintain her room and belongings and her old associates, and shows extreme hatred for his new wife.

I found the turn of events to be most unpredictable and interesting. Who knew that the Rebecca who was liked by ‘men, women, children, dogs’ (p210) was a different girl to the one she portrayed to the world around her? Whether she was a sociopath or a narcissist, Daphne Du Maurier cleverly hid this from the reader, yet in the end it all made sense: nobody is that perfect.

Unlike Chris (and perhaps Du Maurier) I found it very difficult to admire Rebecca regardless of her ‘gifts’. As the reader, once I realised Rebecca’s true character, I couldn’t help but feel like yet another one of her deceived victims.

I loved every minute of this book. A great read!

message 3: by John (last edited May 25, 2017 06:52AM) (new)

John Kennedy | 16 comments Like Chris and Bev I enjoyed this novel. I did find it a bit slow much of the time, but I stayed up reading the last hundred or so pages well past midnight.

Atmosphere, physical and social, is magnificently evoked. Manderley and the society of which it is part come to life. The plot is at times melodramatic ( Mrs Danvers urging the heroine to jump to her death, Maxim's murder confession, the destructive fire with which the novel ends), but our interest is maintained and we read on.

The novel posed several questions for me. Amongst them are
(1) Is it a story of a timid and painfully ordinary young women (an everywoman never named) who wins the love and respect of a formidable, rich, and powerful older man by demonstrating in a crisis her true worth - the romantic interpretation? Or does the young woman begin as the virtual slave of a tyrannical old woman and finish as the virtual servant of an older man in a comfortable but pointless expat existence?
(2) Maxim murders a wife whom he believes to be pregnant. Should we feel sympathy for him because of Rebecca's misdeeds, or should we feel he has used his privileged social position to avoid justice (and that Du Maurieris somewhat blind to what she is really presenting)?
(3) How should we regard Rebecca herself? There are certainly strong suggestions she is narcissistic and even psychopathic, but we never meet her, and we are largely relying on accusations, largely by her murderer, with little in the way of concrete instances of her misdeeds. (Du Maurier was probably limited by the conventions of the time in doing more than hint at her promiscuity, but this did not apply to her duplicity in her dealings with servants, etc,) If we are tempted to see Rebecca as a monster it is worth remembering that by Maxim's admission the elegance and beauty of Manderley is largely her doing.

One could see these questions as indicating Du Maurier's genius, but I am not entirely sure that they do not at least partly reflect flaws in the novel.

I would probably never have read 'Rebecca' without the prompting of this group. I am glad I did.

John Kennedy

P.S. The journey to see Dr Baker in London near the end of the novel is a matter of great foreboding, and there is a suggestion it may doom Maxim (though of course this does not happen). I was unsure why it provoked such anxiety. If it had revealed that Rebecca was pregnant why would this have doomed Maxim? What do others think?

message 4: by Bev (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bev | 22 comments Good question John. It's made me realise that there is a lot more to Maxim and his story than I first assumed.

message 5: by Julie (new)

Julie | 9 comments It took me a long time to finish reading this novel as it didn't grab my attention until Rebecca's body and boat were discovered and I was intrigued to find out what really happened to her. I had expected that Max had something to do with her death but wasn't sure and I think there was a great sense of suspense created as the facts were unraveled.

Regarded John's P.S I think if Rebecca had been found to be pregnant, it might have set the scene for a scenario in that Max may have killed her in a fit of rage on her telling him that the baby might not be his. This was eluded to on p313 when Max relies the events that lead to Rebecca's death.

P.S I believe one of Daphne Du Maurier's other novels, 'My Cousin Rachel' is being released as a film soon.

message 6: by John (new)

John Kennedy | 16 comments Thanks, Julie. Interesting comment on the point I raised in my P.S. But who would have known that Rebecca told Max the baby was not his? I don't think they had DNA testing back then. (I don't have the book with meso can't check page 313 at the moment.) John

message 7: by Julie (new)

Julie | 9 comments Hi John I just thought with Favell making his accusations about Max , a jury might believe, if Rebecca had been pregnant when she died, that Max knew about her other relationships and acted in rage. Although of course Favell is very unreliable but perhaps he and Mrs Danvers could have collaborated. Anyway I am probably completely off track.

message 8: by John (new)

John Kennedy | 16 comments You are probably on track, and in line with Du Maurier's approach, Julie. But for me it is still a somewhat weak point in an otherwise well worked plot. John

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