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Group Reads Archive > Daphne Du Maurier - Rebecca

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message 1: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Welcome to our November Group Read of...

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier Daphne du Maurier

Enjoy!

Ally


message 2: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 561 comments I found this to be a great "novel." The story was intricate and well plotted. It doesn't break ground, but it doesn't need to. It's robust storytelling, compelling and thoroughly entertaining.

I only just saw the film before I read this. Hitchcock is not one to remain faithful to source material. However, the producer of the film was the great David O. Selznick, who was known to be a "slave to the book" producer (thank God). Yes, there were some changes, must notably the way in which the first Mrs. de Winter died; yet in most all other respects it remains faithful.

Perhaps when everyone is done reading the novel we can discuss the film as well.


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) Ivan wrote: "I found this to be a great "novel." The story was intricate and well plotted. It doesn't break ground, but it doesn't need to. It's robust storytelling, compelling and thoroughly entertaining. ..."

I love the book and film. Yes, it might be a good idea to discuss the film. Seem to remember a documentary about the tensions that existed between the producer and director during the making of the film


message 4: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments I read this about a month ago. And had seen the movie a number of times prior to reading it. And I bought the dvd for it shortly before finishing. After finishing the book I watched the movie.

I thought they stuck to the book too much. You could practically recite the dialogue. I like Hitchcock and Selznick did ride him a lot. There is a documentary on the dvd. Good commentary by Richard Schickel. Screen tests showing just how close Joan Fontaine came to not playing the part. And several radio plays. For instance, Olivier was really pushing for Vivien Leigh to get it. They even have a radio play they did together. Thank goodness she didn't get the part. I could only listen to about five minutes of it.

There is also a short documentary on du Maurier.

My main complaint with the book is what is the second Mrs. de Winter's first name? Is she that much of a nothing that she doesn't deserve a Christian name?

I didn't really think I was going to enjoy the book that much. But I did.


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) Jan C wrote: "My main complaint with the book is what is the second Mrs. de Winter's first name? Is she that much of a nothing that she doesn't deserve a Christian name? "

This is a much discussed aspect of this novel. I think I agree with you. But, her lack of her name does reinforce the characters sense of inadequacy. I think it may also be put down to the fact that she is the narrator. We don't go around saying our name every few minutes.



message 6: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 561 comments I think it was Ermintrude; which is why she never mentioned it.


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) Ivan wrote: "I think it was Ermintrude; which is why she never mentioned it."

lol,


message 8: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments But her husband never uses her name and she uses his name all the time.


message 9: by Linda2 (last edited Nov 01, 2010 04:21PM) (new)

Linda2 Ivan wrote: "Yes, there were some changes, must notably the way in which the first Mrs. de Winter died; yet in most all other respects it remains faithful. ..."

Alas, you're all too young to remember. It wasn't Hitchcock. The ending had to be changed to satisfy the Hays Code and the Catholic Legion of Decency, which ruled over films at that time. A murderer or adulterer couldn't go unpunished, a man had to have one foot on the floor if he sat on a bed, married couples had to sleep in twin beds,...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motion_P...

The films of the '30's were full of double-entendres and sharp male-female banter (Claudette Colbert, Myrna Loy, Carole Lombard, Irene Dunne) to get around the code. They let the audience use its imagination.


message 10: by Linda2 (last edited Oct 31, 2010 02:11PM) (new)

Linda2 Jan C wrote: "My main complaint with the book is what is the second Mrs. de Winter's first name? Is she that much of a nothing that she doesn't deserve a Christian name? ..."

It's not a valid source of complaint, but a literary gimmick. She was not given a name to show what a nonentity she was, compared to Rebecca. But we all know it was Mehitabel. :)


message 11: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 One problem I've always had with the film is that Mrs. deW is supposed to be plain, and Fontaine was beautiful, and wasn't made up to hide it. Ditto in Jane Eyre(1944). But in the '40's, a plain-lookin actress would have been unthinkable. Only Bette Davis could get away with not being beautiful because she was a dynamite actress, and she exuded glamor if not beauty.

When it was done on PBS a few years ago, they rightly chose a plain-looking actress.


message 12: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 561 comments Alright, here's the truth. Max couldn't remember it either, and he knew it would hurt her feelings if he asked.

True, the Hayes Code prevented the things you mentioned Rochelle. Yet, it was Selzink who prevented Hitchcock from changing everything else. :o)


message 13: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 And if you keep reading that Wikipedia article, you'll see how the Code distorted much of the novel King's Row.

You're very funny today! That's interesting about Selznick, but if we go into it, we'll stray too far from the book. I'm opening a separate thread for the film versions, as we do on that other book club site belonging to THAT BOOKSELLER.


message 14: by Amalie (new)

Amalie  | 39 comments I was looking forward to read Rebecca and finally! I've not seen the movie version but I learned it's ending is different than the one in the novel.

Everyone, this is my first group read in here, so please enlighten me, how do we do it? Do we comment while we read or do we discuss after finish reading?


message 15: by Linda2 (last edited Nov 02, 2010 08:13PM) (new)

Linda2 We had discussed the ending here before starting a separate thread, but if you haven't read the book yet, I suggest you skip that discussion. It's what we call a SPOILER.

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/4...

We discuss the book while we're reading. I would like to suggest to Ally that it should be divided into sections to give the discussion structure.


message 16: by Amalie (new)

Amalie  | 39 comments Thanks Rochelle, I've read it before but it's about ten years ago and I don't remember the story very well so group read is like reading it for the first time.


message 17: by Ally (last edited Nov 03, 2010 05:36AM) (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Rochelle wrote: We discuss the book while we're reading. I would like to suggest to Ally that it should be divided into sections to give the discussion structure..."

Hi Rochelle, I noted your suggestion and posted something in the feedback thread for other members to add their comments.

If you haven't already checked out the feedback thread please do so and let me know your thoughts about this (and any other ideas, suggestions, likes, dislikes, constructive criticisms or positive feedback...).

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/group_...

I like to hear the thoughts of as many group members as possible before making changes.

The group has recently changed reading categories following group feedback and the feedback thread seems to be working well for us so far! Feedback is the crux of a successful group so please wax lyrical in the feedback thread whenever the mood takes you!

For now though, for this month's group reads, we can discuss anything and everything regarding the months choice in this thread and you can read at your own pace and post whenever you're ready. Just be aware, as Rochelle has pointed out, that if you'd rather not read a spoiler you might want to delay reading the whole thread until you're further into the book!

For extra info - our book discussions never close, they remain open in the archive thread and discussions on each book can be resurrected at any time so if you've just finished one of our past group reads please pop to the archive and let us know what you thoughts!

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/group_...

Happy reading.

Ally


message 18: by Ivan (last edited Nov 03, 2010 11:17AM) (new)

Ivan | 561 comments Author's note Rebecca:

"...why did I never give the heroine a Christian name? The answer to the last question is simple: I could not think of one, and it became a challenge in technique, the easier because I was writing in the first person." - Daphne du Maurier

My uncle Bill didn't get married until he was fifty. He moved into his wife's house and they did nothing but bicker until he walked out. The key for them was buying a house that was "theirs" and not "hers." They lived happily ever after.

Can you imagine moving into Rebecca's house? It would be difficult for a strong willed person, so the second Mrs de Winter being mousy and non-confrontational was really up against it. I would certainly have fired Mrs. Danvers and immediately purged the place of all Rebecca's bits and pieces - I'd have rung up one of Barbara Pym's "excellent women" and had them come and haul Rebecca's clothes off for a church jumble sale; and you can bet I'd have told Maxim to get over himself. I'd have been in and out of every room in that place on the first day!


message 19: by Ally (last edited Nov 03, 2010 01:08PM) (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
you've already mentioned the nameless heroine, but interestingly, if you read the first chapter again, you'll notice that not only is the speaker nameless, there is also nothing to show whether its a man or a woman speaking. - I'm not at all sure what that means!


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) Ally wrote: "you've already mentioned the nameless heroine, but interestingly, if you read the first chapter again, you'll notice that no only is the speaker nameless, there is also nothing to show whether its ..."

Good point


message 21: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Vikz wrote: "This is a much discussed aspect of this novel. I think I agree with you. But, her lack of her name does reinforce the characters sense of inadequacy. I think it may also be put down to the fact that she is the narrator. We don't go around saying our name every few minutes..."

Is there a comment here about the position of women within marriage that she's only ever referred to as a 'Mrs'? In addition, Rebecca met a sticky end, is this a parallel comment about Rebecca's independent sense of self being somehow not conducive to marriage?

(...apologies for going down the feminist criticism route again so soon! - I do have other arguments for later I promise!)


message 22: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 561 comments Dame Daphne was an independent woman, and fancied herself to be very much like Rebecca. In reading her memoir you can recognise some of the qualities she attributes to her character - right down to piloting her own boat. It is said that her relationship with husband Boy Browning was often strained, and that even her children found her emotionally aloof. I don't know about her bisexuality, I've read conflicting accounts. However, it's not hard to believe; though I base this on a gross generalization and judge her by her appearance - the suites (not unlike those worn by Dietrich and Garbo) and her love of tradionally masculine activities.


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) Ally wrote: "Vikz wrote: "This is a much discussed aspect of this novel. I think I agree with you. But, her lack of her name does reinforce the characters sense of inadequacy. I think it may also be put down to..."

Good point. Keep on going down that route. I find it interesting.


message 24: by Linda2 (last edited Nov 03, 2010 03:44PM) (new)

Linda2 Ivan wrote: "Dame Daphne was an independent woman, and fancied herself to be very much like Rebecca. In reading her memoir you can recognise some of the qualities she attributes to her character - right down t..."

Pants suits were IN in the '40's, so that's irrelevant. Just about every actress wore a pants suit in films, reflecting woman's independence:--Loy, Dunne, Russell, Hepburn, Lombard, Colbert, Crawford, Davis, you-name-it. I suppose many women did too, since cinema often set the fashion trends.

But yes, Rebecca was ill-suited for marriage. She wanted to marry just for convenience and financial security, in what's now known as an "open marriage," way ahead of her time, But at the same time, she was a first class b---, totally lacking in scruples, even evil, and probably would have been happier staying single with her own source of income. But it wasn't done at that time.

Since it's not stated, we can presume that Max remained faithful to her. It's the conventional adultery plot reversed.


message 25: by Linda2 (last edited Nov 03, 2010 03:33PM) (new)

Linda2 Ally wrote: "there is also nothing to show whether its a man or a woman speaking. - I'm not at all sure what that means!"

I think you're reading a 1938 book with a 2010 mind. Don't even go there! :)


message 26: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 If duM saw the independent side of R in herself, then Max represented her overbearing father.


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) Rochelle wrote: "Ally wrote: "there is also nothing to show whether its a man or a woman speaking. - I'm not at all sure what that means!"

I think you're reading a 1938 book with a 2010 mind. Don't even go there! :)"


There were feminists in 1938 ;)


message 28: by Linda2 (last edited Nov 03, 2010 04:02PM) (new)

Linda2 I meant Ally's wondering if the narrator were a man or woman. The narrator states that she and Max have been living all over Europe in hotels.


message 29: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
In chapter two there are some better indications about who is speaking but chapter one itself is interesting I think for its lack of gender 'notation' - perhaps Rochelle is right that a 2010 mind picks up on different things but that is part of what makes reading books again and again through the ages so interesting don't you think?

Going back to chapter one - to me it is interesting for it lack of 'people' based notations and also for its prioritisation of the house - its almost as if the house itself is a character in this book...

Ally


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) Ally wrote: "In chapter two there are some better indications about who is speaking but chapter one itself is interesting I think for its lack of gender 'notation' - perhaps Rochelle is right that a 2010 mind p..."

I am beginning to think that the house is one of the main characters in the book. It looms large over everything and the drives actions of many of the characters.


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) I think the whole name thing relates to the characters lack of confidence. She feels herself to be insignificant and therefore feels her name to be also insignificant. She is continually comparing herself with the mythical Rebecca and finds herself lacking in comparison. These feeling seem to drive many of her actions.

I think that's why the book seems to still ring true. We are all so like the character in the book. We so often compare ourselves with others, or at least our imagined versions of others. We think that are are not as clever as that kid at school or not as pretty/thin as that super model on the cover of vogue. We start to question our worth in comparison to that individual. And in doing so we belittle our own abilities. We miss out on so much by doing this. We do not realise that the other person is doing the same.


message 32: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments I did re-read Chapter 1 last night and there is no clear indication as to the sex of the narrator or even how long the narrator resided at Manderley. Where they have gone or why. Only character even mentioned is Jasper.

Too me, it was kind of a magical chapter. When I was about 10 we went to visit my mother's cousins' house - where she had grown up - Homewood. It had burned down in the '50s and was all overgrown. It has since been bought and restored. But when we were there in the '60s, it was all overgrown and the description of Manderley in this first chapter so reminds me of Homewood and how I first saw it.


message 33: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 561 comments I absolutely agree that Manderlay is a vital character in this book.


message 34: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Vikz wrote: "I think the whole name thing relates to the characters lack of confidence. She feels herself to be insignificant and therefore feels her name to be also insignificant. She is continually comparing ..."

the insignificance angle is really prevalent - it comes out quite clearly early on when Mrs Van Hopper makes the very astute remarks about the narrator's middle class status and feels worried that she simply doesn't have the right background or training to be Maxim's wife - a lady of the manor. class is a major theme here - its not until Manderlay is no longer an option as a home that maxim and his second wife fine balance and equality - in Europe too, not even in class bound England!

Ally


message 35: by Ivan (last edited Nov 07, 2010 01:43PM) (new)

Ivan | 561 comments I'm so glad you found us Lauren. I think you've made some astute observations (and not just because I agree with them lol).

The 2nd Mrs de Winter was never on equal footing in any respect. It wasn't until her husband confessed his sins and brought her up to speed (so to speak) that she was able to achieve some sort of equality. An analogy that came to mind was that of the actor who suddenly finds himself on stage, but has no idea what play he's in. How could our heroine ever hope to establish herself in this relationship, household or situation when so much information was being withheld from her?


message 36: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Was the 2nd Mrs de Winter infantalised? (is that the right word? - probably not! lol) - what I mean is does Du Maurier force her into the position of 'child' within the early part of the narrative?, first with Mrs van Hopper & then with Maxim & to a lesser extent with Jack Flavell and Maxim's family. Does Mrs Danvers treat her as a child, if not, what is the relationship position there?


message 37: by Ivan (last edited Nov 08, 2010 01:30PM) (new)

Ivan | 561 comments *spoiler alert*

The 2nd Mrs de Winter is a mouse. I think this stems from having "no place in the world" and no independent means of support; thus she is at the mercy of those in positions of authority, and dare not risk offense. She is like a pin ball being bounced from one domineering personality to another. After all, wasn't Maxim every bit as controlling as Mrs van Hopper? Isn't our heroine totally subservient to his will?

Perhaps it is one of the failures in du Maurier's narrative that the intimacy of our heroine and her husband was never fully articulated.

Think of what he confesses. Does she consider any explanation other than that presented by Maxim? She accepts everything he says at face value; to do otherwise would jeopardize her "place" in this new world.

There is some suspect morality at play here. Was Rebecca a "bitch," and so deserved what she got? Or, just an independent woman with a milktoast husband who felt jealous, usurped, eclipsed and emasculated? The full extent of Rebecca's black soul isn't revealed until well after Maxim's confession. Still, it's ironic that when the truth comes out about Rebecca's "condition," it's as if all that has transspired is suddenly rationalized away as Rebecca's just deserts.

Thoughts?


message 38: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
I find the portrayal of Rebecca very interesting. She is certainly not your average wife and mother figure. In fact, Rochelle made a good point earlier in this thread, in the modern world a lady like Rebecca would possibly have stayed single and forged a successful career. However, in the context of the times she was living in she would perhaps have had little choice but to marry - a situation and tradition that did not suit her independent nature.

I don't personally see Rebecca's character as a "bitch" (to repeat the word used several times here!) - She is a device that "holds up a mirror", whether that is to marriage itself, to society, to the class system, to the narrator etc - the juxtaposition with the non-character of Rebecca makes an interesting commentary.

If I remember rightly, when I studied this book we looked at Rebecca's character in relation to Freudian theories on female sexuality. I'm talking the Oedipus complex. - In short, the narrator was seen to be almost trying to become Rebecca in a pseudo sexual doubling. Rebecca being seen to be the more sophisticated stepmother figure who the narrator at first tries to emulate to gain the acceptance of the father figure - Maxim. - Until the crisis point on the stairs at the costume party when Maxim rejects his new wife just at the point she finnaly 'becomes' the living image of Rebecca.

Even if you don't agree with Freudian theory it is hard to resist the parallels - & if I understand it correctly, Freudian theory had gained a lot of respect by the time Du Maurier was writing.

Ally


message 39: by Linda2 (last edited Nov 08, 2010 03:44PM) (new)

Linda2 I called her a bitch because she flaunted her lovers in Max's face. They had agreed on an open marriage, but she made it as unpleasant as possible for him, instead of being discrete. Compare that, for example, to Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West, Virginia and Leonard Woolf or Cole and Linda Porter. All had open marriages while having multiple love affairs. But because there was real love between each couple, they made it work, in every way except sexually, and all were fruitful partnerships. Cole Porter was so bereft after his wife died that he gave up his 20-year battle to save his crushed right leg and had it amputated.

Well, I edit that slightly. Vita wasn't discrete, esp. not with Violet Trefusis. But their son's Nigel's biography reveals love and good parenting on their side. Vita always returned to Harold, her anchor.


message 41: by Linda2 (last edited Nov 12, 2010 02:35PM) (new)

Linda2 So unusual for a son to relate the story of his mother's sexual life.

Nancy Mitford famously named an imaginary biography of the promiscuous Trefusis, Here Lies Violet.

But my mind wanders.... :D My point was about Rebecca's marriage, in roughly the same period as the three I cited, and that it could have worked if she had been a more decent person.


message 42: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
However, we must also consider the culture in the upper classes at this time. I believe that affairs were widely tolerated in most circles as long as no disgrace or adverse attention was generated and the heir (and spare) to the estate had been born. I'm not sure whether they would have referred to this arrangement as an 'open marriage' - perhaps they would. Again, its hard to ay where 'guilt' should lie in Rebecca and Maxim's marriage with such different outlooks on their individual roles within marriage and in life. The house as well must come into maxim's more traditional approach and Rebecca's unconventional attitudes - she cannot have had as strong a connection to the 'duty' of owning a house like Manderlay.

Ally


message 43: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 561 comments Who, Rebecca? I think she loved the house more than anything.


message 44: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments But it sounds as though she spent an awful lot of time down at the beach front cottage. That is, once she had decorated Manderlay apparently.


message 45: by Linda2 (last edited Nov 09, 2010 12:11PM) (new)

Linda2 She ran it and decorated it beautifully. All the servants worshipped her. BTW--it's Manderley. You're dealing with a former English Major and teacher. :D

Ally--No, they wouldn't have used the term "open marriage," but that's what they were, maybe by another name. I haven't read Rebecca in a while, so might be wrong here. Yes, affairs were tolerated, but isn't it so that R was NOT discrete and really nasty to Max too?

Vita, BTW, was brought up in Knole, a 500-year old palace, which she lost due to the male-centered inheritance laws. After the couple bought Sissinghurst, they were both equally devoted to restoring it and building the famous garden.

As I haven't read R lately, can you point out passages regarding R's character that led you to disbelieve Max's description of her? ?


message 46: by Ivan (last edited Nov 09, 2010 03:34PM) (new)

Ivan | 561 comments Rochelle please, it's Maxim. Only Rebecca called him Max :D

Like du Maurier's Menabilly, Manderley was Rebecca's pride. Yes, she enjoyed piloting her own boat/ship (as did du Maurier), but it was being the lady of the manor, being revered - the Queen Bee - that she enjoyed most. It is stated early on that the place never really sparkled until Rebecca came along. She had style and taste and possessed a decorators eye and sense of design. She made Manderley a show place.

*spoiler*

I can't site the book chapter and verse, and I never meant to imply that Rebecca wasn't of dubious character, conniving and duplicitous. She was indiscrete - with Jack Flavell - flaunting the affair under Maxim's nose. The confrontation scene makes perfect sense. However, did her behavior justify murder? Recall also, that at the time of the incident, Maxim believed Rebecca to be pregnant; albeit with another man's child. Killing a pregnant woman, no matter the provocation, is still considered a pretty heinous act in most civilised countries.

[my dad used to call it syphilisation]


message 47: by Linda2 (last edited Nov 12, 2010 02:37PM) (new)

Linda2 1--Max because I hate typing, shorten whatever I can.

2--I was addressing Ally, who questioned why we called her (R, not Ally) a bitch. See above. I was saying that open marriages have worked out if there's some real affection between the participants.

3--And of course it didn't justify murder.


message 48: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 561 comments I wish "Here Lies Violet" were a real book.


message 49: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 I don't think she was as interesting as Vita and Harold, Virginia and Leonard. :)


message 50: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 561 comments But I would have enjoyed reading Nancy rip her a new one.


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