Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier - Book Review #78

Saturday, September 11, 2010
by Daphne du Maurier

"Last Night I Dreamt I Went To Manderley Again."

With these words, the reader is ushered into an isolated gray stone mansion on the windswept Cornish coast, as the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter recalls the chilling events that transpired as she began her new life as the young bride of a husband she barely knew. For in every corner of every room were phantoms of a time dead but not forgotten—a past devotedly preserved by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers: a suite immaculate and untouched, clothing laid out and ready to be worn, but not by any of the great house's current occupants. With an eerie presentiment of evil tightening her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter walked in the shadow of her mysterious predecessor, determined to uncover the darkest secrets and shattering truths about Maxim's first wife—the late and hauntingly beautiful Rebecca.


This was my first encounter with Daphne du Maurier in general and with Rebecca in particular. I didn’t watch the movie, I never even heard about it. And I didn’t know anything about the book either, at least I couldn’t remember a thing. So I guess I was lucky to have a clean slate, I was lucky to be able to experience this story without literally any spoilers, which is very unusual, considering how apparently popular this book is. I don’t know what kind of experience I would have with Rebecca if I would have heard something about its plot, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be as grand as the one I had. So if you are lucky enough as I was and haven’t heard anything about this novel and didn’t see the movie – stop reading now, run, grab the book and close yourself in the room alone without internet access and any communication devises. And read, curled up at your favorite place, eye-popping satisfaction is guaranteed.

For these of you who have read Rebecca already, or decided to keep reading my review despite my advice, spoiling the first-hand experience you might have had, I will tell you about my first acquaintance.

I started reading the first sentence with a quite, whispering, confidential voice in my head. The one you use to tell scary stories to kids in the middle of the woods, in almost complete darkness with only a bonfire lightning up round-eyed faces, creating intricate shadows all around you. I don’t know why I started reading with such a tone, I guess there is something unseen, something that calls for the secretive whisper in the simple, yet so powerful first sentence: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” The beginning of Rebecca was so captivating and enchanting that I couldn’t take my eyes off the lines of text in the book, I think I even was holding my breath as long as it was possible for me, then breathing in again and flipping pages with trembling fingers, while my eyes were wide open. In a while enchantment dispersed, not because Daphne du Maurier’s writing became less captivating, but rather because it lost its novelty to me and because I became eager for something to happen. Unfortunately nothing did, not for a while. I still was enjoying du Maurier’s vivid characterizations, however I was sure that I already knew everything there is to know about characters and I wanted some action. By that point I started to become disappointed with the book and a thought entered my mind that it would be very hard to finish this book if it continues in this manner. As soon as I thought about that, the events started to unfold, first with preparation for the ball. Unfortunately, the event occurred just before the ball was quite predictable to me, so my disappointment grew, but I will lie to you, if I won’t tell that I was ecstatic to be proven wrong about everything I thought of this novel by the first plot twist that came shortly after the ball. I absolutely didn’t see that coming, not a hint, not even a vague trace of idea and I must admit that usually books don’t surprise me like that. I usually have at least some suspicions and variations of how a plot will develop and in most of the cases I'm at least remotely correct with my suspicions. Rebecca was completely different. Daphne du Maurier managed to lull me. After the first twist, events started to unfold with such a speed and so completely unpredictable to me that I again was caught in the state of holding my breath and staring in the book with such wide eyes that they began to hurt.

The most delightful thing about Rebecca is that the twists were quite natural, nothing extraordinary, or paranormal, or unexplained in them. Du Maurier’s leads the reader into the trap only using her masterful techniques. This is, in my opinion, the clear sign of a great book. The moment twists revealed to you the only thing you can say is: “Why, yes… of course, how could I not see that, it makes such a perfect sense.”

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier made an unforgettable impression on me and I most definitely will be reading her other works in the future.


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