As a teenager, I picked up a three volume set of Daphne Du Maurier novels at a garage sale with my Nana (I still have them of course). And I read Rebecca three times that summer. Could not get enough of it. This story of an awkward yet hopeful young girl who marries a man twice her age, moneyed and handsome yet incapable of exorcising the demons associated with his dead first wife. And then I discovered the Hitchcock film adaptation and could not get enough of that either. So when Sandy invited us all to read along this month, I could not resist my first re-read in about ten years. Hop on over to her blog for full details and participant list. And week one's questions to ponder if you feel like jumping in. That's right, Sandy has been kind enough to provide the busy reader with prompts to jump start the conversation. And this week's are:
Always found it intriguing that Manderley is so revered by those outside of it's immediate grasp. The house suggests grandeur and taste and privilege to some, but as in the dream sequence commencing with this famous first line, there is something vaguely menacing about it to it's inhabitants. Recollections of the house could be linked in some aspects to recollections of Rebecca herself - lovely on the outside but with a soul that is secretive and silent, self-consumed in it's own beauty and the power it wields.2. Du Maurier obviously chose not to name the second Mrs. de Winter (referred to as DW2 from hereon). How did this affect your perception of her?
It solidifies my impression of her as someone without a well-defined sense of self. Is she just a body to fill a role, the next Mrs. Maxim de Winter to take the edge off the loneliness of Manderley as her jilted employer, Mrs. Van Hopper, cruelly suggests to her? Or will she grow into her position as Maxim's spouse? The ways in which she fantasizes about her role as the mistress of Manderley reveals her immaturity, and one feels for her when as readers we experience that vague unease that Du Maurier is so gifted at creating as she approaches her new home and role.3. Do you think the character of DW2 was believable?
Believable? Yes. Needy? Yes. Occasionally annoying? Another yes. She is young and her suffering and anxiety are near palpable. This makes for a sometimes uncomfortable read especially as she struggles with the ghoulish Mrs. Danvers and the housekeeper's near homo-erotic obsession with her former mistress.4. What was your first impression of Maxim de Winter? Did you like him? Did you trust him?
Actually, I really like him at first with his quick and witty treatment of the overbearing Mrs. Van Hopper's invasive questions. His treatment of his young wife is somewhat reprehensible but she demands nothing more, and it is perhaps for this reason that he is with her. She makes none of the demands that Rebecca made of him. Her nature is careful and plodding and hesitant in contrast to the recklessness of the first wife. Illustrated when the new wife imagines the way in which Rebecca may have written the inscription in a book of poetry to Max - "A little blob of ink marred the white page opposite, as though the writer, in impatience, had shaken her pen to make the ink flow freely." Du Maurier is masterful at these small moments. As she is at forcing us to waffle about whether Maxim is a bit off or simply a soul tortured by unfortunate circumstance.
Back here again for part two one week from today. Have you read Rebecca? Have you enjoyed other gothic reads?