Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (1938, 386 pages)

Rebecca is the first book by Daphne Du Maurier (1907 to 1989-London) I have now had the extreme pleasure of reading.   I was sucked into the world of Manderley (the English estate where the novel is set) from the very start.     I loved the prose style much more than I thought I would.    I was kept completely in suspense as one shocking mystery after another was revealed.    Some of the characters at first seemed not totally developed but I think maybe that is because Du Maurier is so subtle in how she does things.    I do not want to give away any of the plot of this wonderful book.   Even though it has sold millions of copies and been translated into 25 languages there are still millions of people who have not yet read it and I hate spoilers in posts myself.     The story is told from the point of view of the second wife of Mr Maxim de Winter, his first wife being the deceased Rebecca.

I would have liked to know more about Rebecca and her secret life, I admit.    It seemed strange at first how everyone smoked but this is a product of the time of the novel (1938).    Some will find the portrayal of a mentally handicapped character infelicitous.   I have not yet seen the Alfred Hitchcock movie based on this book but I could visualize it making a great movie with panoramic shots of the estate and the sea coast  and close ups of the marvelously evil Rebecca.        I found the scenes where the second wife of the husband of Rebecca (the narrator of the story) first came to live at the estate to be really well done.   The novel had a very Gothic feel to it with evil servants, mysterious pasts, sea fogs and people who are not quite who they seem to be.    

Du Maurier wrote over 30 novels.   Rebecca is the most highly regarded one, it seems.     The action of the book is easy to follow.   The style is good old fashioned story telling.   The quality of the prose is good, in places really good and in places seems like it was written in a hurry (she did write a novel a year).    I liked this book a really lot and endorse it for anyone who likes a good mystery centering on interesting people.    It is not a heavy intellectual book and it does not break new literary grounds.   It entertained me, drew me into its world and made  me sorry when it was over and some of the prose was wonderfully done.    I enjoyed all of the minor characters and I was never able to second guess her plot developments.  

Du Maurier came from an interesting literary family.   Her father was a novelist and a Punch cartoonist.   

I am participating in two reading challenges for which this book can be counted.

The Daphne Du Maurier Challenge hosted by Books-a-Rama

The 1930's Challenge hosted by Things Mean a Lot

I want to read at least two more books by Du Maurier soon and would appreciate any suggestions.   

Mel u


Bibliolatrist said...

Next up - My Cousin Rachel! Loved that one as much as I loved Rebecca :)

Amanda said...

I just read Rebecca last fall and I could have hit myself for not reading it sooner! I loved it and can't wait to read a few more this fall.

Book Bird Dog said...

Mel, if you can get hold of the black and white movie of Rebecca with Laurence Olivier and George Sands, I think you;'ll love it.

Lisa said...

There are a couple of versions of the movie but I highly recommend the Laurence Olivier/Joan Fontaine version. Mrs. Danvers--even at the end I was never entirely sure what is what about Rebecca that made Mrs. Danvers love her so much.

Rebecca Chapman said...

I have only read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier but it is easily contender for my favourite book ever! The first line is the best there is "last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again". Haunting. Glad you liked it

TheBlackSheep said...

I loved Rebecca and it is easily my most favourite Du Maurier book to date. I can't believe it took me so long to get to know her work. I never even heard her name in school or college for that matter and now I wonder why. She'd be just the ticket for getting more teens into reading.

Thanks for reminding me I need to check out more of her novels.

Anonymous said...

I recently read this book as well, and its now one of my favourites. I liked the surface story, but what I liked most was finishing it and realising that what I thought I'd read was, in reality, something completely different. A very subversive story, this one.

Mel said...

Hi Mel

Rebecca is my favourtie book of all time and I blame this novel for my love of reading. I read it when I was 13. I have read most of du Maurier's work. As you are a keen short story reader I would highly recommend "Don't Look Now and Other Stories" As for novels try "The House on the Strand" (my next favourite of her novels) or My Cousin Rachek and Jamaica Inn are good too.

The 1940 film won the academy award that year for best picture and is brilliant. Superbly acted all around - I am deliberately not going to answer your question that relates to the film - except to say the film is very faithful to the novel. And as a slight curiousity I beleive the actress who plays Mrs Danvers in the film is an Australian, Judith Anderson, who is supremely sinister.

I am thrilled that you read and like this book. Thanks for reviewing it :)

Helen said...

Rebecca is one of my favourite books. The movie is great too - I'm sure you would enjoy it. I've recently read both My Cousin Rachel and The Scapegoat for the du Maurier challenge and I would highly recommend both of them.

Jessica said...

I really enjoyed Jamaica Inn which I reviewed a few days ago.

Karen K. said...

This is such a great book -- I read it first as a teenager and I still love it years later. I reread it recently and was struck by how good the writing is --it's not just a great plot driven story.

Of the other novels, I've only read Jamaica Inn which I found disappointing, but I think her short stories are excellent. There's a collection from New York Review Books called Don't Look Now that has some very good ones.

Isaac7985 said...

I read "Rebecca" as part of a West Country literature assignment while on a study abroad programme in England. I quite liked it, too. "Jamaica Inn" is also a famous novel that takes place in that part of the country. You might consider reading that, too.

Emily H. said...

I recommend The Scapegoat and Flight of the Falcon. Glad you enjoyed Rebecca. It's one of my favorites!

anothercookiecrumbles said...

I absolutely loved Rebecca. It's got one of my all time favourite opening lines as well - it just drags you in!

The only other Du Maurier I've read is My Cousin Rachel, and I loved it as well. Well written, full of suspense, and an ending you'll be thinking about way after you turned the last page.

Ash said...

I have this book and it's on my list of must reads before the end of the year. Your review has me waiting in suspense for it, sounds like an engrossing book. I've heard nothing but good things about it.

Leah said...

We read this book for 8th grade English class and my 13 year old self remembers it well. I have never forgotten it and plan to revisit Manderley again someday. I read My Cousin Rachel a couple of years ago and liked it, but I think Rebecca is more compelling.

Mel u said...

Lisa- I just saw the movie and I loved it-thanks for the idea

The Black Sheep-yes I think it would be good for mid to late teen readers

thefriande-I agree with your concluding remarks

Mel-I just was able to watch the movie on line and I did enjoy it very much-

Rebecca-thanks for the additional reading suggestions

Mel u said...

Helen-thanks for the reading ideas

Jessica-thanks also for your suggestions

Karenlibrarian-thanks for the book ideas

Issac7985-glad to see you are really into the short story and thanks for coming to my blog

Emily-thanks as always for your comments

Mel u said...

Anothercookiecrubles-for sure My Cousin Rachael is among my next of her works

Ash-I will look forward to your thoughts on the book-

Leah-I think the book will for sure stay with me

Rebecca Reid said...

I should reread this. I read it probably a decade ago but don't recall details. Since I've been enjoying "sensation" fiction lately, I think I'd really like a revisit of this one!

Valerie said...

"Rebecca" is in my TBR pile and I really want to get to it soon. I also have two other books by the same author waiting to be read -- "My Cousin Rachel" and "The Glass Blowers". It may seem strange to have so many by an author I haven't even read yet, but they were used books and I couldn't turn down the chance to get them!

Anonymous said...

Great review. 'Rebecca' is one of those timeless books. It's old, and you feel its age, but the subject matter of the 'other woman' is something all women relate to.

I've seen 2 versions of this book on film. The really good one was a British production. Probably done in the 90's. Though I'd love to see it redone again, with Angelina Jolie playing the awful Rebecca.

Anonymous said...

Great review. 'Rebecca' is one of those timeless books. It's old, and you feel its age, but the subject matter of the 'other woman' is something all women relate to.

I've seen 2 versions of this book on film. The really good one was a British production. Probably done in the 90's. Though I'd love to see it redone again, with Angelina Jolie playing the awful Rebecca.

JoV said...

For 2 reasons, I like you read "My Cousin Rachel" for your next Du Maurier read,

First for selfish reason, because i have it in my TBR and I will get around to read it some day and would like to know what you think about it.

Second, other book lovers of the books quoted as saying the story of My cousin Rachel is like "Rebecca" but with a different twist and also it is written in the later part of Du Maurier's career.

So what do you think? Will this make it to your TBR? :)

Mel u said...

JoV-yes for sure My Cousin Rachael and Jamaica Inn are on the top of my TBR list for my next du Maurier-thanks very much for your comments

Rebecca Reid-I for sure see it as worth reading after a ten year hiatus

Mel u said...

Valerie-thanks for visiting my blog and I have bought many books for the very same reason

myworldlyobbession-I have seen only the 1940 version (it is on youtube in sections)-I liked it a really lot-I see Evan Wood Reid (the vampire queen) playing rebecca but I like your idea also-

Journey said...

Oh great! Now I want to read Rebecca again! ;-) Thank you! ;-)
Well, maybe I'll just watch an tv or movie adaptation. I really like the one with Charles Dance. It isn't quite true to the book and it has a slightly different atmosphere, but I really like it as a movie.

I also have "Jamaica Inn" on my shelf here, never read it, but I'll try to fit it in this summer. :)

(I seem to have trouble posting comments on here... I hope this one will show up. :-) )

Chrisbookarama said...

Glad you enjoyed it! I would read My Cousin Rachel next and compare the two. There is a similar feel to them both.

Linda Lappin said...

Hi Mel - I read Rebecca years ago for the first time, and the beginning haunted me for years--in some ways the prologue influenced my own novel The Etruscan. Anyway --this summer I read Frenchman's Creek - not quite as exciting as Rebecca - but worth reading. This summer I read and enjoyed Margaret Forster's excellent biography, as well as a little gem of collected writings called The Rebecca Notebook - which contains memoirs concerning the writing of Rebecca and other pieces. For readers wanting to go deeper, critic Nina Auerbach wrote a very interesting book of essays about Du Maurier. An interesting video resource is found on the website