Published by Avon on 1938
Genres: Classic, Mystery, Romance, Suspense
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
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Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again...
Working as a lady's companion, the heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Her future looks bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Max de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. She accepts, but whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to the ominous and brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding housekeeper, Mrs Danvers...
Not since Jane Eyre has a heroine faced such difficulty with the Other Woman. An international bestseller that has never gone out of print, Rebecca is the haunting story of a young girl consumed by love and the struggle to find her identity.
This classic romantic suspense tale is one I have heard of since I was a little girl. It’s one of the first books my mom bought me when I showed an interest in reading romances. It has been described to me as being “amazing” or “haunting” or “creepy” or “exciting”. Needless to say, my expectations were extremely high. I wanted to feel utterly captivated and submerged in this tale just like my mom was in high school. Of course, a classic novel is hard to review. Everything has been said over and over again. So I’m just going to take a few moments to write down my thoughts and experiences with this book, probably the most anticipated novel of my life.
My mom and I decided to buddy read this together during the month of October because we felt it would be fun to discuss it and then watch the Alfred Hitchcock movie on Halloween.
I have owned a paperback copy of Rebecca for a very long time, but the print is super tiny and close together, so I would start it and then my eyes would hurt and I’d quit it. When it came out on Kindle I was so excited because I could finally read comfortably. But WOW is this book long! It took me an hour to get through 5%, which means this book is LONG. The first chapter, which is about 4% of the book is full of descriptions of trees and flowers. It moves very slowly.
The writing is very pretty and feels super historic (obviously), and I really enjoyed the ominous feeling throughout the story. I had to continually remind myself that this is a classic, though. It’s old. It was not written this year or last year or ten years ago. I kept getting super annoyed with the second Mrs. de Winters because she was so frail and fragile and a complete pushover. And I kept getting annoyed with how petty some of the other characters were (Maxim’s relatives, for instance). But this is how life was. Men were domineering, women were submissive, and gossip and pettiness filled shallow conversations. Re-compartmentalizing Rebecca helped me make allowances, though, and I did enjoy seeing Mrs. de Winters find herself. She did eventually settle in to the role she was pretending to fill. And she owned it.
When I think romantic suspense, I think nail-biting, edge of your seat, can’t sleep at night suspense. I kept hoping for the story to get scary or tense. There were creepy moments, but I feel like a lot of good has been done with the genre since Rebecca was written. I can’t think of instances where I was more pleased with the suspense. And really, the same goes for the romance. I could hardly call it romance. It was more of a young girl infatuated with an older man who wanted to be infatuated with her too, but was too preoccupied to do it right. He acted more like a father than a lover, patting her on the head and patronizing her. But again, I think this was common back then. Life has changed, and I would never fault du Maurier for portraying contemporary times. And in all honesty, I did grow accustomed to their weird little relationship when I realized that this entire book was groundbreaking when it was written.
The ending left me very underwhelmed. I wanted more details, more explanations, more of a climax. I closed the book feeling unsettled and disappointed. My mom did not love Rebecca this time, like she did in high school. I think my main problem here is that the hype made this book seem like so much more than it ever could have been. We all know what hype can do to a book if your opinion of it is anything less than “I LOVED IT MORE THAN I LOVE YOU”. You’re left feeling more disappointed than you would have been otherwise. It’s even worse when the hype has been consistent for over 75 years. There was no way Rebecca was going to live up to my expectations. And when I think realistically and separate myself from my expectations, I find that I did enjoy the book. It’s the first adult classic I’ve ever read, and I have been wanting to read it for a very long time. I now know the story, and I know what everyone is talking about. I think literature has changed so much that new ideals have been formed. But what’s a world without change?