most of you probably already know about this book but in case you don’t here is a brief description of the premise:
rebecca is about a woman who marries a widower who apparently can’t get over the loss of his first wife just one year ago.
initially everything seems fine but once they return to his country estate in england the spectre of rebecca starts to loom large. she is ubiquitous – everyone talks about her, the servants seem to have preferred her, the entire house appears to be laid out to her specifications and even the garden is arranged according to her wishes!
our narrator is hugely intimidated and is made to feel very inadequate, but as she learns more about rebecca she begins to realise that something about her doesn’t add up and starts to discover that below her squeaky-clean image there are darker secrets lurking.
charlotte absolutely loves this book, it’s one of her favourites, and she’s been trying to get me to read it for ages. i’ve always put it off ‘cause it just looked way to girly for me! but then i started hearing more and more people talking about it and everyone saying it was very good. so, i thought i had to read it.
this is the cover of charlotte’s hideous edition that i borrowed
still, when i started it i thought, okay, this’ll be a girly book – but it’ll be a good girly book! well, all thoughts of girlyness flew out of my mind as i was captivated from the very beginning! (well, not the very beginning – the first two chapters are told in this disembodied voice from the present which had me a bit lost. maybe I read it too late in the evening or something but it all just went over my head. but yes, once the narrative started in earnest I was completely drawn in).
du maurier’s prose is beautiful-beautiful and smooth as silk. it reads so easily and quickly that you don’t even notice as you fly through the pages. and even though there isn’t much that happens in terms of action the book just seems to rattle along – which is quite a feat with the edition that i had, which had really small print! when i started charlotte pointed out how small the text is and i remember feeling a tad daunted. i know it’s silly, but this is one of the things that sometimes get to me when i read a book and even very good books. if there are too many pages or if the text is too small then it feels like it’s taking me forever to make progress and it’s then that i start to feel demoralised. however, with rebecca this just didn’t happen and that is a testament to how well she writes.
equally as powerful as her prose is the atmosphere she creates within the book. from very early on in the novel there is always this feeling that something going on beneath the surface. i had the impression that there was a mystery and yet the strangest thing was that i didn’t even know what the mystery was! even the mystery was mysterious! now that may sound like a very vague and un-engaging mystery on the surface of it – and it is indeed a very big risk to make things so ambiguous – but du maurier is masterly at drawing you in and making you curious and desperate to find out more!
and – apart from unravelling the mystery – it is also an experience just bathing in it, in the rich eeriness of the story. the novel is full of furtive glances, half-stopped sentences and tantalizing clues lying about for us and the narrator to stumble over.
du maurier also uses a lot of symbolism to create atmosphere – rebecca’s handwriting becomes of immense importance, the way she draws every curve of a letter is representative of her character. the gigantic blood-red rhododendrons, looming, intimidating, and oddly perverse in all their lushness. the sea, waiting, brooding in the west. and the secret cove and beach hut, oddly out-of-synch with the rest of manderley’s orderliness and seeming to be the key into the very heart of rebecca – if the reader can put together the clues.
the characterisation is also very good and all of the characters are believable and highly memorable. along with that the dialogue also had a very real feel – and these two elements, combined with the prose, made the whole book very vivid.
this was one of those wonderful experiences where every time you picked up the book you were transported to another world. every time i read the book i really felt i was there and could see the rich and beautiful country estate that was the backdrop to the novel. and, when i finally closed the book, like our nameless speaker, i too was already missing manderley.